BRINGING THE PAST TO LIFE: ALEXANDER WALKER

alex-walker-lead-blog

Image: Alexander Walker

Alexander Walker is a conductor currently undertaking a PhD at Trinity Laban as well as being a member of our teaching staff. Alexander’s research focuses on historical performance traditions in order to analyse his own practice.

Alexander has taken a particular interest in Ignatz Waghalter, who from humble beginnings became a major figure in European musical life as founding Music Director of the Deutsche Opera in Berlin before and after the First World War. Being Jewish, he was forced to flee Europe with the rise of fascism. Arriving in NYC in the late 1930’s, he immediately set about founding an orchestra of African Americans, an act of extraordinary bravery and single mindedness in 1939. Waghalter has been completely forgotten, so Alexander has been digging up his music and recording it.

The PhD explores how Alexander makes decisions in terms of performing music and recording old music for which there is no performing tradition. It helps him to analyse his own practice and understand ethically and philosophically how decisions should be made in terms of performance. Alexander takes an interest in investigating how the minds of old performers worked and how they came up with their own traditions, for example finding conductors who might seem old fashioned to us now and discovering more than what you might notice at first glance.

Alexander commented on his time at Trinity Laban:

I think practice as research is particularly strong here. As a conservatoire, I very much like both researching and teaching here as it is such a very creative place. Innovation is valued and it strikes me that there are many possibilities for developing ideas here.

As a musician, I’m used to analysing what I do, but I’m not used to discussing it openly with people. That’s a new thing for me but it’s a valuable challenge. At first I was afraid that maybe if you try and figure out what the magic is the magic might go away, but I’m not finding that to be the case. I’m finding it does enhance my practice.’

Alexander has just been honoured by the Elgar Society with its highest award, the Elgar Medal, for his work promoting the composer’s music especially in Central Europe and Russia. Previous recipients include Sir Andrew Davies, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Daniel Barenboim.

Alexander commented:

‘It’s a very great honour. I feel very passionately that Elgar is a truly great, world class composer. In fact, in many of the places where I work he doesn’t regularly feature on programmes, if at all. I saw that as an opportunity to introduce people to this amazing music. I’ve given many national premieres of the music of Elgar and I’ve had the opportunity to really try and search into how it should be performed. I’ve found that the passion of the music is very compelling for players and for audiences. The orchestras that I work with abroad have no expectation of performance traditions, which relates to my PhD.

In my opinion nobody orchestrates better than Elgar and nobody writes for strings better than Elgar. When I take these works to orchestras for whom they’re new, they absolutely love playing it. They give very committed performances. It’s been a very meaningful forum for me and one of profound experience.’

edward-elgar-1235641401-hero-wide-0

Image: Edward Elgar

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

Vibrancy and Transparency: Fascinations of a Fulbright Scholar

Headshot_Madison McGrew

Image by Megan Moore

Madison McGrew, a student from the University of South Florida, has received a US Student Fulbright Award to enable her to study MSc Dance Science at Trinity Laban. Here she talks of her journey as a dancer and her dreams in osteopathy.

What attracted you to study at Trinity Laban?

It is hard to say what first attracted me to study at Trinity Laban, but I think dance injuries had a lot to do with it. I accrued nine musculoskeletal injuries throughout my time training at a dance studio in small-town Florida. Side-lined, I often read articles from the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries and the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS), and I noted that most of the research informing those articles came out of Trinity Laban.

Later in undergraduate school, I visited the Harkness Center in New York City where I met Leigh Heflin, alumnus of the MSc Dance Science programme; I was in awe of her vast knowledge-base and ability to cohesively communicate dance and science.

Not long after, I attended Performing Arts Medicine Association conferences where I met other notable scholars in the field of dance science who spoke very highly of the opportunities at Trinity Laban—and with it being the first institution in the world to offer a degree in dance science and subsequently contribute the most to dance science research, publications, and conference presentations—I could not dispute them!

I remember when I first visited the Laban Building in 2015, there were two themes quite literally built into its architecture: vibrancy and transparency—which not ironically, I find are values that streamline the conversation between dance and science and have been pivotal in my learning journey thus far. Moreover, with Trinity Laban situated in London, a pulsating, centralized hub of culture and innovation, there is no room for lag in applying scientific theory to community dance practice, and that is equally exciting!

