Breaking Boundaries: Interview with Trinity Laban student Nefeli Tsiouti

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

Diary of a Graduate Intern

In September 2014 I began the next stage of my career.

After completing my dance training at the University of Chichester, I joined the Learning and Participation (Dance) team at Trinity Laban as a graduate intern. Trinity Laban offers a range of fantastic graduate internships to bridge the gap between training and employment, and I have already gained skills in many different areas, such as project management, arts administration and teaching dance. Internships are advertised in 2015, so I recommend you look out for them.
The Learning and Participation department offers classes and workshops in the wider community in contemporary dance, street, yoga, Pilates, ballet and other creative sessions. These cater to all needs; with a central focus of ensuring that dance is accessible to all. You will find further details about these classes here.

Alongside my internship I am also completing Unit 1 of the DDTAL (Diploma in Dance Teaching and Learning) qualification, offered through the department as part of their professional development programme. This qualification aims to provide specialist training for dance teachers, helping them to find new ways of engaging children and young people in dance. The diploma has four units in total, with Unit 1 focussing on the fundamental aspects of teaching and learning in dance.

As an intern here, I am in contact with many dance practitioners and it has been great so far. It has helped me improve on how I deliver many of the classes that I assist – and sometimes lead, on the Youth Programme and the many Health projects that we also deliver. In completing this qualification I will be able to gain further knowledge as to how I can support dance education. I believe that dance education is paramount to developing creative and imaginative young people who can either progress into the dance sector or become that person who helps businesses to flourish with innovative ideas.

Having access to many opportunities at Trinity Laban, I am starting to find my feet and have been directed towards routes that may be of interest once I finish my internship – from project management to marketing and teaching. It has definitely been an exciting transition so far, working full time across many different projects and still finding time to complete further study.

Nick Kyprianou
@nickyprianou

Promoting the Dance Scientists of the Future

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It is well known that the future success of students is not based on curriculum content alone. Higher Educational Institutions need to provide opportunities for learners to engage with and interrogate life after study, whether that is further postgraduate study and research or becoming a professional. Networking with those from beyond the student’s home institution and engaging with narratives of learners’ journeys help current students make decisions about their future in an informed way. In addition, the health and wellbeing of performing artists is a firmly established element of the provision Trinity Laban has been developing through a range of support mechanisms for current students and professional performers.  To incubate the future batch of specialists, trained in understanding the performing body, our Dance Science department is a world leading centre of research and teaching. As part of our provision for MSc students studying Dance Science, and undergraduates who may be interested in further study in Dance Science, an annual networking and careers day has been opened up to Dance science students and graduates from across the UK.

The first Dance Science Student and Graduate Networking and Careers Day, held on 12th June, enabled students to establish connections, share ideas and discover opportunities. Organised by Edel Quin, Programme Leader of the MSc Dance Science, the day served to provide a professional insight into the world of Dance Science. The programme included presentations by current and past students from a range of MSc Dance Science programmes. Helen Laws, the Manager of the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science, also provided a talk on the educational, health care and research activities of the Institute and the role that Dance Science plays in the realisation of these endeavours.

One attendee noted ‘…the atmosphere created and the encouragement to share ideas and experiences with people from various institutions was great!’ and another commented on the inspirational entrepreneurship within the narratives of the past graduates as giving her ‘…confidence to find ways to share my knowledge with the dance world.’

For more details of our Dance Science programmes and provision for the healthy performer please visit the Dance Science website