If you have ever read my blog or seen my posts on Twitter or Instagram, you will know that I am a huge fan of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and their Faculty of Dance at the Laban Building in Creekside, Deptford. This is where I take my daughter to contemporary kids’ classes on a Saturday. The waiting list for kids’ classes is over 2 years long, so you can tell that the teaching is highly regarded, even from the youngest of ages. This year Trinity Laban is top of the Guardian’s University league table for drama and dance for the fourth year running. Importantly for me, as a place to hang out during my daughter’s class, it is nothing but a pleasure.
It is a wonderful building, whose design inside and outside is stunning. Every Saturday, winter or summer, the sun seems to shine, and I cannot stop myself from repeatedly snapping photographs of the kids playing on the hills surrounding the building. The Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron designed the building in 1997; the visual artist Michael Craig-Martin collaborated with them to create the exterior design in semi-transparent polycarbonate in hues of lime, turquoise and magenta. Many of the walls inside are in the same colours. No wonder I feel a special connection to this place, full of these ‘Hatty colours’. By night, from the outside, you can partially see what’s happening inside the studios, and the building practically glows along the creek.
As you can imagine, when I was offered the chance to take part in an adults’ street dance class in return for writing about the experience, it was difficult to turn it down. Me actually enter a studio and not just to retrieve Lydia?! Yes please! Of course, I am no dancer. It is probably the main thing I wish I could do, naturally, and on a dancefloor I love to dance about, being a part-time DJ who loves music and whose main aim in life is to get others to feel free and loosen up and not care how they look when kicking up their heels to my music. But I am stiff, restricted, inhibited, and basically all those characteristic British traits which make me a not quite natural dancer. So of course I said yes, with just a bit of trepidation.
I was very excited to arrive at my class. There was a mixture of students (all female) and from the introductions it was clear that many of them had studied dance before. Most of them were younger than me too (only by twenty years or so) but there was at least one other mum who was not fresh out of dance school.
The street dance class is new to Trinity Laban this term. The teacher Laura is lovely, full of enthusiasm and passion for dance, keen to get us to relax and socialise amongst ourselves and to really enjoy the dancing and the course in general. You commit to paying for a half term at a time, so at the first class of the term which I attended you could see that Laura planned to encourage us to get to know each other, as well as progressing with the moves and the routines. The warm ups were all ‘ice-breakers’ to get us to speak to each other, as well as for limbering up muscles and getting physically warmer. They were fun and involved actually talking to each other! If one were to do a whole six week half term, of 90 minute classes, it would be a great way to get to know the others quite well. This is without mentioning the fitness benefits.
Laura started to build up some moves with us. The class is intended for beginners so she starts slowly, and she does ask you to stop her if you’re not getting something. It is slightly intimidating to be the only one to put up your hand to go slower (yup, I had to do that) but Laura is totally patient and wants everyone to keep up. I enjoyed learning the steps the most; you find that on their own they are dead simple and you can do them – it’s just when it comes to putting them together to music (really fast!) that I started to come undone.
The challenge began when we starting linking the moves into a routine. I could start right and end up facing the right way, I could do lots of the steps, but I couldn’t do all of them, and definitely not at that speed. I didn’t have time to see myself in the mirror, I was just trying to avoid tripping over my own feet whilst copying the person next to me. I came to the conclusion that street dance was not for me.
I liked it when Laura gave some background to what we were doing, talking about the history, the attitude, the music. I would have loved to have sat in a lecture hall, watching some film and music clips and learning about the dance, fashion and social history of hip hop whilst watching real dancers do the moves. Ultimately that would be a street dance class more suited to my abilities.
Despite this, I can assure you that the street dance class is a brilliant, fun way to learn some funky moves from your favourite music videos. The teaching is friendly and relaxed and I can guarantee that you will tone up parts you didn’t know you had.
You can find out more about the Adult Classes at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance here. Street dance classes take place on Thursday evenings at 18.45h and the next half term course begins again on 26 February.
Hatty specialises in using social media networks for marketing. She likes to write, tweet and photograph things, particularly when they are lime, turquoise and magenta. She loves music, dance, all things arts and culture and engaging with the community through voluntary work such as the New Cross and Deptford Free Film Festival. Hatty has an alter ego, Mental Floss, who DJs locally and mostly on vinyl. She is passionate about south east London and regularly posts about it in her blog hattydaze.
All photos by Hatty