Locomotion and Elevation.

By Ramón Marcos

Hello again! We hope that you are enjoying all the content that we are offering in our blog, as much as we are learning and enjoying within our block aimed at Locomotion and Elevation.
We would like to introduce this blog, starting by quoting the first definition that the project member jointly elaborated of this block:

Locomotion: “Ability to move the body across the space in different levels and directions.”
Elevation: “Ability to move the center of gravity between levels.”

Once we began to understand the work that each partner had done and the points in common, we began to develop the idea that in both blocks what moves is the center of gravity of the dancer in two planes:

• Vertical (locomotion)
• Horizontal (elevation)

Which led us to reflect on the idea that the center of the dancer’s body moves through space in different planes (vertical and horizontal) through stimulations proposed by internal agents (e.g. in improvisation) or external (the musical rhythm when making exercise) and to that consequence we are uniting the two concepts into one and identifying what aspects we should work in a concrete way in it. The new term is travelling, and to this we will refer in this block.

When we travel we have to be aware of:

• Preparation exercises. For both planes (horizontal and vertical), highlighting body alignment, practice efficiency, resistance and stress control.

• Body awareness must pay attention both to companions and space. It is intended to develop in the dancers the spatial awareness through interaction with the rest of dancers, as well as develop capabilities linked to this aspect such as group listening, interpersonal connections…

• Draw imaginary patterns on the ground, intended to improve and optimize the work on the ground through orientation and to have a clear direction. This will be worked through breathing exercises, boosting, endurance and body expansion through vocabulary.

• Turn. Work this section through direction, focus, alignment, spatial awareness and different levels always adapting the exercises to the body of the dancers ensuring safe practice.

• Move between levels. Expand or extend the center of gravity between the low, medium, and high level while dancing.

• Back to calm. In this section in addition, we will seek to develop the autonomy of our dancers through the reflection of identifying how their body is located

To finish this blog, we would like to add our special awareness in this block due to the great physical demand that it has and say that we must remember one of our principles, the adaptability of the teacher to be able to adapt the exercises to each student and see that, if an exercise is not appropriate, it´s better not to carry it out in the group; We must always consider that safe practice should be the fundamental pattern of our work in the development of the artistic potential of our dancers.

Thank you for your attention, we look forward to seeing you again soon to tell you about our progress and progress!

Save the Date – Tuesday 7 July 2020

Ability @ Expressions 2019

Hello and welcome back to our blog. We hope you continue to enjoy finding out about our Erasmus+ funded SHIFT project where we have been developing new approaches to teaching technique.  As we are creating such a wealth of material that can be used and adapted to your own settings and dancers, we are now in the process of creating a website where we will share the best of our findings, along with key information to assist in the development of your own practice. The website will be free to access and host teaching guides and videos for you to use. We’ll also share information on our partnership backgrounds and values and recommendations for further reading.

To launch the website, we will be holding an innovative conference at Northern Ballet in Leeds, UK on Tuesday 7 July which will be led by Northern Ballet, Psico Ballet Maite Leon Foundation and Misiconi Dance Company. This free event is part of ‘Expressions” a celebration of inclusive dance. The day will include lots of opportunities to learn and network and it’s all free of charge – including lunch and refreshments!

Ability @ Expression 2019

The day will begin with a Keynote speech. Then hear from the practitioners involved in the research as we launch the website and show you how to make best use of it. You’ll then have a choice of workshops where you can take part in a practical session with one of the partners around a specific area of the research, or hear from academics from the University of Edinburgh about their research around hypermobility. Next will be a panel discussion, hosted by Fiona Banon (PHD) where we’ll discuss the importance of developing creativity alongside technical dance skills, with representatives from across Europe including the Royal Ballet, Candoco, ISTD, CodArts and international choreographer Antonio Ruz. The session promises to spark conversations to take into the networking drinks.

If that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite, in the evening, you’re invited to a performance of the 3 companies, each sharing a piece of work, performed by the dancers involved in the research. So why not save the date to make sure you don’t miss out on an event that promises to enrich your practice, ignite conversation and contribute to the development of high-quality inclusive dance training.

 

Coordination

Throughout the summer term one of the areas we were focusing on was coordination.    Like most dance skills it’s a thread that will run through every exercise.  All movement involves coordination.  However, until working on this part of the project, I hadn’t ever really thought about developing a specific coordination exercise as part of a class.  Focusing on it in isolation rather than as part of a bigger whole.

