California comes to Trinity Laban | Brooke Smiley and Gianna Burright on their home from home

In April 2017, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance hosted a performance by The University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) Dance Company. The programme included works by renowned choreographers Jose Limon, Anna Halprin, Andrea Miller, Stephanie Gilliland and Trinity Laban MFA Choreography student Gianna Burright. Gianna is a UCSB alumnus and was the key individual in facilitating this visit. There was also a roundtable discussion about the work of Anna Halprin and Limon repertory masterclasses.

In November 2016 Gianna returned home to California for an eight-day residency with the current UCSB company members. This was extremely special for Gianna as she was previously a member of the company, graduating with a BFA in Dance, in 2015. Gianna was able to use her practice in body-to-body transfer and evolving MFA research which she has developed during her time at Trinity Laban with the dancers from UCSB.

The UCSB Dance Company’s evening show closed with Anna Halprin’s The Paper Dance from Parades and Changes (1965)directed by California native and Trinity Laban alumnus Brooke Smiley. Brooke graduated from Trinity Laban in 2008 after completing an MA in Dance Performance (Transitions Dance Company). After graduating, Brooke danced with Michael Clark Company, Ventura Dance Company and Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre. Her choreographic works have been shown both in the UK and USA. Brooke also holds a California Contractors License and has trained in super adobe earth architecture. We caught up with Brooke and Gianna to find out more about their comparable journeys.

Brooke: “I was in Europe auditioning and my mentor brought me to Trinity Laban. I took a ballet class with Transitions and they asked me to consider joining. Being from California, Transitions was the first time I was around a lot of people from different countries. I loved learning that there are as many different ways to do something as there are people. The friendships formed this base of community and meaning for me in dance. Working with David Waring (Artistic Director, Transitions Dance Company) was amazing as it allowed me to be with my own research and thoughts. Dr Martin Hargreaves was a mentor for me too and meeting these dance researchers who had a plethora of experience was wonderful to ground into.

Gianna and I met through Mira Kinglsey, a previous Professor of Dance at UCSB. She invited me to teach a workshop to the seniors at UCSB, and the next year they asked me to teach improvisation. She put me into contact with Gianna and through this series of random circumstances has come magic.”

It was interesting to find out more about how Brooke & Gianna connect between the UK & US:

Brooke: “I feel like we’re redefining what’s possible together rather than being separate. With the National Endowment of the Arts potentially being absolved through Trump, everybody’s scratching for that funding which makes things very competitive. There’s more funding in Europe which is why I worked here. Saying that, New York has really shifted and changed from 10 years ago when I graduated. In this new constriction of times and thrashing of systems we can find a way for institutions to have the heart to find one and other.”

Trinity Laban has recently forged a number of international partnerships, resulting in major exchange projects with the likes of the Korean National University of the Arts, the National Taiwan University of Arts, Beijing Dance Academy and the Hong Kong Academy of the Performing Arts. Trinity Laban’s “Brexchange” featured visiting students from the Netherlands, Italy, Austria and Sweden, and Trinity Laban also recently became the first UK conservatoire to partner with the Fulbright Commission, offering the new Fulbright-Trinity Laban Award in Music and Dance.

Brooke: “Gianna has made this connection between Trinity Laban and UCSB and I’m very excited about how we are beginning to come together. When it comes from the heart of a person it’s real but I don’t think there’s necessarily a drive to connect on a bigger scale, but on the local micro scale there is. We’re finding our own way. Water works like that – a little drop, a little trickle, and it begins to carve out the rocks over time. I feel like that’s what Gianna has done. It’s powerful.”

Gianna: “It’s so great to see connections being made between institutions internationally and is something which needs to continue to happen.”

Gianna’s piece for the UCSB dancers, Anywhere I Can See the Moon, is deeply relevant to this discussion. The work investigates the common thought and concern of “home”.

Gianna: “I’ve come to realise home isn’t what we think home is anymore, you can find homes in many different ways. It’s interesting to notice how that shifts and how temporary the word really is. I’ve always wanted to live internationally and have an international career so coming to Trinity Laban seemed like a good starting point. It’s a really great place that allows you to apply many different approaches to whatever you’re looking at, and supports you to be creative in the development of your research.”