What was your reaction to finding out you would receive the Fulbright Scholarship?

I was speechless. I held off telling anyone for a couple days for fear it was all a dream. Even today, it remains unfathomable. Sylvia Plath, Linus Pauling, James D. Watson…they were all Fulbrighters. And now I am one too? I cannot believe it.

How do you feel the Scholarship will change your life?

I feel it already has. I have always felt a sense of civic and global responsibility, but now with a Fulbright Scholarship and the support of two nations, the responsibility has only grown. In short, I feel empowered because someone out there believes I can make a difference.

The almost year-long application process alone changed my life. I was challenged to reflect on my experiences and examine how I can use those experiences to benefit others; it made succinct my views of the world and my purpose within it.

The Scholarship will allow me to uniquely explore, side by side, two research areas that are important to me but have long been remarked as being at completely opposite ends of the spectrum. Dance science as a field is largely unfledged in the US. While there are certainly pioneers and providers dedicated to dancer health and performance, nothing quite like Trinity Laban exists in the States.

But perhaps the most life-changing will be the people I meet. With this opportunity, there is a strong promise of friendship. At Trinity Laban, I will be surrounded by a diverse group of individuals all working toward the common goals of enhancing dancer potential and investigating the means in which dance impacts populations. And through the Fulbright Commission, I will join like-minded students called and inspired to increase mutual understanding between countries, cultures, and peoples in their own creative, thought-provoking ways. I cannot wait to exchange ideas and shape these relationships.

Kyle Scharf_Madison McGrew

Image by Kyle Scharf

What do you wish to achieve while studying here?

Beyond the curriculum of the Dance Science programme, I hope to use my independent time to get involved in other research and community initiatives. Recently, I worked with a ballet professor on a film using movement themes to raise awareness for human sex trafficking. The project helped me realize that as many times as I have relied on healthcare for my dance injuries, I have conceivably relied on dance as a form of healing far more.

How might you use your degree to further your career?

Witnessing my own relationship with dance, a healthcare system, and healing, I became interested in pain tolerance. Just as dance is a crucial line of communication, so too is pain. It has been said that dance artists experience the world differently, but perchance they perceive pain differently. I think dancers, and myself included, use pain as a behavioural motivator. Dance is so intimately linked to our self-identity that pain becomes an identifier by proxy. A constant subjugation to pain, however, alters our internal points for pain evaluation. Therefore, when medical intervention becomes necessary, the line of communication between dancer and practitioner can get altered as well.

I recently read an article online in which Marijn Rademaker of the Dutch National Ballet recounted being asked by a nurse: “Don’t you think it’s time to find another job? I don’t think your knees are going to be okay for this line of work.” I do not believe this sort of exchange should be encouraged between any individuals, much less between practitioner and dancer; but it’s this sort of dialogue that perpetuates miscommunication. While at Trinity Laban, I want to look at the psychological and physiological bases for pain tolerance in dancers, and evaluate the role these factors play in communicating pain. It is my greatest hope that upon completion of my degree, I will be able to contribute to the conversation on effective pain communication and treatment straight away.

In undergraduate school, I took all of the prerequisites (apart from taking the MCAT examination) to progress to medical school in the United States. I shadowed a great deal of osteopaths during that time and I believe their holistic approach to medicine echoes a dance science view of the integrated self—the mind, body, and spirit. The MSc Dance Science will provide me the keys to unlock a career as a judicious doctor of osteopathic medicine specializing in dancer care. I hope to continue to help build the dance science community in the States, and I hope that by being a physician housed under the Western model of healthcare, I can encourage others outside the field of dance science to embrace dance as a powerful tool of expressing and assessing sensation that bridges demographic divides.

Charlotte Constable

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

Internship Experience: Harkness Center for Dance Injuries

Anna May Williams

MSc Dance Science student Anna Williams (pictured) tells us all about her insightful experience at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries

Last year I was granted the wonderful opportunity to take up an internship at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries in New York, USA. As a part-time student of the MSc Dance Science programme, I was on a ‘gap year’ and was looking for relevant work experience and productive ways to fill my time off. With very little industry experience at the time, and being based 5000km away, it was a very pleasant surprise to receive an email of invitation. Some people asked me why I resigned from my full-time job to head to the US for an unpaid internship, but I assured them that it was worth it. I hope to enlighten you as to why this experience was worth the sacrifices, how it has prepared me for further study towards my masters and into my career in the dance science sector.

