The Benefits of Supplementary Training for Dancers

The dance class has been shown to be fairly ‘stop start’ or intermittent in nature and as a result dancers’ cardiovascular training needs may not be simply met by participating in class or rehearsal. Furthermore, dancers face increasing demands from choreographers, pushing their bodies to the limits in terms of technique, skill and versatility. For this reason it is important  for dancers to consider taking up additional fitness training, and to ask important questions regarding the type of extra training their individual body needs. A good place to start might be to identify areas that require improvement or strengthening. Screening for example is one way you can identify areas that require focus; whether this be in relation to cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, muscular endurance, strength or power. Although the dance class may innately contribute to improvements in certain aspects of fitness (i.e. flexibility, agility, muscular endurance), depending on the individual dancer’s body some of these aspects may need to be addressed outside of the classroom in their own time.  Importantly, a typical dance class does not share the same focus on cardiovascular intensity, nor does it necessarily incorporate training principles such as overload. Overload is needed in order for physiological adaptions to occur and therefore the dance class alone may not facilitate such changes. Additional training has other benefits too. We know that fatigue increases the risk of sustaining an injury in dance, and as increased fitness may help to delay the onset of fatigue it could in turn help to reduce this risk.

jk_photography

Photo: jk_photography

So what form of extra training should you do? The most important answer to this question is it should be tailored to your own specific needs; there is no magic formula or generic plan and previous injury, illness and current workload should be considered. To get you thinking about additional training methods and to also dispel some common myths, we have put the spotlight on just a few types of supplementary training.

Pilates

Pilates

Photo: jk_photography

Since the 1920’s dancers have subjectively reported the benefits of engaging in the Pilates method alongside their dance training. In recent years scientific research has also started to evidence these benefits. Studies have shown that Pilates can help to improve alignment, flexibility and muscular strength in dancers, and due to its focus on fluid and controlled movements it is often a natural choice for dancers. More hypermobile or flexible dancers might wish to choose Pilates-based exercise in order to encourage greater strength and control.

Yoga

There is little scientific research to support the benefits of yoga in dance specifically, however dancers do tend to naturally choose yoga as a form of supplementary training. An unpublished study reported improvements in hip flexion range of motion after a four week intervention and suggested that yoga can offer additional educational benefits. Dancers who are naturally less flexible may benefit from practicing yoga due to its focus on dynamic stretching. Previous or existing injuries should be considered before attending class.

Aerobic and endurance training

It is important for dancers to have good aerobic power to enable them to dance for longer and at lower heart rates before becoming fatigued. Although the dance class can contribute to improvements in aerobic power, due to the intermittent nature of class, additional cardiovascular training such as running or swimming can be useful. Running is a cheap and effective way of training aerobically but if you are recovering from an injury and want to avoid loaded weight bearing activities, swimming is a great alternative.

Plyometric training

It is important for dancers to have power in their legs for both jumping and travelling sequences. Plyometric or jump training aims to increase power (speed and strength) by incorporating exercises in which the muscles exert maximum force in short intervals of time. One study found that such training did improve subjective measures of dancer’s jumping including height, ability to point feet and overall jump ability as assessed by experienced dance faculty members. Again, it is important to consider injury history and workload before engaging in plyometric training. Some dancers are concerned that working on strength in this way may lead to developing ‘bulky muscles’ and compromising aesthetic quality. There is little evidence to support this idea, and the pros of plyometric training seem to outweigh the potential cons.

feldenkrais

Photo: jk_photography

A more somatic approach

Although somatic techniques do not immediately spring to mind when considering supplementary training, practices such as the Feldenkrais Method which aim to increase kinaesthetic self- awareness through movement (without placing extreme stress on the body) can be helpful during busy work periods. Practices such as the Feldenkrais Method can also be of benefit to individuals troubled with stress and anxiety.

*The extra stress placed on the body through supplementary training can cause temporary fatigue. You should aim to leave at least two weeks between end of training and any scheduled performance periods.

Amelia Wilkinson, Dance Science Graduate Intern & Administrative Intern for Health

For more information take a look at these resources.

Beck, S., Redding, E., & Wyon, M. A. (2015). Methodological considerations for documenting the energy demand of dance activity: a review. Frontiers in psychology, 6.

Kefallonitou, M, M., (2014). The effects of Yin Yoga practice on dancers’ range of joint motion : a biomechanical and perceptual investigation (Unpublished thesis). Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London.

McKinnon, M., & Etlin-Stein, H. (2015, November 09) Pilates: A natural choice for dancers [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.iadms.org/blogpost/1177934/231658/Pilates-A-natural-choice-for-dancers.

