‘Retired not Tired’- Spring Activity Roundup

It’s been a busy Spring term for Retired not Tired, Trinity Laban’s programme of music and dance activities for the over 60s. The Arts Befriending Group based in Sydenham and Young at Heart in Bellingham have been stretching their vocal chords in two intergenerational encounters. Young at Heart took part in a two way exchange of song and samba with year 11 pupils from Brent Knoll Special School in Lewisham, while the Arts Befriending Group sang side by side with some of our own Trinity Laban vocal students.

Spring Forth!’ – Lunchtime Concert, Tue 8 March

After a very successful initial visit in May 2015, The Arts Befriending Group returned to King Charles Court to spend the day singing and socialising with 10 Trinity Laban vocal students. The two groups, led by experienced singer, composer and Trinity Laban alumna Natasha Lohan were preparing to perform to an audience of staff, students and external partners in a lunchtime concert. The programme included a selection of 20th Century classics chosen by the Arts Befriending group- from Mary Poppins, to Hal David and Burt Bacharach’s hits, there was something to put a spring in everyone’s step!

Avril & student

Photo: Tess Robinson

The Arts Befriending Group, one of the four music and dance groups that make up Trinity Laban’s Retired not Tired programme for the over 60s, is a weekly singing and social group run in partnership with Ageing Well Lewisham. Natasha meets with the group weekly to work with them on learning songs of their choice and creating their own new material.

This term, the group has also been joined by Matthew Crisp, a first year violinist who has been supporting Natasha in preparation for and during the performance. Matthew has been a welcome addition to the group, performing to them regularly and arranging parts for the final performance, and has benefited from the experience of getting out into the community to work alongside a professional music leader. Pianist Panaretos Kyriatzidis and myself on violin also joined the group on the day.

It was a tough ask to put together a performance with just an hour and a half’s rehearsal time but the newly formed super group stepped up to the challenge, creating a fantastic uplifting performance to celebrate the arrival of Spring. The group were keen to give the audience a flavour of what they get up to every Tuesday, so the concert began with a breathing and vocal warm up for everyone present involving a Tibetan bowl to create a drone.

Natasha & bowl

Photo: Tess Robinson

To open the performance, resident thespian Norman Flynn recited two verses from Shelley’s poem Cloud, accompanied beautifully by Matthew’s rendition of Ladies in Lavender on violin.

Norman

Photo: Tess Robinson

A highlight of the concert had to be a rendition of the Mary Poppins classic- Let’s go fly a kite, complete with handmade kites designed, made and waved by the group!

Group

Photo: Matthew Crisp

The concert continued with a medley of 20th Century ditties and the audience were encouraged to join with the classic Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head. The concert ended with Burt Bacharach’s Close to You which had the whole room singing along. Being up on stage, it was amazing to see the joy that the performance and singing along brought to people’s faces. If you weren’t smiling at the beginning, you certainly were by the end!

The value of this side by side exchange was clear from feedback given by all those involved:

The pleasure, pride and joy that the members share in the group is so obvious every single week and that is a very special thing to witness.’– Matthew Crisp, student violinist

All the students were so welcoming and it was good being able to chat to some of them and hear their hopes for the future’ – Arts Befriending Participant

‘I felt very lucky to sing with them, it felt really special, especially as you could feel how much they loved singing the numbers!’ – Trinity Laban Vocal student

The Spring Forth legacy now lives on with one of the kite props now flying proudly on the Learning and Participation board in the King Charles Court admin offices!

Kite

Young at Heart & Brent Knoll Special School- Exchange

In the early part of the Spring term 2016, our Young at Heart group led by Zoe Gilmour embarked on a new collaboration with year 11 pupils at Brent Knoll special school in Lewisham. The core aims of the project placed emphasis on challenging perceptions across generations and exploring artistic means of communication between two local community groups that may not otherwise have met. In sharing skills and interests and deciding collectively on music to share to the other group, a better understanding of each other’s circumstances, lives and histories was sought.

Young at Heart are a social group that meet weekly in Bellingham green, and are supported in music and craft activities by Zoe Gilmour. Second year trumpet player Sarah Owens has also played a vital role in supporting Zoe and the group with the exchange of material (check out Sarah’s blog HERE).