After an eight-hour flight and two days of settling into my home for the next two months, the first day of the internship arrived. Receiving clearance from the medical and immigration departments at the NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases, I was ready to meet the Harkness team. On arrival I was warmly greeted by Trinity Laban graduate Leigh Heflin, who now works as Programme Coordinator at the Harkness. We had an informal meet and greet, spoke about my interests in dance medicine, and created my schedule for the next six weeks.

The internship mainly consisted of observing and shadowing many of the practitioners working at the organisation. I spent a lot of time at the Harkness’ Physical Therapy Department, where I shadowed many physiotherapists who were treating dancers following a variety of complaints and injuries. Some dancers had chronic, long term injuries, and others were in rehabilitation following surgical repair. Every therapist I worked with was friendly, ensured to involved me in the conversations with the patient, and were all happy to answer any questions that I had. As an intern, my additional duties in the clinic involved maintaining the general upkeep and cleanliness of the studio and ensuring that all equipment and resources were ready for use. I was always pleasantly greeted every day by everyone at the organisation, from therapists to reception staff; I felt at home almost immediately.

NYC 2.jpg

I had the opportunity to sit in and observe many Injury Prevention Assessments; a service offered by the Harkness which involves an evaluation of dance technique, strength, flexibility and a review of injury history. These allowed the dancer to learn more about their strengths and weaknesses with the aim to prevent them from injury in the future. At the end of the session, the dancer is given an educational hand-out, detailing an individually specific exercise program. Upon completion of my internship, I had the opportunity to take part in an Injury Prevention Assessment myself, kindly offered by Athletic Trainer, Megan.

The internship allowed me to travel around New York and meet dancers from external organisations. I accompanied two of the Harkness’ Athletic Trainers to visit Dance Theatre of Harlem. As well as having the great opportunity to meet the company dancers (and get a sneaky peek of them in rehearsal!), I learned about the role of the Athletic Trainers on their twice-weekly visit to the company studios, providing immediate care to company dancers with a wide range of complaints. I also accompanied another member of staff to PACE University, to meet their dance students and observe a lecture and practical workshop on dance injury prevention. As well as visiting various locations around the city, I had the pleasure to take a picturesque train ride out of the city, and travel up-state to SUNY Purchase College, where I observed Athletic Trainer Lauren work with student dancers.

Another fascinating part of my experience was shadowing at the dance clinic. Most of the patients had been referred to see one of the orthopaedic physicians for an array of reasons, including diagnosis of symptoms, X-rays, MRI scans and also for surgical procedures. Likewise with the physiotherapists, all of the doctors I met were extremely friendly and happy to answer my questions. This part of the internship was particularly educational, as I had the chance to see some X-rays and scans, and to discover what injuries physically look like from the inside. It also taught me so many new anatomical terms, and educated me on several injuries that I had never heard of. A personal highlight was observing a patient successfully walking unaided for the first time after reconstructive knee surgery. Through the dance clinic I also met the Harkness research team, and learned more about their injury tracking research project, of which I got to assist with some data collection and data entry.

NYC 3.jpg

Throughout the experience I met dancers of all ages, ranging from childhood to retired adults. They were from all dance disciplines, from classical and contemporary to hip-hop and breakdance. Every dancer had a different story; some were in full-time training hoping to dance professionally or were already performing in New York dance companies, some were teachers and others just danced recreationally. Some dancers I would only meet the once, others on a weekly basis, getting to know them quite well over the course of my visit. I loved the variety of the internship, I was learning something different and meeting new people almost every day. I liked making my journey on the subway every morning not knowing what to expect from the day ahead.

I would thoroughly recommend the experience to any student interested in progressing into or already studying dance science; or to anyone from other related fields such as physiotherapy or sports therapy who are interested in working with dancers. It was a highly insightful experience to learn more about and be part of the dance medicine field in the US – which further convinced me to continue my work in this rapidly growing field back home in London. I came home very excited for what my future career holds, looking forward to returning to Trinity Laban and diving back in to my MSc programme.

