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 landing. Adriaan 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!
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
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!