‘It’s incredibly rewarding to see the smiles on their faces when they hear and see a real instrument being played in front of them.’ – Sarah Owens

The group decided that they wanted to share one of their favourite music hall songs- My Old Man with the Brent Knoll students. Zoe created visual drawings of the lyrics to the song which were used as an effective form of communication between the group, as they wrote and drew thoughts and ideas throughout.

My Old Man Poster

In the first session at Brent Knoll, after some active introductions so that everyone was well acquainted, the group listened to Young at Heart singing My Old Man. They picked up the lyrics and tune very quickly and were soon being recorded so that the results could be played back at Young at Heart. The children were keen to use their individual talents to put their own spin on the song- one young girl whistled parts of the tune while another student was keen to do a freestyle rap taking some of the lyrics as inspiration. Although initially very shy, he eventually plucked up the courage to record his rap after the session when everyone had left. When the recordings were shared with Young at Heart, the group were so impressed with the creative ideas that the children had come up with!

The focus in the music curriculum for the Spring term was samba, so the year 11s taught us a rhythm that they had been learning. This gave us the idea to send Trinity Laban’s samba kit to the next Young at Heart session so that they could have a go at learning the rhythm. As it happened, it was one of the ladies’ 90th birthday, and although hard of hearing she loved joining in on the bass drum!

The project culminated in a sharing session where 5 Young at Heart participants visited Brent Knoll to finally meet the children they had been communicating with face to face. The feedback from this session highlighted the importance of making links and encouraging understanding across generations:

‘I realise now after this that deep down we’re all the same.’ –  Young at Heart participant

‘I learnt to get to know old people a bit better!’ – Brent Knoll year 11 student

‘The lad with the knitting was amazing!’ – Young at Heart participant

View the full range of material and resources that came out of the project HERE.

For more information on how to get involved in Trinity Laban’s over sixties activities click here, or email rnt@trinitylaban.ac.uk

By Lizzy Green- Retired not Tired Project Co-ordinator, Learning and Participation (Music)

The Dance: A Poem by Noah Lennon, 11

boys only classes

What’s it like to be a part of Trinity Laban’s Youth Dance Programme? Noah Lennon, aged 11, attends Accelerate, a series of fun and dynamic classes for young male dancers exploring contemporary dance. He has written this fantastic poem summarising his experience of performing.

The Dance
by Noah Lennon

My heart, racing like a drum
The teacher signals us to come
My body feeling numb…
I hear the crowd murmur and cough
I take a deep breath in
For the show is about to begin…

The smell of anticipation fills the air
As we all gather & begin to stare
Into the dark, the pitch-black stage
We walk on, then arrange

Slowly, the lights fade up
I begin to see the faces of the crowd
eagerly waiting for us to start…

A second passes, I hear the beat
Then BAM! we’re up, we’re on our feet!
The music breaks I know my cue,
In fact, we all know what to do

Here it goes, my body away,
My hands, my legs are led astray
Another twist, another turn,
All these moves I’ve come to learn

The world of dance – a funny place
The music pounding like it’s a race
Tired and weak I carry on,
After all who am I hiding from

The show begins to end
Our last lean, our last bend
Just one last push and we’re done
But I really can’t describe this fun

Gradually the music comes to a close
The crowd clap all the rows
I’m collapsing to the floor
Oh how I wish we could’ve done more
But I’ll never forget the flow
Of our fun, amazing show.

Breaking Boundaries: Interview with Trinity Laban student Nefeli Tsiouti

Nefeli 1

MSc Dance Science student Nefeli Tsiouti is a dancer and researcher totally dedicated to her passions. After facing an injury in dance, she has worked hard to manage her own project to prevent dancers’ injuries. Walking into our interview on crutches, she tells me about the challenges she’s overcome, and the adventures she has yet to face.

Tell us about your life in the dance world before embarking upon your MSc in Dance Science.

I’ve been dancing for 21 years now, and professionally for the last 8-9 years.

