Getting Actors Moving

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JK Photography

Trinity Laban’s Dance Summer School is the perfect induction into movement and physical theatre for aspiring actors. Struan Leslie, former Head of Movement at the Royal Shakespeare Company, tells us why.

‘A dance summer school is an opportunity to immerse yourself in a number of areas of physical knowledge and expression,’ Struan explains. ‘In particular, I think the sheer diversity of the classes offered is what makes Trinity Laban’s Summer School so unique.’

Struan (pictured inset), who has taught on the Trinity Laban Dance Summer School for around a decade, has a wealth of teaching experience across some of the country’s best-loved theatre institutions. He has lectured at RADA, Rose Bruford, and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, and internationally across the US and in Singapore.

‘On the Summer School, I lead workshops in physical theatre,’ Struan explains. ‘We explore the communicating body with rigour and specificity of intention.

‘Learning on this kind of programme allows participants to gain physical performance skills and techniques, enhancing rehearsal and creative contexts, from ensemble and devising to physical theatre,’ he adds.

Struan’s training began in the early 1980s at London Contemporary Dance School among pupils of world-renowned choreographers Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham and Doris Humphrey. A prime example of the fundamentality of dance as a platform for any arts career, he now works as a movement director and choreographer in the creation of productions in all areas of theatre and opera.leslie-struan

‘My dance background has meant I can apply the principles of choreography and technique to collaborative, movement-based work with urban designers, architects, visual artists, designers, writers and composers,’ he comments.

Trinity Laban’s Dance Summer School offers a unique opportunity for people of all dance levels aged 16+ to experience training of the highest quality in state of the art facilities, while making new friends from all over the world. Participants can create their own timetable, selecting from a broad range of sessions from contemporary technique to contact improvisation.

‘I think the biggest learning curve for performers on the Summer School, is to learn the day to day experience of what it is to be a performer full time – the energy and focus that requires,’ Struan says. ‘It helps participants discover whether they have the drive to pursue performance work professionally.’

Charlotte Constable

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

To find out more about the Dance Summer School, visit the Trinity Laban website.

‘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.

The GOLDs visit Trinity Laban

GOLDs

Earlier this month, we celebrated International Older People’s Day on Thursday 1 October, here at the Faculty of Dance.

Our over sixties classes, Dance for Health and All Singing, All Dancing!, both part of the Retired not Tired programme were visited by 10 members of GOLDs Company, from Canberra, Australia, for a day of sharing work and dancing together.

As the newly appointed Graduate Intern in the Learning & Participation (Dance) Department, the GOLDs’ visit also signified my first solo shot at coordinating, managing and leading a project for TL.

GOLDs in performance

Photo: Mary Hinchey

Joined on the tour by Artistic Director Liz Lea, the GOLDs is a performance group for over 55s established in 2011 by Canberra Dance Theatre. Their visit to Trinity Laban’s Faculty of Dance was just one stop on their grand tour from 20 September to 10 October, spanning from Brighton to Edinburgh and even flying over to Vienna in between – a tour schedule that, as a performer myself, struck me with envy! Their black and gold company t-shirts were also the object of our TL groups’ desires.

GOLDs rehearse at studio 1, Laban Building

Photo: Mary Hinchey

After a short meet and greet between the groups, the GOLDs were whisked off on a tour of the Laban Building. Our visitors were given a glimpse of various undergraduate student classes and discovered the building’s architecture and accessibility, which gave them a real itch to get into the studio to move and explore – a vitality which remained constant throughout the day.
The GOLDs were joined by our Trinity Laban dancers for the first session of the day, led by All Singing, All Dancing!’s lead dance artists Natasha Lohan and Donna Ford. Once introduced to their voices, the dancers were invited into movement and vocal explorations through a voyage across a river, dissolving the three groups into a mass choir of movers and singers. The session ended with a screening of Lifestream, a short film created by All Singing, All Dancing! based on the themes explored within the morning’s class. A great first session to kick off the collaborations.

GOLDs

Photo: Mary Hinchey

The second session was led by Trinity Laban Alumnus Elisabetta d’Aloia. Improvisation-led tasks built up throughout the class, resulting in playful stop/start duets. Dance for Health participant Ian Russell recalled a group improvisation task:

“If one stops everyone does.
If one sets off everyone does,
Only one person at a time moves,
Only one person at a time is still.”

Trinity Laban Dance Artist Donna Ford gives her account of the session:

“Elisabetta welcomed us all and invited us to join her and bring the space alive, be together and explore together. We began with breathing, the whole body breathing, not just the lungs. The whole room breathing together and not just individuals.

We observed the way we could negotiate the space together following different rules, such as the whole group sensing when to come to stillness, having one person moving whilst another had to be still at any one time. We partnered up and played number conversation games, replacing words with claps and stamps and our own devised movements.

This movement dialogue then developed into duets which became set and then shared with each other. Marcia and Lucy’s duet was a particularly memorable moment as one played the other like a puppeteer, producing dramatic movements that were communicated across the space. Everyone remarked on how the session had felt like playing which in turn was very stress relieving.”

The third and final session, headed up by Dance for Health’s lead Dance Artist Lucy Evans, channelled the group’s creative curiosities into creating foil sculptures which in turn became a collage of silvery silhouettes against the wall – an artwork which formed the basis of spirited improvisation.

GOLDs rehearsing in studio 1, Laban Building

Photo: Lizzie Croucher

The day ended with a sharing of two contrasting works from the GOLDs; Air Kiss and Pop Art. Dance for Health participant Savitri Gaines sums up the performance and her experience of the day;

“Delightful to watch and hear … they also integrated some of us in the performance – I was blown a kiss and the person next to me was asked to join on the dance floor … it ended with all of us smiling, laughing. We were truly entertained.
(The GOLDs) were truly rich with two way conversation; one of whom was celebrating her 80th birthday. An inspiration to most of us—so pleased I was there.’”

For more information on how to get involved in Trinity Laban’s Over Sixties activities, visit the programme page, or email rnt@trinitylaban.ac.uk

Lizzie Croucher

Graduate Intern

Learning and Participation (Dance)

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?

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Co Motion Inclusive Youth Dance Platform – An outstanding evening of creative work

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Co Motion – Inclusive Youth Dance Platform is a biannual event, which started in 2009. It is a fantastic opportunity for mixed ability dance groups, including those with learning and physical disabilities, to perform on the Laban Theatre stage. Continue reading

Street Dance, by a ‘non-dancer’

Street Dance, by a 'non-dancer'
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.
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