Coordination can be defined as the ability to efficiently control and direct movements in relation to internal or external factors.  We decided to split coordination into two types of activity; one where the individual has an internal focus, and the other with an external focus (e.g. partner or object).  Through these activities we would explore rhythm and tempo, speed, repetition, isolation and articulation of body parts, the midline and crossing it, the body’s extremities and opposition.

As with the previous block on strength and alignment, each partner developed their own (very different) activities.  Our internal activity took the form of a set exercise and we explored the effect of performing it to music with different dynamics, speeds and qualities.  The sequence also grew into larger, full bodied movement to include turning and travelling through the space.

Our activity with an external focus was a game responding to the physical cues given by a partner.  Again this started in a basic form on the spot with 6 commands that could be viewed as 2 dimensional.  But the developments were numerous and the basic structure could be taken in different directions to suit the groups needs and interests.

With each of these activities even though the focus was singular, through layering the task with complexity other skills such as composition and performance, could be developed.  For me it has become clear that this approach to teaching ensures an activity is accessible and challenging to all.  It allows each dancer to access the exercise at their level of ability for that specific dance skill.  They can stick with one stage or increase the challenge with another layer.  Through the evaluation methods we have developed and used in the project we have become much more aware of the different and varying needs of our dancers.  The wheel we use in particular has really highlighted the dancers strengths and areas for improvement, which has sometimes surprised us.  It has been invaluable in giving us the opportunity to really observe our dancers and get a more accurate picture of their skill set, each being very different.  This has emphasized the need for a wide range of differentiation in activities, not just in terms of physical movement but through introducing additional complexity through playing with eye focus, speed, direction and other instructions.

Just as important is that this approach also permits creative responses, developing creativity and self-expression as part of technical skill.  This has been a significant concern for all partners involved in the project.  At the very beginning we defined what technique was for us.  What aspects it involved and what skills we thought it was important for our dancers to develop through technical training.  We have kept returning to this question as while we agreed it also encompasses psychological and social skills such as motivation, emotional mastery and social interaction, we have been concerned our activities also develop the ability to respond creatively to tasks and will prepare our dancers for performance.  This approach seems to be working towards that end well!

Interview: Adriaan Luteijn

In this blog we highlight one of our guest partners, Adriaan Luteijn. He works at Introdans and has been working with a wide variety of dancers and groups for over 10 years. Within the company he has a key and connecting role as a choreographer. Within his creative process, for example, he connects a guest dancer to a professional dancer.

The interview was recorded at Introdans at the Arnhem office. Together with Joop he spoke about topics such as talent development and practicing safe practice. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy!

More about introdans:

Introdans takes a contemporary approach to ballet: one that’s creative and surprising. Dynamic, dazzling, gravity-defying, we captivate one and all in a total dance experience. And we do this with passionate commitment and to international standards.

Introdans believes that the language of dance is so universal that it can bring together and move entire generations. We achieve this by appealing to a broad public and actively connecting with them. We perform for young & old(er) and we organise activities and projects for a wide spectrum of target groups. Because Introdans moves you.

www.introdans.nl

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EfT22NKIHg

Starting new block and residency in Madrid!

Hello again, firstly thank you for reading this new blog and for your interest in our project!

On this occasion, this blog is dedicated to the exchange in Madrid where we will investigate the third block of our project dedicated to locomotion and elevation.

We want to share how excited we are and also, the group of dancers from PBMLF that are part of this research and the entire team of Psico Ballet Maite León Foundation to receive the rest of the team members to our house to develop a new phase of this project.

As we have said before, we think that one of the most interesting points of this project is the joint creation through reflection and experience of team members who work cooperatively but that previously didn´t known each other work. This enriches the project, diversifies it, and allows us to have a more plural vision of dance with diversity.

That is why in this residence, we will investigate through the body of our dancers, locomotion and elevation, trying, as we have done in the previous residences, a set of guidelines that will allow us to develop the exercises and the skills to later, be able to monitor and study looking at changes in their motor and artistic development. Some of these points will be the following:

  • Studying the concepts of locomotion and elevation through bibliographical research and expert advice.
  • Find the key elements that constitute learning these concepts for diverse dance participants.
  • Reflect on what key teaching points must be within the exercises.
  • Identify the common elements found in the work of the teams and why.
  • Design a series of exercises through reflection where we can establish the key points of this work.

In our particular case, the exercises corresponding to elevation creates some expectation. Our group of dancers present some difficulty in the balance exercises and we are especially interested in reaching valid conclusions so that they can develop jumps safely. In jumping exercises we have always been concerned on the one hand, making safe jumps (jumps that do not harm the back or that do not generate ankle and / or knee injuries) and on the other, that acquire the necessary skills to sustain and keep a battery of jumps without running out. Therefore, the week of residence in Madrid will undoubtedly be a week of great concentration to achieve these goals for us.