I was a ballerina all my life, but I started breaking because I was inspired by watching breakers dancing. I would dance on marble outside in the streets with them all the time. There was no guidance really – I was just seeing and doing. Because of this lack of awareness, I got seriously injured – I had to have major surgery on my shoulder. I was told I wouldn’t be able to dance again, so I just felt I had to back out of my passions. I experienced depression… my life just switched all the way around. But I had to stay true to dance. I decided I could maybe take a theoretical route in dance, and that’s when I decided to move to the UK, studying MA Choreography at Middlesex University.

It took me 2-3 years but I got into breaking again, because I found a coach – maybe the only coach worldwide – DJ Renegade. He took me under his wing and he’s been training me ever since 2011. Frustratingly, I kept getting injured, and I noticed that the surgery actually had a knock-on effect on the rest of my body. I learned that the body is a kinetic chain; everything is connected. This realisation taught me that it’s better to prevent injuries than cure them. I have too many injuries to fix them now, so all I can do is just make sure I condition myself and keep progressing. I am very passionate about preventing other people’s injuries, so they don’t have to go through what I am going through. That’s when I created Project Breakalign in 2013.

 

 

I had been thinking about the idea since 2011, but I was too scared to say it. It was still nurturing in my head! When I finally decided to speak about it, One Dance UK came on board straight away. From the first day I spoke to them, I had amazing people join me in helping the community.

What made you decide to study at Trinity Laban?

I chose the MSc because I was looking to do a PhD afterwards, and to do that the MSc is a prerequisite. I was also acting upon advice I received from One Dance UK’s Healthier Dancer Programme. I was partially funded by a Trinity Laban Scholarship, which gave me a boost. It was a great decision to come here.

Nefeli 2

Catch the Flava 2015 Slovakia

What are the biggest challenges of studying the MSc Dance Science?

Continuing all the work that I’m doing and studying at the same time is the biggest challenge. It’s hard to be on top of my game in everything that I do. Project Breakalign is international now, so I have a lot of responsibilities. I’m trying to still help people, still continue the research, start slowly writing up papers and publish at the same time. But it has been very difficult to balance the two or the five… I don’t know how many things!

Tell me about the Healthier Dancer Programme 2016 Conference.

The Healthier Dance Programme 2016 Conference I have been invited to be involved with is the first conference ever in the UK – as far as I’m aware – that focuses on health for hip hop and circus artists. It’s something we’ve been working on since September 2015, and will be happening in London in November this year. The speakers are going to be really high level, established people. It will cover a lot of different areas that artists need to know about, and maybe they’re not aware of yet – but we are trying to make it as financially accessible as possible.

What does your role on the steering committee involve?

The steering committee is compiled of people that come from all different backgrounds, so obviously Project Breakalign had to be on board – there aren’t many people doing something like this. Being on the committee means that I suggest speakers for the areas covered for breaking or hip hop dance, so I’ve given my suggestions for that. I’m helping with organising the day too. One Dance UK is leading this, but we are just helping out.

Nefeli 4

Catch the Flava 2015 Slovakia

What’s next for you?

After I complete my Masters in August or September, I plan to move to the USA. I’m applying for lecturing jobs over there. I might apply for an internship – maybe at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries in New York, so I can continue exploring Dance Science.

I also got a great funding opportunity last year from the Centre Nationale de la Danse in Paris. It has offered to fund me to formalise the Breakalign Method – a methodology like Yoga or Pilates, like a supplementary programme for breakers specifically. It’s a very long journey myself and my team have already begun; and we are going to spend two months testing the methodology on different age and experience groups in the summer. I actually just applied for more funding and I hope I get it. We hope to prove it actually prevents injuries and aligns people’s bodies – hence the name!

Then in January 2017, I’m going to present the methodology in France to the funders and hopefully the Breakalign Method will be successful enough to travel the world. Eventually I want to get it to deprived communities such as the Phillippines for example, where there is nothing like this. Prevention of injuries doesn’t even exist as an expression there.

Nefeli 3

Catch the Flava 2015 Slovakia

What’s your long-term plan?

The dream is to get the Breakalign Method universal. On top of that, I’d like to do a PhD, or even just find a good lecturing position that makes me happy. I might not be the most experienced researcher, and I’m pretty young, but I think the experience that I have as a dancer and as a breaker is so essential in the type of research that I’m doing.

Charlotte Constable

Graduate Intern – Press & PR