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Image: Anywhere I Can See The Moon taken by Steven Sherill

Upon graduation from UCSB, Gianna was awarded the Tonia Shimin Award for Excellence and Promise in the Field of Dance and The Corwin Award for Choreography. Gianna is a proud recipient of the Trinity Laban Postgraduate Dance Award 2015-2017, a Leverhulme 2016-2017 Scholar and the 2016 recipient of the Lesley-Anne Sayers Research Award.

Gianna: “Receiving the Lesley-Anna Sayers Research Award has been a highlight of my time at Trinity Laban. I was able to take myself and 3 dancers to Amsterdam to work with choreographer, performer and movement researcher Ria Higler. That week was completely life changing for me and has shifted the way I work, the way I see the body and the way I live in my own body. I’m so grateful for that opportunity.”

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

Rebecca Evans: You are only the sum of your data

Trinity Laban alumnus Rebecca Evans is currently working on a digitally interactive mobile phone app led dance performance, David, with her company Pell Ensemble.

Produced by Step Out Arts

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Image: David by Mira Loew

What was your inspiration behind David?

The inspiration behind David was data – how we’re using data and how we’re moving towards an uncertain future. We’re caught up in this huge technological wave and we don’t know where it’s going to land, but we keep feeding it, and I’m interested in examining that. I was also inspired by an outdoor performance I had done with a walking app, and that was the first time I encountered using mobile phones in dance.

You invite the audience to use their mobile phones, could you tell us more about what this involves?

The audience scan a QR code which takes them to a mobile app / website. There are projected screens in the space which give the audience information, and the audience then bring David to life. The audience start giving data which helps to shape David and the world around him.

The interactions on the mobile are actually quite simple – from a coder’s perspective maybe not! – but from an audience perspective, things like holding, swiping, really quick choices and ways to interact that immediately show up in the space, and David responds. We try to bring audiences out of their phones and into the performance space as much as possible. The only feedback will be in the performance space rather than on their mobile phone screen.

At the moment we’re working at a limited audience of around 40. You would have a unique projected avatar on the screen, so we have limited spaces. You can really see when you press a button that your avatar is moving.

You and your dancers, David Orgle and Stefania Pinato, are all Trinity Laban alumni. How has it been working together?

It’s been fantastic! I’ve worked with David for around three years now, so he’s really been a part of developing Pell Ensemble, and Stefania is fantastic, they both give a lot. They’re both incredibly creative in the space, really solution based. What’s really wonderful about them is they really understand what it is to be in a collaborative environment. There’s about 8 artists in total collaborating on this project, each from different backgrounds, and they’re able to wrap their heads around the different elements whilst feeding into that process which is great!

We’re all Trinity Laban alumni, and we will hopefully be back at the Laban Building for a week in April to rehearse. It’s nice to come back and to be using the facilities, bringing everything back full circle around ten years after I’ve graduated!

How are you finding working with technology?

I’ve found that technology can be incredibly expensive and it is a very cost heavy project because of the amount of people involved and the time needed to develop a digital piece. It’s very different from having say five weeks consecutively in the studio – this is a four month creation with weeks of dance time dotted around. People have given up a lot of their time because they’re so interested in the project, and they really want to develop something new.

We’re looking to develop a live stream, hoping to team up with a University that has an interactive digital arts subject and a dance subject. This can help us develop what that live stream could be and could possibly even be out on tour with us. An example of putting this to use could be that we’re at a venue and there’s schools that want to see the performance but might not be able to come – we can then do a live stream and that can go out to them and they can use their tablets that they’ve got in the classroom to interact with David.

What’s next for you?

We’ve got performances at the end of April at Redbridge Drama Centre and the University of Bedfordshire brought by Bedford Creative Arts. These are more showcase performances, and then for 2018 we’re looking at having another small development period to really refine the code and build out the live stream. There’s a lot of digital wrap around the performance, so before you come there’s a website you can go to and interact with David and then after the performance your data is made into a visual expression of you as an individual in the performance. We plan to be developing that in 2018 and then we’re looking at contacting venues for touring. And then we’ll see!

Also being a part of 2faced Dance Company’s THE BENCH programme last year has been so great and really helped to raise the profile of the project.

For more information visit the Pell Ensemble website.

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

Performance Anxiety

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Stage fright, the heebie jeebies, a bad case of the willies. Call it what you will, but one thing is for sure, performance anxiety is the cruel mistress of many performing artists.

