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!)…
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…
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.
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…
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.
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