Working life abroad was an experience I enjoyed enormously, and would recommend to anyone. I had visited New York previously so was somewhat familiar with the city itself – but needless to say it wasn’t any less exciting! Although travelling so far completely alone was a daunting and apprehensive experience to begin with, I very quickly settled into the New York lifestyle, and made great friends with the people I lived with as well as great contacts in the field. I had the privilege to enjoy living in a fantastic city, all while participating in one of the most rewarding, educational and insightful experiences of my career thus far. I would do it again in a heartbeat!

To find out more about MSc Dance Science, please visit the Trinity Laban website.

Bring Me The Orchestra: An interview with fixer and arranger Will Harvey

Will Harvey 1

Will Harvey is a violinist, violist, composer and arranger who is currently studying for a MMus at Trinity Laban. A few days before his recent concert at the Royal Albert Hall with British rock group Bring Me The Horizon*, we talked about his experiences playing with bands and arranging for them, the challenges this presents, and how he creates his own opportunities.

*Bring Me The Horizon is British band from Sheffield, formed in 2004. They have released five studio albums to date, and follow a busy touring schedule worldwide. Their latest album, ‘That’s The Spirit’ debuted at #2 in UK charts.  

You’ve just been on tour with Bring Me The Horizon, and you’re working towards a concert at the Royal Albert Hall. Tell us more.

Actually I was preparing the arrangements for the tour. The other arranger, Simon Dobson, and I we were both happy with our versions of the arrangements but the band’s Musical Director (MD) insisted on going through the scores. There was no opportunity for us to meet with the band in London. It turned out the only way we could go over the music was to jump on a tour bus to Brussels! I ended up staying on the bus for a week.

Bring the Horizon got booked to play the show at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the series for the Teenage Cancer Trust, and the band asked me to arrange an orchestra for it back in September. They told me what their budget was and asked if it was possible. At the time I said ‘probably not, but I’d quite like to do it’. In the end we cooked up a plan and managed to find a way around it, and now it’s going ahead.

How did you find this opportunity?

Before I came to Trinity Laban, I used to be in a band called Dry The River for about five years. We were signed to RCA record label and toured the world for a while. We were the band of the moment for about five minutes in 2012. Through that I met so many people in different groups who I stayed in contact with, so have ended up working with a number of them.

Last year I established a session group called Parallax Orchestra with cellist Maddie Cutter. The idea was to work with bands but rather than just playing on sessions we would actively seek collaborative work. So for example we’d approach artists and ask them if they would be interested in string arrangements of their music, remixes and so on. We want it to be an artistic venture as well as a business initiative. Through Parallax Orchestra we started finding a lot more work. We’ve worked with quite a few groups recently, so we’re now in the position to fix performers for various artists and tours. We’ve kept our focus on playing on the recording sessions but we can pass out the live gigs to full-time professionals. Maddie and I are both studying so we’re limited in terms of time we can spend on external projects.

Will Harvey 2.jpg

What are the challenges of arranging music for a band like Bring Me The Horizon?

It’s quite complex. We have to think not just about the orchestra but about playing music with musicians who are not used to adapting to new arrangements. We have to use click tracks, in-ear monitors and match up our arrangements with the band’s existing structures, while some things run on backing tracks. Everything has to be precise, so we also record count-ins. One of the most difficult things about arranging for the band is how to build our arrangements around all of these different aspects.

There’s also a lot to think about when it comes to the style of arranging. We’ve got some of the band’s older songs which are much heavier, as well as more recent, softer material. How do you arrange for those different sounds? I was inspired by my time in punk bands, so I’ve essentially written ‘third-wave, ska-punk’ horn lines. Adapting that kind of sound for an orchestra presents new challenges. Also, some of the songs are epic and anthemic, but metal. Again a totally different approach. You can’t draw solely from classical sources, even though you’re writing for an orchestra.

Which skills were most useful for this work, and how have your studies at Trinity Laban benefited you?

The Paul Bartholomew arranging module was massively helpful. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to write for a symphony orchestra before coming to study at Trinity Laban. There’s just no way I would have been able to do that. At Trinity Laban if I didn’t know what to do there was always somebody I could ask for advice.

