5, 6, 7, 8, Dance!
Well what a year it’s been! I was very naive and honestly thought we would be in lock down for a few weeks. Who would have thought that a year later we are still living under restrictions. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Things seem to be starting to re-open and we have a little more freedom. But what does that mean to us as dancers?
Well we can return back to the dance studio, as long as we continue to follow all the COVID guidelines. So that’s really exciting news! And definitely a positive!
However, returning back to the studio can also be nerve wracking and you may even feel a bit anxious. That’s absolutely ok to. A lot has happened in the last year and the pandemic will have affected everyone in different ways.
Read below my guide for returning back to the studio.
1# Be kind!
Be kind to yourself and be kind to others! We are all adapting. Most of us have spent the majority of the last year in our own homes. So being around people or in a different environment might feel weird. It will take a while to adjust which is absolutely fine. Take your time and go easy on yourself.
2# You may have forgotten stuff!
There will probably be things that you have forgotten since you have been away. For example you might have forgotten the names of certain dance steps. Or your body might not remember how to do certain movements. That’s ok and perfectly normal. The knowledge will come back but it might take a few sessions.
3# Don’t have really high expectations!
If you haven’t done much dance over the last year, do not come back to class and jump straight into splits or expect to nail a triple pirouette. The chances are you won’t be able to! And yes that is ok! Your body might not be as flexible or as bendy as it was pre pandemic. You will get there. So don’t expect to be able to do everything you use to be able to, we will all have to work at it.
It’s ok not to be as flexible,
It’s ok not to be as strong,
It’s ok to have forgotten tricks,
It’s ok to not have done an exam,
It’s ok to have changed interests,
It’s ok to have done loads of online classes,
It’s ok to have done none!
What’s not ok is to expect yourself to be the same as you were before the pandemic. Focus on regrowth, not what’s regressed!
No matter what style of dance, fitness or gymnastics that you do, your feet and ankles will be subject to pressure and strain. It is not unlikely for a dancer at some point in his/her life to suffer from an ankle or foot injury. To help strengthen your ankles and feet below are my top three exercises.
Remember, if you have any specific concerns about your foot and ankle strength please see your doctor.
Sounds very basic! But rising is a great exercise, especially for those doing pointe work. Why not try this:
- Start facing the barre in parallel.
- Rise slowly onto demi pointe.
- When you reach demi pointe hold the position for a count of 5.
- Then lower again slowly through demi to flat.
- Repeat this exercise 10 times. Then repeat the rises with your feet turned out in first position. When you feel you have mastered this exercise do it without holding onto the barre.
2# Controlled lunges
A little harder than rising, but here we go!
- Place one foot in front of another, some distance apart in a parallel position.
- Place your hands on your hips.
- Keeping your back straight and your core engaged, slowly bend both knees into a deep lunge.
- Hold the deep lung for a count of 5.
- Slowly return to straight legs.
- Repeat the exercise 10 times on each leg.
3# Fondu and Rise in low passe
A great exercise for balance as well as your ankles and feet!
- Start facing the barre with your feet in parallel.
- One foot pointed in a low passe position.
- Keep your back straight and look ahead.
- Fondu the supporting leg slowly and then hold the bend for 5 counts.
- Return to your start position.
- Then rise onto your supporting leg, keeping the other leg in passe position.
- Repeat the exercise 5 times on each leg.
Top Tips: Do the exercises slowly to increase control. Rise onto your first three toes, don’t put your weight onto your little toes. Keep your heel on the floor when you fondu. Try to maintain stability as you lower into the deep lunge.
The above exercises can be performed as part of a warm up or as part of an ankle conditioning session. Always make sure you are in a safe space to exercise. Please consult your teacher or doctor if you have any concerns.
So tell me, what’s your favourite conditioning exercises?
As I am writing this on International Women’s Day it seems only right to talk about the women who have influenced and shaped my dancing journey. So let’s jump straight in!
My Mum! Hands down my Mum was the most important person in my dance journey. Not only did she organise which classes I went to, wait for me during rehearsals, do my hair for every exam or show and buy my dance costumes. She was an all-round awesome dance Mum. The main reason she was so influential in my dance journey and later on in my dance career is because she 100% believed in me. She was my biggest cheerleader! When I was little and worried about getting my steps wrong, or missing my quick change she would remind me that I could do it. To later in life when I first set up my dance school and only one student turned up to class, she constantly pushed me and reminded me that anything is possible. I will never forget her words, ‘little by little.’ She would always say this to me. What she meant is by preserving, trying and making little changes everyday something big will eventually come. My Mum was right! It was hard setting up a brand new dance school at such a young age. I kept going and in the end all the hard work paid off!