Finally, we would like to highlight how important is for us that our dancers are excited and eager to meet the rest of the project members, their methodology and way of working. This reflects the adaptation and desire that our dancers show when they meet and explore new ways of working and methodologies. To be able to build a space of connection with people in the dance space where they can share experiences through dance.

Thank you for your support when facing each change in our investigation,

we will continue to inform you!

Gabriela y Ramón.

Mia Misura

During the Erasmus gathering in Rotterdam Mia Misura was invited as an extra guest to share practice with. Mia Misura was born in 2011 as a dance theatre lab. The idea was created by Vittoria La Costa and Roberta Bassani with the wish to open a space for people to challenge their abilities, express themselves and give value to their resources. Main activities of the company include the lab, live performances, projects, exchanges and collaborations.

During the Rotterdam week the performers of Mia Misura was invited with the aim to bring more companies together and gain a wider impact, exchange knowledge and feed each others practice.  Here are their reflections:

The experience in Rotterdam within the Erasmus project was full of stimuli and reflections. The communitarian and inclusive sense we felt in a welcoming and familiar place and the non-judgmental atmosphere during the lessons allowed me and my group to freely experiment the movement proposals.

Balance and coordination are two complex issues: I consider them the result of the maturation of a series of underlying connections to which you work throughout your life. Thus, I really appreciated the sequence proposals you offered in the experiential program. Strength and grounding have built the adequate support for the experimentation of the recurring topic on the terra-cielo relationship, which it was for me a precious suggestion.

I found medium-high the level of classes and I’m glad that the dancers of my company with and without disabilities have always put themselves on the line. There have been very dynamic and physically demanding moments, but this has never changed the strong sense of respect of the limits and difficulties that each of us could present.

In all the experiences we have had, the importance of the gaze has never been lacking as a fundamental support of the relationship with oneself and with the other. An attentive request that is difficult for some of our dancers and therefore needs a continuous reminder.

The journey is always an important moment of sharing for the Company, it renews some relational aspects and makes us discover different difficulties. We come back tired, but the atmosphere of novelty and shared responsibility leaves us with a feeling of “light fullness”.

Thank you for this rich exchange.

Roberta

The Aspects of Balance

Balance is a difficult topic and theme to explain. For most people it is taken for granted, however not for everyone balance is granted. For some dancers with ADS, hyper mobility, hearing and vision problems this can be a difficult task. It even could cause symptoms that accompany the unsteadiness like; dizziness, vertigo and difficulty with concentration and memory.

Before we start explaining what balance is we need to state what we understand by balance: ‘Balance is the ability to maintain the body’s center of mass over its base of support’.

For example within the dancer’s body we often refer back to the centre of gravity. It is not that simple like ball, where the centre of gravity is in the middle. For the body this lies around the navel. Did you know the top half of the body is heaver then the bottom half? Around the navel is your own, personal center of gravity. When you stand more or less above the feet your body will be balanced. You won’t tip over. However, if you start leaning to the side, the whole body is changing in order to keep your balance. Your centre of gravity is no longer above the centre line of the feet. The more you lean the more you will fall. It is a fact that it is easier to keep your balance with a lower center of gravity. For example it is easier sitting on a chair, leaning forward then doing the same standing up.

And as we all know, within the dance profession we are constantly working on balance and this centre of gravity. We love to throw ourselves into the space and challenge ourselves. Without a doubt balance is not just one body part, or the part around the navel. It is not even a state of being, but much more than that.

It is almost a total body, holistic state of being, or even an experience. The balance is regulated and maintained by a set of sensorimotor control systems that include sensory input from vision (sight), proprioception, and the vestibular system (motion, equilibrium, spatial orientation). All these work together to integrate the input to the brain and get it back to the muscles for a perfect output. Even psychological factors could impair our sense of balance.

Therefore we have experienced as partners within this project that the improvements within balance can only be achieved if we work on exercises that include sight, touch and body awareness that focus on internal and external elements. Also strength of certain muscles groups can not be excluded. For example the ankle focus from block 1 is a key element that needs to be trained.

We hope you have enjoyed the blog can use this information to get your dancers to the next level.

Best, Joop

 

 

New processes, new goals!

By Ramon Marcos

Hello! Thank you very much for being back in our blog. We hope that you’re enjoying it as much as we are enjoying this project. At this time, we are developing the second block based on balance and coordination. This block is especially crucial, because it develops skills that are both basic in dancing training and the development of any professional dancer.   