Rafferty, S. (2010). Considerations for integrating fitness into dance training.Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 14(2), 45-49.

Useful web resources:

https://www.danceuk.org/healthier-dancer-programme/health-faqs/fitness-and-strength/

http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.iadms.org/resource/resmgr/Public/Bull_4-1_pp15-17_Kozai.pdf

 

Different trains: Five questions for Ayanna Witter-Johnson

Omni-talented composer, singer-songwriter and cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson, who graduated from Trinity Laban in 2008, has been commissioned to compose a piece for the LSO Brass Ensemble. Her new composition ‘Where Clouds Meet the Sea’ has its premiere performance on Thursday 26 November at the Barbican. We asked her five questions about this piece:

  1. How did this commission come about?

I took part in both the LSO’s Panufnik and Soundhub composition schemes, both of which have been an integral part of my development as a composer. I’ve subsequently developed a relationship with the orchestra.

Ayanna 2

  1. Your piece is called ‘Where Clouds Meet the Sea’. What’s the story behind that title?

I wrote this piece whilst spending three weeks in St. Leonard’s-On-Sea on the south coast of England. Every day I would watch the tide come in and out and generally observe the local residents and the rhythms of daily life along the seafront. In the piece, you will hear recurring melodies much like the waves that vary and interact with each other in surprising and beautiful ways.

  1. What’s the most challenging thing about composing for the LSO Brass Ensemble?

Imagining the actual sound of the instruments as an ensemble. Taking into consideration the communication between the players, and trying to accommodate their different personalities.

  1. Did your experience singing and playing with Reuben [Ayanna’s cello] influence this composition?

Only to the extent that I approached this piece with a focus on melodic material and that the experience of writing the piece was quite meditative. In many ways I approach singing and playing the cello as a meditation when I’m on stage.

  1. Can we expect more contemporary classical compositions in the future?

Yes most certainly! I often feel like I run several trains on different tracks all heading to the same destination at varying speeds. My work as a performer is on a fast-moving train and my work as a composer is on a slower moving one. The destination is to compose for and perform with the LSO, bringing the two worlds closer together.

For tickets to see LSO Brass ensemble performing ‘Where Clouds Meet the Sea’ on Thursday 26 November visit the Barbican Centre website: http://www.barbican.org.uk/music/event-detail.asp?id=17587

Ayanna comments on her experience at Trinity Laban: https://www.trinitylaban.ac.uk/alumni/alumni-profiles/ayanna-witter-johnson

 

Marlowe Thornes-Heywood

Graduate intern – Press & PR

Align up! Align up!

Seema Chopra reports on her whirlwind tour of conferences in the UK…

Three conferences, four days, one long weekend!

As a professional Kathak dancer and soon-to-be MSc Dance Science graduate, this was a perfect way to ‘geek out’ in the theory and practice of training, research and pedagogical practices in dance, music and circus arts. I had high hopes, and I was not disappointed!

Friday 30 October: Dance UK Strength and Conditioning Conference (Elmhurst, Birmingham)

A day full of lectures, demonstrations and workshops, promising to enlighten the dancer, inform the teacher and provoke the dance scientist (and to make our muscles very sore!)…

nidms

At this event, a selection of experts in strength and conditioning across sports and dance shared their wisdom and put us through our paces. Presenters included Trinity Laban’s very own Emma Redding and Sonia Rafferty, who led a dance-specific fitness session. It was suggested that supplementary strength and conditioning is vital for the dancer/athlete (the term was often used interchangeably) in order to sustain performance intensities, to improve movement efficiency and to enhance injury resilience.

You can have the skill to form the pattern, but you need the strength to deal with the force” was a comment made by Dr Ben Rosenblatt. This resonated with me as a Kathak dancer, where I often see low levels of strength and fitness that could affect the wellbeing and longevity of the dancer, especially if accompanied by the also commonly observed misalignment of the knees and pronation of the feet.

The day finished with a lecture on recovery strategies, including the importance of fuelling effectively and valuing rest and sleep; an area that once again spoke to my own research focus within my studies on the MSc Dance Science.

Saturday 31 October & Sunday 1 November: Acrobatic Symposium

Hosted by the National Centre for Circus Arts and Mimbre in London…

nccam

This was a particular highlight! The fantastic venue and the intimate audience were ripe with inspiration.