My childhood dance teacher, Simone. I attended my local dance school from the age of seven up until I was around nineteen. The dance school I attended wasn’t just where I learnt to dance. It was a place where I made friends, socialised and grew in confidence. I attended dance classes on most evenings and over the weekends to. I remember doing my homework in between classes or on the bus to dance class. I was there all the time and I loved it! It’s where my passion for dance developed and where I learnt a strong foundation of dance knowledge.
Dennie Wilson. When I attended university I had several lectures and classes with Dennie Wilson. I absolutely loved her dance classes. She was vibrant, lively and explosive. Yes she could be very strict, don’t you dare turn up to class late. This only made me respect her even more. She was so passionate about the genres of dance she taught and this made me want to learn more. I loved listening to her lectures!
So tell me. Which women have influenced your dancing journey?
It’s easy really, I dance because I love it! My dance journey started when I was young. My family tell me that as soon as I could walk, I loved moving to music. I would call dancing ‘la la.’ It was when I was little that I asked my parents if I could attend dance class. Or ‘la la class’ as I called it. I attended my local dance school at four years old but shortly after starting had to stop. I had bad asthma and eczema, which meant I had to miss lots of classes. It wasn’t until I was seven that I re started again when my asthma and eczema was under control.
I initially only attended a freestyle class (or disco as it was called back then). Even though my Mum asked me several times and tried to persuade me to do ballet I wasn’t interested. I thought ballet was boring. I didn’t like the slow classical music and had no interest in it. It wasn’t until a few years after starting freestyle that I began ballet. I had attended a holiday dance club ran by my dance teacher’s sister and you had to participate in all dance styles. I remember doing the ballet class and we learnt a small dance piece from the ballet Coppélia. As I was dancing I thought, 'you know what this ballet stuff is actually quite cool.' The rest is history and from that day on I was obsessed with ballet. Its ballet I went onto get some of my highest grades in and later in life dedicate my whole dissertation to at university. I started doing more and more dance classes. Each week I would come home and ask to do another. I would see the older dancers in class, ask my dance teacher what style it was, then go home and say “Mum can I do rock n roll class please?” Then before long I was studying all the theatre dance styles. But it’s a very simple answer to say I dance because I love it. It’s my passion. Which is true. However, below are the other reasons why I dance?
Dance has helped me so much mentally. When you dance you can’t really think of anything else apart from the steps your performing. It’s a great way to escape, truly live in the moment and it’s a brilliant to help you relax. Dance has also been a constant thing in my life. My parents were excellent at been very consistent with taking me to class. No matter how busy they were or if someone was ill or sick (and believe me in my family there has been a lot of serious illness) I have always attended dance class. Dance has formed a structure in my life and given me a focus. If times are bad or good dance is there waiting for me. Even when pregnant I carried on dancing right up until two weeks before giving birth and even through a global pandemic I have kept dancing, teaching loads and loads of zoom classes.
Dance gives me confidence. People naturally think that because you like performing and dancing on stage that your very confident and a natural extrovert. Well I’m not! I’m actually very shy and more of an introvert. I enjoy my own company and only have a small circle of friends, but dance has really given me confidence. Its helped me develop skills that I can transfer into other areas of my life and it almost gives you this special power that makes you feel like you can achieve anything. I remember my cousin came to watch me dance once and he said after “Wow I didn’t think you would be able to dance on stage like that. You were so confident, like a different person.” He was use to the quiet me and he had saw dancer me. Whenever I get nervous, I try to draw on dancer Amy to give me the confidence to do whatever I need to do.
Dance has made me physically strong. As I mentioned earlier I have suffered with asthma most of my life and was encouraged to exercise to improve my cardio strength and lungs. Dance has definitely helped me to stay strong and healthy. I also have a slight curve of the spine and after seeing a spine specialist to decide if I required surgery or not. He noted taking regular ballet class as one of the main reasons why I had good posture and the reason why my spinal curve was not worse than what it was. Luckily I didn’t require an operation.
I have so many things to thank dance for and it has played a huge part in shaping my life. If you have a passion or interest I would advise trying to pursue it. You never know where it will take you!
Now tell me, why do you dance?