According to a recent survey conducted by Help Musicians UK, 75% of musicians said they had suffered from performance anxiety. Similarly, research from One Dance UK demonstrated that 92% of dancers had experienced psychological difficulty in the last 12 months, with over 30% experiencing performance anxiety. But what exactly is performance anxiety, why does it happen, and the big one we all want the answer to; how on earth do we get a grip of it?

Lets get down to the science-y bit. Psychologists seem to agree that anxiety manifests in two key ways; somatically and cognitively. Somatic symptoms are those we experience physically, such as sweating, racing hearts and needing the bathroom, causing us to feel agitated and uncomfortable. They’re all signs that our body is out of sync with its neutral state, signs of physiological arousal. These experiences are common in all pressurised situations, from test-taking, public speaking and sport, to the performing arts, dance and music. For some, symptoms occur long before performance, from early days in rehearsal. For others, symptoms hit us like a tonne of bricks, right out of the blue, when we’re standing in the wings.

Now here’s the interesting stuff. All of these symptoms have something else in common, something which differs vastly from anxiety. They’re all symptoms of excitement. Just like that feeling of waking up on your birthday, or falling in love, they are symptoms that are telling us that we are energised, ready for action, and prepared to experience something deeply rewarding, of great value.

But what about those cognitive symptoms, those we experience mentally such as worry, apprehension and nerves that ultimately can lead us to a mental block? There’s pretty solid evidence that performance anxiety occurs when an individual perceives an imbalance between the demands made, and their capacity to meet the demands. The key word here is perceived. What if we changed our perceptions of our symptoms, and our perceptions of performance? What if we changed up our mind-set and tried interpreting those symptoms as a sign of preparedness, and positive anticipation. Research we’ve carried out both here at Trinity Laban, and research by international colleagues, demonstrated that perceiving an upcoming performance as a challenge (a chance to thrive and demonstrate competency) rather than a threat (a chance to fail) lead to decreased anxiety experiences in both the days leading up to and very moments prior to performance.

Next time you have an assessment, performance or audition coming up, notice your immediate somatic response. Your interpretation is key. Is this related to a threat? Or actually, is this an optimal challenge? Is your mental investment really worry, or is thinking about an upcoming audition merely a sign that this is something of real value to you, an exciting experience? Learning to change mental habits is by no means an easy process, but a process it certainly is – which means time, patience and trial and error are key. Reframing your thoughts about your next performance may be the first steps towards managing your performance anxiety, and developing healthy techniques for looking after your psychological wellbeing is just as important as nurturing your dance or music technique.

 

Lucie Clements, PhD candidate Dance Science & Lecturer in Performance Psychology.

Cooldown

The term cool down is frequently referenced within our dance practice, it’s seldom incorporated into our dance sessions by practitioners and is often expected to be a component of our personal structure.

So what is it all about? This article aims to provide you with a background on the subject and to offer suggestions as how to implement informed strategies into your daily dance practice.

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Here’s the science bit:

Cool down is also referred to as ‘active recovery’, this involves reducing the heart rate slowly after exercise. The intention is to avoid a sharp decline in heart rate which in turn will facilitate circulation, the removal of waste products, avoiding muscle soreness and cramping.

Some extra information:

During exercise that is predominately focused on your legs, your heart will send blood to those muscles to ensure that you are able to fulfill those movements. This means that there will be a lack of blood circulating from your heart to your legs and back to your heart.

If you were to sit down straight after your dance session your heart rate will plummet and the blood will not effectively circulate back to the heart. The burning sensation that you may often feel after leg intensive exercise is caused by blood lactate, some level of this is beneficial, but if it remains present in your leg muscles after class, it may result in muscle soreness, cramping and poor recovery.

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You could instead try the following:

  • 10 minutes of slowed down dance specific movements from the choreography you were performing, followed by 5 minutes of your favourite stretches
  • If you have just done a workout of weights/ running, cool-down with 5-10 minutes of light jogging on the treadmill/ cross-trainer/ exercise bike
  • Do this at 60-70% of your maximum heart rate (use fitbits, apple watches or the heart rate monitor on gym equipment to help you calculate this)

Here’s an example:

If you are 18 years old

  • Subtract 18 from 220

220-18= 202

  • 202 beats per minute (bpm) is your maximum heart rate for intense exercise/ dance

 

To work out the your heart rate for optimal cool-down benefits (60-70%)

  • 60% of 202 bpm= 0.60 x 202= 121 bpm
  • 70% of 202 bpm= 0.70 x 202= 141 bpm

 

So as an 18 year old if you reduce your heart rate to between 121 and 141 beats per minute, you will have the best chance of reducing blood lactate and heart rate.