In contrast to the world of dance, it was clear that within acrobatics and the circus arts, supplementary training are already an accepted part of the regular training regime. Key speakers across the two days included Jami Tikkanen, Will Tulett, James Earls and Arran Peck, not forgetting Trinity Laban’s Edel Quin (Programme Leader MSc and MFA Dance Science). The speakers seamlessly weaved their diverse knowledge from dance, movement coaching, tennis coaching, fascia and pedagogies into their presentations while remaining focused on the central theme of acrobatic arts training.

acrobaticartstraining

One highlight was movement specialist Will Tulett sharing videos of the reaction training programmes that he conducts with his Chelsea trainee footballers, to encourage faster and more efficient movement on the pitch. Another was watching the acrobats in their training environment: to witness such skilled and athletic individuals complete elements of aerial and floor work – and seemingly applying the knowledge gained during the symposium into their technique with ease – was inspirational!

In a genre of performance art that often seems to be either marginalized or perceived as ‘exclusive’, the two-day event successfully broke imaginary boundaries. There was a general sense of appreciation, openness and discussion, which is to be celebrated!

Monday 2 November: Foundations for Excellence Conference

Back home at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance…

foundations

After filling my mind with the theory and the practice of strength and conditioning, alignment and movement efficiency, it was refreshing to change the focus to pedagogical practices within music and dance. At this event, practitioners with expertise in surgery, dance, music, performance psychology and Dalcroze, shared their expertise and teaching approaches. There were provoking discussions on formalising the informal within dance education, as well as sessions addressing strategies for recognizing and managing stress and anxiety, and an interactive session exploring how to develop students’ mastery of an art-form. The conference finished with some initial findings from a large research study, Musical Impact. (I would be doing the project a big disservice, if I was to try to summarise it here! Go and check out the website www.musicalimpact.org.)

The final day of conferencing was brought to a close with a drinks reception which launched a new key Dance Science text book ‘Safe Dance Practice: An Applied Dance Science Perspective’ authored by Edel Quin, Sonia Rafferty and Charlotte Tomlinson, all former graduates of the MSc Dance Science at Trinity Laban and current dance practitioners, researchers and educators.

Edel Quin, Sonia Rafferty and Charlotte Tomlinson

My toolbox is now overflowing with techniques, theories, advice and thoughts. I am looking forward to filtering these in the coming days, weeks and months and applying relevant nuggets towards my Kathak dance classes, both as teacher and student. I am also inspired for the future of my personal dance science research and practice, as well as that of the wider field.

But first, I might put into practice what I’ve learned – and have a short rest!

Kathak dancer Seema Chopra completed her MSc Dance Science at Trinity Laban in 2015. Her Kathak dance classes can be found at www.facebook.com/thekathakblog

ZOI DIMITRIOU – FIVE QUESTIONS ON ‘THE CHAPTER HOUSE’

Zoi Dimitriou’s The Chapter House combines dance and innovative technology to create a unique performance spectacle, exploring what it means to be a creator in the digital age. Charlotte Constable interviews Zoi in advance of her performance at Trinity Laban on 26 November.

1). In brief, how would you sum up The Chapter House?

The Chapter House is autobiographical in the sense that it is about me looking back at the body of my whole work. However, there is a layer added to that which is to do with how we document or archive live performance. Dance is such an ephemeral form of art – you don’t have hard copies of it. So, the process becomes a way for me to leave a trace of my bodily memory, which in turn becomes a piece in itself.

2). How is digital technology incorporated in the work?

I have been very fortunate to collaborate on this work with Mark Coniglio, who is the inventor of the Isadora software. The software has the essential capacity of live capture and the ability to play it back. Everything in the performance gets filmed live, and then it’s programmed by Mark so then it can be played back in different ways simultaneously onto five surfaces from a single source. It looks simple, but actually it’s a highly complicated piece of software. It’s quite unique.

The whole concept is for the video artist – in this performance, David McCormick – and I to expose what we do. What is it to expose the act of performing? I consider dance history, the dance body, and an understanding of dance. David films. But what unites both of these is that we are both conducting an exploration. Throughout the first part of The Chapter House, we are actors: we are creating work but we are also showing an audience that creative process. In the second part, the created footage gets revealed through new media.

zoe

3). How does technology shape the audience’s perception of The Chapter House?

One ongoing thing that I’m interested in is that when we look we have a certain angle – it’s always selective. You will see something that the person next to you might not see; they see somehow differently.

The video artists makes very specific choices about what he decides to capture. They might be moments that were hidden from the audience. Zooming in on these moments, and then arranging them in the footage revealed in The Chapter House, potentially gives a whole new perspective. So the technology feeds the concept: how footage can change, be transformed and, potentially, acquire different meaning.

4). What challenges has a collaboration of this kind presented?

The Chapter House challenged myself and Mark in different ways. I was asking Mark to work in a manner which is perhaps different from his usual style: playing, deconstructing, and creating something new. I think he’s much more interested in how technology in a way becomes an environment in which the dance shifts or changes.