After our second residence in Rotterdam, we have begun to focus specifically on the development of these skills after having pondered some factors.  With the first results of the tests, we continue investigating in  the processes and what we observe in their analysis. We observe that within our group, coordination is a strong point. However we must work in depth the balance. We must continue to strengthen the feet and ankles as a support for the body since the dancers can perform exercises with quick balances but have a greater difficulty in prolonging balance. We also observed that this balance deficit affects the knees, so we have also decided to perform strengthening exercises on knees in balance. 

One of the most important lessons that this project is giving us, is the ability to think cooperatively in our work as teachers.  We are complementing all our knowledge through the thoughts and opinions provided by other members of the project.  

After starting the second block, we are becoming more aware of the importance of getting our dancers to develop the skills of an artistic and creative training and factors involving the body when performing certain movements. Developing their capacity of reflection and analysis are fundamental for their ability to dance as professionals. For this, we indicate what objectives we wanted to achieve with each exercise and the dancers themselves made the different proposals to achieve these objectives. For example, in an exercise of balance with some fabrics, they had to get to form solid structures with partners at different heights. 

We consider that body diversity is one of the masterpieces of our groups and therefore our role as educators is to properly transmit the techniques that allows them to access  to this concepts, as well as to make exercises 100% accessible. When we talk about balance, and how balance is involved in dance, we come to the conclusion that balance is not only statically, and implies movement; as well as in coordination, there are external and internal factors that intervene when developing it. 

As educators at this point appears to us a question: what’s the point in which the concepts of dance are no longer connected? The answer is almost always in the same: never. Regardless the search we undertake to develop specific capabilities, others are always involved conscious or unconsciously. 

This is why it is so important for us the reflections on the methodology. Concepts and goals that we are trying to develop in our dancers as well as those elements that enable them to understand and internalize the dance in its evolution, also personal, towards a professional commitment in a motivating and inspiring way. 

To conclude this blog, we’d like to highlight the great motivation that our group of dancers is facing towards the project and the major contribution it is making on us to reflect, learn and appreciate our own practice as teachers, as well as discovering amazing aspects in the dancers. We could summarize this great learning adventure with a quote from Nietzsche and the importance of learning to observe:  

“If you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.” 

Thank you for your attention, we´ll see you soon! 

 

Rotterdam!

By Sophie

April saw our third residency of the project which was hosted by Misiconi Dance Company in Rotterdam.  Mia and I were excited to be travelling to our Dutch partner’s home, to meet their dancers and gain a better understanding of how their company worked.    

Joop had kindly arranged a meeting for as at Introdans who are based in Arnhem which was our first port of call after landingAdriaan Luteijn is acting as one of their Associate Partners on Shift and was to deliver a workshop as part of our residency later in the week.  As one of the largest dance companies in The Netherlands, Introdans share a similar remit and structure to Northern Ballet so it was really interesting to hear about their approach to education and the projects they are engaged with.  We were made to feel very welcome by everyone at their studios and even got to see some work in rehearsal! 

The following day we started the residency proper.  The aim over the next 3 1/2 days was to share our learning gathered in the first block on strength and alignment, share our current practice on balance and coordination (which was to be the next block), and create a new template of balance and coordination ideas and activities to try out and develop with our dancers.  We knew we would be pushed for time!

Marijke Lips

It was great to see Gabriela and Ramon again and to meet many new people.   Joop had invited La Mia Misura from Italy to join us for the residency so we had a full studio.  Marijke Lips from

Marijke’s Workshop

Codarts (Misiconi DC’s other Associate Partner) kicked off the practical sessions focusing on balance and coordination.  As Ballet and Community Teacher at Codarts, Marijke brought her knowledge and experience to share giving us another perspective on how these skills can be taught.  Through this and subsequently sharing our own practice we gained an overview of the types of exercises wehad experienced ourselves as students and those we had since developed.  Through discussion we analysed the common threads and differences.  We had all done some research into the area leading up to residency so were beginning to develop a much greater scientific understanding of how we develop balance and coordination skills.  This is an essential part of the project as it is only through understanding the “how” that we can devised activities that work effectively.  For me it has helped to unpicked why the typical traditional class consists of certain elements.  While I knew the basic purpose of a weight shift exercise (e.g. falling in different directions to a lunge and returning to centre) I now understand what how this is affecting the vestibular sense, the role of eye focus in this, the importance of sensitivity/awareness in the feet etc, etc.  The exercises we have all know have been developed over decades for good reason.  So part of what we are trying to achieve is to make them accessible and relevant to our dancers needs.  Who all have very individual bodies and learning styles.  This is the challenge.