Your benefits:

  • Following this process will help you to recover properly from your dance classes
  • It will optimise your next performance level
  • Make your body feel more energised and less achy
  • Make you feel less tired and feint after classes

 

Common issues:

“I don’t have time between classes”

If you are heading across to another class your heart rate will reduce anyway. The important thing to remember is to stay lightly active for 15 minutes, this is preferable to sitting or collapsing on the floor.

“But I stretch after my class, isn’t that cooling down?”

Stretching is part of the cooling down process but not the entirety of it. Try to follow this rule:

  1. Light activity at 60-70% of your maximum heart rate
  2. Dynamic stretching
  3. Static stretching

In conclusion, developing a better understanding of the cool down process will help you to understand your body. You will be able to control your recovery better during those busy times at university and take care of those dancing legs.

 

Seema De Jorge-Chopra MSc

Dance Science Graduate Intern

 

TRINITY LABAN AT RESOLUTION 2017

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Image: Simone and Elizabeth

Alice White reports

From the 12 January – 25 February 2017 the UK’s biggest dance festival for emerging artists will return, bursting with Trinity Laban alumni and current students. Resolution is The Place’s annual, New Year festival of short live dance and performance. Resolution demonstrates the best of emerging talent, with previous participants including Trinity Laban alumnus Luca Silvestrini, who co-founded the incredibly successful Protein Dance.

There are a huge number of Trinity Laban music and dance artists involved this year – over 50 – made up of choreographers, performers and musicians – and I will be one of them.

Having graduated from Trinity Laban in 2015, I’m really excited to be sharing my new work in collaboration with Zoe Bishop (together known at Bite Dance). Our piece Still Laughing focuses on the act of laughter as a choreographic device, looking at laughter as ‘readymade’ movement material. I will also share my experiences as a performer with Watts Dance, who will debut WLA No.657005 in the final week.

Over the course of the festival I will be documenting and sharing the experiences of both myself and my fellow performers. For the next six weeks I will continue a rolling blog, letting you know what pieces to look out for, conveying behind the scenes info, giving advice for aspiring choreographers, and sharing personal experiences.

Week One

The opening week of Resolution 2017 sees Trinity Laban’s alumni and current students both presenting and performing in new dance works. Alumni Simone and Elizabeth will perform Impressing the Grand Duke on Friday 13th Jan with RAE Dance Collective presenting Unravel, le Bolero the following night.

2016 graduate Camilla Isola choreographs on RAE Dance Collective, which is jam-packed with Trinity Laban dancers, featuring 2016 graduates Giulia Avino, Clara Sjolin and Laura Calcagno with current students Theo Arran, Kieran Covell, Giordana Patumi, Phillip Hewitt and Viola Ranghino. Camilla works within the deconstruction of movement and sound, whilst always retaining a sense of humanity and compassion. Her new work Unravel, le Bolero interrogates what drives humans to desire contact. In a dark room where bodies tangle together, only the audience is allowed to see them losing control.

Catching up with Camilla ahead of her performance, she commented:

“I have been interested in the arts for my whole life, but found a particular curiosity with choreography. Last August I decided to challenge myself and apply for Resolution with the creation of a brand new work. Two weeks later, I received an email saying that my application had been successful and I had a place in the festival. When I opened the email I was overjoyed; it gave me the right energy to begin exploring and developing my ideas.

I feel proud of this achievement and lucky to have this opportunity. I am very thankful to all those who are supporting my work and also to Trinity Laban, who over the past three years have fully prepared me as a dance artist. Trinity Laban gave me the skills and space I needed to grow as a choreographer and equally as a person.”