How does this experience compare to working towards a classical performance?

It’s completely different. It involves exponentially more work. I mean, I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say I’ve put in over 1000 hours of work into this gig. Seriously, over 1000. The music is up to me, and it’s never finished until the performance is over. The same is true of a classical performance of course – you can always practice more – but this isn’t just practice. If I don’t like the way something goes, I can change it. So it’s in this constant state of flux and I won’t stop working on it until the gig is over.

Will Harvey 3

What have been the highlights of this experience so far?

The whole thing has been so rewarding. Sometimes it’s hard but it’s quite remarkable when I consider how many sheer pages of music we’ve written over the last few months. It’s in the hundreds. The actual arranging process is really fun. Working with other arrangers too has been great and I’ve learned a lot from that. The conductor, Simon Dobson, has been amazing to work with. Simon is a trumpet player who writes for brass bands and string groups in studio sessions. But he also plays in rock and punk bands, so he’s got all the essential skills for this job. He’s been doing this kind of stuff for years, and because we spent a lot of time working in the same room, I’ve learned a lot from him.

What advice would you give to other students?

Don’t go on tour unless you’re getting paid well! Also, arranging music is much more work than one might think, so you should know exactly what you’re getting into.

Do you value these skills and experiences as a young musician operating in a highly competitive industry?

Absolutely. It seems that many people have the view that there is no work in music anymore, that the music industry is struggling, we’re all getting paid less and less and that it’s getting worse and worse. I don’t think that needs to be the case. There’s actually more and more music being made everywhere, and it’s up to you how you can be a part of that and turn it to your advantage. Just because there’s less work along the conventional routes doesn’t mean that you can’t go out and create your own, which is what has happened with Parallax Orchestra. We planted an idea in people’s heads and suggested that we do something, and they responded, saying ‘let’s do it’. We’ve created our own opportunities and our own demand.

 

Marlowe Thornes-Heywood

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

Hearing Dance in the Body: Interview with Jack Philp

Jack Philp JK

Photo: JK Photography

Trinity Laban alumnus Jack Philp meets me straight after finishing another discussion of his project, a dance-meets-neuroscience study with City University. Clearly tremendously passionate about this collaboration, he is excited to show me diagrams and research papers. So what’s it all about?

First, tell me about your time at Trinity Laban.

It was really exciting to be here. It was fast-paced – so much so that my time went really quickly. I feel really lucky to have networked with valuable contacts; I formed pretty strong relationships at Trinity Laban and it’s been really worthwhile leaving with those. It was a great time to play, have fun, explore ideas, and test myself and what I can do. I’m really humbled and grateful to have trained here – I never expected to be lucky enough to do so.

How has your choreographic career developed since you graduated in 2015?

Since completing my undergraduate degree, I’ve been teaching a lot. I’m lecturing in a few colleges and I’m co-directing a few youth companies which is really exciting. It’s been great to work with a wealth of new people since leaving. At the same time, I’m working with my own company, which I developed at the end of my second year of training. Part of that involves continuing to form links, and pushing our work in the public domain.

Now we’re running a collaborative project with the cognitive Neuroscience Research Unit at City University, so that’s been the bulk of my creative time. Aside from that, I’m working on some new pieces with a youth group at the moment to fundraise for the Red Cross at a charity showcase. I feel blessed to still be doing what I enjoy.

How did your collaboration with City University come about?

First of all as a maker, I’m really interested in working collaboratively with music, and I knew I wanted to make a piece with that vision at the core. So in thinking about how I could unpick that relationship with sound a little bit more, I had a conversation with the Dance Science department at Trinity Laban. The staff encouraged me to meet with Dr. Corrine Jola who’s a Trinity Laban graduate and neuroscientist. I then took part in a performance cognition lab with her and La Fabrique Autonome Des Acteurs in France last summer, where there was a wealth of different artists – from theatre to dance to language specialists. It was exciting looking at how we can embed cognitive processes within theatre as a learning tool.