For me, the collaboration is a risk, because Mark (and David) are creating something live. And that’s something that I can’t control. What I see on the night will be new to my eyes, as well as the audience’s.

 

5). Do you see digital dance being an avenue to explore in your future work?

I’m very attracted to visual arts, and I’m inspired by the work of video artist Bill Viola. Whether I continue to work with technology depends on what the dance necessitates. I start from a concept, I start with an enquiry of some sort that I’m interested in, and then the work dictates what needs to come in. The movement comes first, the digital element second. I didn’t decide to make a work which combines dance and technology – the work asked for it.

What I do know is that I’m less scared of it now.

The Chapter House will be performed at the Laban Theatre on 26 November. To book tickets to this unique evening, visit the Trinity Laban website.

Alumni Interview: Chloe Aliyanni Dance

Chloe Aliyanni 2

Chloe Aliyanni is a Trinity Laban alumnus working on an exciting dance piece for performance this month. Her work, Trivialis, will be performed by her company Chloe Aliyanni Dance from 18-21 November at the Blue Elephant Theatre, Camberwell. To assist in the creation of the work, Trinity Laban offered Chloe some rehearsal space, giving me a great opportunity to catch up with herself and her team.

Chloe graduated from Trinity Laban in 2013, after studying the MA Choreography. Her three dancers – Savina Casarin, Jonathan Caruana, and Morrighan MacGillivray – as well as her rehearsal director, Markella Kefallonitou, all studied at Trinity Laban. I began the interview by delving into their experiences of life at the conservatoire.

“I met all my dancers here,” Chloe began. “Jon was in the very first project I did for a module: my first attempt to choreograph at Trinity Laban. Morrighan and I had wanted to work together for a long time, but because we were studying different courses, the timing didn’t work until after graduation. Markella (our rehearsal director) was a dance science student. It’s a great network to find dancers and collaborators from.”

I asked the company what had been the most important lesson learned from their time at Trinity Laban.

“It was a very interesting experience, because I learnt whole new ways of dealing with choreography and making dance,” Chloe told me. “It helped me work out what kind of artist I wanted to be. I gained confidence in my approach.”

Jon agreed. “It showed me where I fit in, in terms of work, in terms of physicality, and in terms of what I wanted to do after.”

Markella undertook the MSc Dance Science, and so had a slightly different approach to the study of dance.

“It gave me the opportunity to look at the various aspects that can influence the ‘whole’ dancer -from a physiological and a psychological perspective – and the different disciplines that can be used to enhance performance,” she explained. “My interest had always been to help dancers on performance and technique, and the expertise I gained from my postgraduate studies was crucial in order to be successful in this role with the company.”

Savina studied a one-year programme at postgraduate level. Travelling to the UK from Italy for her course, the culture shock was another challenge to overcome.

“It was a pretty intense year,” she told me. “Italy doesn’t have these kinds of big institutions so for me, starting at Trinity Laban was a big jump! A big change. It gave me autonomy.”

Chloe Aliyanni 3

Chloe Aliyanni Dance debuted Trivialis at Resolution, The Place’s annual festival of short dance and performance works, earlier this year. It has since been performed at Blueprints Festival, as part of East London Dance, and will be expanded from a 20-minute piece to a full length work for this month’s performance.

“It’s quite a chaotic process!” Chloe said. “We have to forget what we’ve done before, and try to keep what is essential for the message of the piece. In the studio, you have to see how your dancers feel and respond. That creates new directions.”

Jon elaborated. “Before, the energy had to shift much faster. Now, we’re setting a scene and it’s almost like your character is changing. It’s gone from something very dark, to something with a bit more freedom.”

So what’s it all about?

Trivialis follows the journey of three people whose paths suddenly and unexpectedly collide,” explained Morrighan.  “More broadly, it’s about the triumph, power and beauty of human connection and intimacy, amid the cold constraints of modern city life.”

Chloe told me she was inspired by living in the city. “In short, it’s about intimacy, and finding connections in places which do not support that.”

Watching a little rehearsal in action, I observed these feelings in the choreography. Dancers run apparently aimlessly, stumble into each other, and avoid each other’s gaze. But at the same time, they find themselves holding each other, dependent on the support of a network of faceless strangers. The irony of the intimate yet anonymous nature of public spaces resonates.