Another area of our research which became the focus on day 3 is finding new activities or approaches for developing balance and coordination.  For each block we create a template of areas and things we are going to explore.  Pulling this together is not easy as there are numerous way it could be approached.  We need to find a consensus.  For this block we decided we would use the categories internal and external.  These would be activities where the dancer worked with an internal focus or worked with an external influence such as another person or object.  So for example when a dancer performs a balance exercise alone they are purely working with their own, internal systems.  If they are working in physical contact with a partner there is the added layer of stimulus to respond to; their weight shifts, amount of pressure etc.  The residency came to a close with an evening of performances by Misoconi DC and La Mia Misura.  Hosted by Misiconi DC and Codarts it was a chance to remind ourselves what the overriding aim of the project is; to enable our, and other’s, dancers to reach their potential and enable them to express themselves articulately in performance.  Thank you for hosting Misiconi DC!

Misiconi Dance Company

Methods, Observations and Process

In January we started with our first block on alignment and strength. Both me and Manouk devised the class immediately after our last exchange day in Leeds. Our minds were fresh and full with new ideas to test out.  

We came up with over 6 set excercices combined with explorations which were all based on the template.  Our class became:  

  1. Body awareness 
  2. Initiation by the upper body 
  3. Strength on the floor  
  4. Locomotion  
  5. Resistance towards the floor  
  6. Foot focus  

We also had decided together as partners that several tests needed to be conducted with the dancers. These had to be taken by the beginning and end of the first block. Within this blog I am not going to shine my light upon the test results as I can only conclude by the end of this research if there is a significant change.  

Over 3 months we worked with the Company group. This group consists in total of 7 people; 2 interns, 4 dancers with down syndrome and a dancer with spasms. The group works 2 days a week (Thursdays and Fridays) with 2 hours of training each day from 9:30 to 11:30 AM.  

We started with the prepared lesson sheet that Manouk and I created just after the exchange. Within this sheet the exercises and objectives are written down. Generally this was the base of the class. Over time exercises developed or were combined with others. Every company day was taught by another teacher. Manouk Schrauwen was teaching Thursdays and Suzanne Lamers was teaching Fridays. With this way of working we could see what objectives and ways of teaching was picked out and which exercises and objectives worked in generally. Also we have worked with the same class within our community hub classes. These classes are a more beginner level and accessible for dancers with a multiple learning, physical and or behavioural needs. 

After 3 months a few things stood out by looking at the dancers and the observations. 3 months of training the same class or similar material had benefits but also issues. We saw that some dancers gained more confidence and would be more happy to show the material/ exercises on their own. Also they could more easily answer questions about class, so sticking with the same material for a longer period did facilitate a deeper level of understanding and embodiment However, balancing this with ensuring the class material was varied enough to maintain interest and increasing challenge at the right time was more difficult. 

Another area we are looking at is the social and emotional skills such as autonomy, self-reliance and self-reflection. The general awareness of the social skill that is needed in order to become a professional dancer. What is needed to grow as a dancer and how do you facilitate that for dancers who need help with these things?  How can it become part of the class and training as a underlying aim/goal/objective? 

The testing methods we have devised such as the wheel we to monitor different skills (physical, psychological and social) made oppositions clear. You can see immediately where some strengths and weaknesses are. Besides we have noticed that the aims and objectives of this class needed to be mentioned constantly. Just a reminder of how to stand parallel and how to grow taller. This needed to become a habit and therefore in my opinion also strongly connected to taking responsibility as a dancer. You need to see, hear and feel it almost daily, but also need to go to class knowing what you work on and what you want to work on.  

In general we have found that working on the floor brings difficulties in so many ways (spacial awareness, body awareness, groups dynamic, strength, cognitive etc). Therefore we think it was needed to already introduce the floor and different directions earlier in class.  We found that for some dancers both teacher and dancer need to find another way to execute the exercise as they cannot see the teacher all the time.  They need another point of reference to help them remember the exercise.  For beginner groups it is a very important working point. The floor is often forgotten, but so important because it gives a whole different experience but needs to be built up slowly and carefully.

Because we work with a mixed group we have to take in account the limited space and room needed for adaptations. And that these are also working on the same aim and objective. We didn’t focus too much on these and therefore it was noticeable who needed them. They felt a little left out. We have found that we didn’t use our props so much as only showing them once or twice. We would like to interact and collaborate with these props more. They should become more than only an image. Maybe even an experience.  

To close this reflection I would like to mention that is was a delight to work with the group and teachers in a different way and be able to reflect, observer and raise questions. Some will never be answered, good or bad. However, others might be clearer for us. All questions have brought us further in our exploration towards a new methodology.  

Joop and Partners