Next, I met with Dr. Beatriz Calvo-Merino at City University, and we started to develop a direction for the project, and unearth what questions we could answer; how we could analyse cognitive processes in relation to sound. We’ve since been running some pilot tests, including a performance by my company at Resolution (The Place’s annual dance festival) of an exploratory work, Psychoacoustic, which was a really useful platform to help me think about how to develop the project. Now, we are pushing the project into its next phase.

Jack Philp 2

Photo: Alex Galvez-Pol

What’s the next stage for the research?

We’re interested in running another period of Research and Development (R&D) in the studio to really develop the work that we started for Resolution, and reshape it to form a more gallery-suitable, immersive piece. I’m interested in running a piece of performance and research at the same time. What we want to do is expand the initial pilot test* on a larger scale, and thus widen the data pool. Our concept is to place an immersive project in a gallery for people to walk through, with big body outlines on the walls for the public to draw on and highlight where they feel particular activations and sensations. So we will be giving the spectator a role in designing the space that they’re in, as well as generating research and art at the same time.

*Jack explained that the pilot involved getting participants to list words they associated with emotions. In the next stage, these words were morphed into abstract sounds. When participants listened to these sounds, and watched short clips of abstract dance, fascinatingly they tended to highlight similar areas on body outlines relating to where they felt a response, in line with previous research on bodily mapping.

How do you hope for the research to progress?

In summary, we are interested in learning how you can assess emotional responses in an audience, based on specifically crafted music and sound; how they can work coherently together to suggest a particular emotion. So we’re testing whether those emotional responses are proven within a spectator, and whether they’re coherent across a larger number of people. Furthermore, we want to understand what causes those reactions specifically. Is it where an audience member looks? We can observe this through eye tracking. Or is it perhaps driven by a sound?

I would like to then take the work back into the theatre in the long term, and maintain it as an immersive piece, giving the audience a role in the project. I’m really keen on making work that’s accessible for people. The ‘tagline’ for my choreography is that it’s both collaborative and physical, but I also strongly believe that it’s really important to burst the bubble of contemporary dance. Sometimes it can be a bit closed, and hard to read. With this project especially, it’s fusing with neuroscience, which is already so heavily academic. We then have to question how we make that accessible for the general public – for both specialists and non-specialists.

Essentially I would like to plug my audience in, perhaps with GSR (Galvanic Skin Response) watches and other gadgets which measure your body’s data – your heart rate, your pulse – and use that data to control the projection and the lighting of the space. So for example, if the audience’s pulse increases, the projection becomes faster. Much like performing the work in a gallery, the audience members still have a creative role in their watching, thus making it accessible because they are invested in it. They are creating part of it.

I would also like to culminate all of the work in a paper or a journal, so there’s an academic resource created at the end of the project. It would be great to combine all of the research, knowledge, movement and sound, so it becomes a coherent package of information that can then be used academically and creatively. I’m interested in not only making a piece for myself, but making work that serves purpose, that people can utilise, and that supports the field’s sustainability in the long term.

London 16 Januray 2016 - Jack Philip Company present Psychoacoustic as parto of Resolution 2016 at The Place.

Photo: Danilo Moroni

Do you see the research influencing your choreography in future?

For sure. I’ve always been interested in collaborative thinking and I’ve always been a bit of an academic as well, so it’s been brilliant to be able to collaborate with some real academic minds. For me, that’s really shaped how I approach choreography. I’m still learning, and that’s the beauty of it – I’m learning so much from them, but also about myself, and how I approach the studio and reconsider both creative and academic choices. I think it’s great to have experience of working with people who are outside of your industry. With that, they bring their own specialism. To employ that in what I do is really exciting.

Charlotte Constable

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

Jack Philp is Artistic Director of Jack Philp Company. You can find out more about his research on the City University website.

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

 

Top tips for teaching dance safely and effectively

Dance Scientist Edel Quin teaching
Working as part of Trinity Laban’s Learning & Participation (Dance) team means that I get to see a variety of teaching practices. We work in all sorts of settings and each of our wonderful teachers brings their own personality and teaching style to their classes.

While on the surface every teacher’s practice may appear very different from the next, core underlying principles and knowledge can be found embedded throughout their work. One such example is their ability to teach safely and effectively which helps to safeguard their participants from injury in the present and future, while also promoting enhanced potential.

So, what are the key elements of safe practice that we need to be aware of when teaching dance?

Continue reading