Chloe Aliyanni 4

I was fascinated to discover that the pieces features a live musician on-stage. It’s evident that CoLab, Trinity Laban’s collaborative festival of music and dance, has had an impact upon the creative output of the team. Chloe has demonstrated versatility by recently choreographing for a musical theatre show; in her independent work, Savina has been collaborating with a drummer. Jon, meanwhile, is working collaboratively as he develops his own installation-based work. He is also engaged in a project with Alice Anderson which will be showing at Euston’s Wellcome Collection from July to October.

Trivialis is just the beginning for these alumni. Wherever they go, I get the feeling there’ll be nothing trivial about the pathways Chloe Aliyanni and her team take.

Charlotte Constable – Press & PR

To book tickets for Trivialis, see Chloe Aliyanni Dance’s website.

Trinity Laban’s Contemporary Jazz Ensemble: Five Key Questions

On Saturday 21 November, Trinity Laban’s Contemporary Jazz Ensemble will perform in the Clore Ballroom at the Royal Festival Hall, as part of the London Jazz Festival. We sat down for a cup of tea with the band’s director Mark Lockheart to find out what’s in store…

  1. What will you be performing at the concert?

Each year we choose a different theme, and this year we decided on music by contemporary British jazz composers. There’ll be a few tunes from Loose Tubes, either composed by Eddie Parker or Django Bates. These tunes still sound very current to my ears! I played them quite recently at the Loose Tubes gig at Ronnie’s in September.

We’re also working on a Nikki Iles tune called ‘Highlands’. It’s a 9/8 tune with Celtic folk influences that was recorded for The Printmakers album released earlier this year. A modern bossa nova by Mike Walker entitled ‘A Real Embrace’, is included too.

I’m happy to say that there will be two Laura Jurd compositions: ‘Oh So Beautiful’ and ‘Giant’s Causeway’. I have a connection with these pieces because I co-produced the Chaos Orchestra album ‘Island Mentality’ back in 2014, where these pieces were first recorded. We will also be doing ‘Coley’, a Troyk-estra tune by Joshua Blackmore.

There may be pieces by Matt Roberts, a young composer who graduated from Trinity Laban with an MMus in Composition. He won the Dankworth Prize for Jazz Composition in 2010, as did Laura Jurd the following year.

  1. Why did you choose contemporary British Composers as a theme?

This is great big band music, with great writing, and yet a lot of it doesn’t get played very often, especially compared to the standard big band charts from the States. For example, some of these Loose Tubes tunes have only been performed by the original artists, and the same goes for others in this programme, which is a shame. In fact, we had to copy some parts from the original handwritten arrangements – that’s how little these compositions have been played by larger bands!

It’s important to bring attention to excellent British music and generally speaking, I think British big band music is more forward-looking compared to stuff from the US right now. Also, it seems appropriate to select music that comes from the same place it is performed, geographically – it adds another level of coherence to what we do.

  1. What do you think audiences will enjoy about hearing the band?

They’ll get to see and hear leading young players up there on the platform. Each generation of jazzers is different, and they always contribute something new to the art form. It’s really important to highlight these musicians and their ideas, which are always fresh. They bring a myriad of influences to the table, influences that weren’t there before, creating new sounds and new roots for the music to grow from. A progressive attitude is what keeps the music alive, and this is crucial at a time when some question the future of jazz.

  1. What is the best thing about working with Trinity Laban students?

It’s inspiring to see the students explore their own sounds as well as learn about new ones. Also, I enjoy working with different people all the time. Students come and go and the ensemble transforms; you meet new players each year. This makes the band very dynamic. You never know what it’s going to be like until after the first few rehearsals, and then it starts to take form. That’s an exciting process!

Director Mark Lockheart

Director Mark Lockheart

  1. And after the London Jazz Festival… what’s next?

We have a gig at Blackheath Halls in December with the Jazz Choir. Next year on February 22nd we’ll be playing at Ronnie’s with the Jazz Ensemble for Trinity Laban Night. Then we’re hosting the John Dankworth Prize competition at the Laban Theatre on the 1st of March. We’ll be playing alongside other ensembles from the jazz department, and we’ll get to play the winning compositions.

In general, I’d like to see CJE get out there and play more gigs. At the moment we play about three a year, but it would be great to do more, perhaps go on a small tour – a valuable experience for the players. I think more festivals could be a possibility in the future, if we can organise it.

I’d also like more students to compose for the band, especially those who play in it. The band provides an opportunity for these young performers to sound out their ideas and discover their own voice. I want to encourage those voices.

For more info about the Contemporary Jazz Ensemble concert at the London Jazz Festival go to: http://www.trinitylaban.ac.uk/whats-on/music-events/contemporary-jazz-ensemble-at-efg-london-jazz-festival

 

Marlowe Thornes-Heywood

Graduate intern – Press & PR