 

Here are the performances by and featuring Trinity Laban students and alumni to look out for:

Week 1:

13 Jan: Simone and Elisabeth

14 Jan: RAE Dance Collective

Week 2:

17 Jan: J7s Dance Company

18 Jan: Andrew Race Dance Company & Clara Sjolin

19 Jan: Laura Calcagno and Camilla Isola

21 Jan: Clélia Vuille

Week 3:

24 Jan: Jannick Moth and Company

25 Jan: Awake Dance Company

26 Jan: Jayne Port & Emmeline Cresswell Company

Week 4:

31 Jan: Orley Quick and the Hairy Heroines

1 Feb: Bite Dance & Thomas Michael Voss

2 Feb: Jan Lee

3 Feb: Laura Ganotis

Week 5:

14 Feb: Elisha Hamilton Dance & Natalie Sloth Richter

15 Feb: Scatterlings

Week 6:

21 Feb: Watts Dance

22 Feb: Zjana Muraro and Gianna Burright

23 Feb: Maria Lothe & Co

Keep up to date on Trinity Laban’s involvement in Resolution by following my weekly blog for news, reviews and more. For now, the rehearsals continue…

To find out more information and book tickets for Resolution, visit The Place website.

 

FROM STAGE TO SCREEN AND BACK: INTERVIEW WITH RAYMOND-KYM SUTTLE

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Image: Raymond-Kym Suttle

Raymond-Kym Suttle graduated with his MA in Dance Studies in 1996 after originally training as an actor. Since graduating, he has worked as a dancer, choreographer and burlesque artist before moving to Los Angeles to pursue his film career further. Here he talks to us about his work so far, including his use of semiotics – discovered during his studies – in acting.

Tell us about your time at Trinity Laban.

I originally auditioned for the Transitions Dance Company (MA Dance Performance), but was offered a place on the MA Dance Studies on a scholarship. I had some professional choreographic experience – though for theatre rather than dance – so thought this would be a good opportunity to develop. It was great having access to rehearsal spaces, real dancers and a theatre space to work in. Discovering the field of semiotics was a revelation and one that I’ve grown to love more and more as I observe it in action every day in the people around me.

Ultimately I got a lot out of my time at Trinity Laban, but it also reaffirmed my sense that one should never conform to someone else’s ideals – stick to your guns and create what feels right for you.

Thanks to my MA, I’ve been able to teach choreography and dance at prestigious venues such as the Skyros Centre in Greece.

I now perform regularly under the banner of ‘male burlesque’, as my alter-ego Major Suttle-Tease, though what I do isn’t pure or classic burlesque by any means. I combine dance with stand-up comedy, song and inventive clothing removal performed to complex pastiches of music, recorded dialogue, projected imagery and sound effects.

I embed strong socio-political messages in my work – although my work is fun, there’s a serious point I’m making. My hope is that I’ll reach people who wouldn’t usually go to a serious play, and present them with something meaningful to get them thinking.

You originally trained as an actor; why did you decide to do a Masters in dance?

It’s a good question, because after I finished my BA in English & Drama I swore I was never going to study again!

I’d always been an actor who dances, and still am. I’ve also done a lot of physical theatre in which actors use their bodies and props to create an environment or a mood. I have always been aware of the power of the human body to convey things that the voice and words cannot – and vice versa.

The primary benefit of being both an actor and choreographer is that when creating movement as part of a play, I have an understanding of what actors are comfortable with – actors are very different to dancers. Dancers, in my opinion, are better at taking criticism because they’re used to being told/shown what to do and how to do it, whereas that’s not the case with acting. One of my strengths is finding a way to make actors feel like they’re part of the choreographic process so that it’s acting through movement, rather than ‘dance’, because a lot of actors have a strong belief that they’re not dancers and therefore freeze at the word ‘choreography’. When you help them to see that everything they do on stage is choreography you get great results. For example, I was asked by a director to create the transformation of 8 actors from courtiers into a pack of blood-thirsty hunting dogs. That result was one of my best reviews to date, with my choreography described as being “reminiscent of the great Pina Bausch”. Ironically, at the time I got the review, I’d never heard of Pina Bausch (!) so it took me a while to realize how much of a compliment that was!

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Image: Raymond-Kym Suttle

Your methodology for acting based on the semiotics work you did during your Masters sound fascinating! Please tell us more.

I aim to help actors become consciously aware of the processes that most actors use instinctively, because they’re using them in every day life: body contact, physical appearance, facial expressions, and other non-linguistic aspects of speech.

Many great actors use these indicators unconsciously – they instinctively know what to do but couldn’t explain to you exactly what they did, why they did it, or why what they did works. It’s my belief that knowing why you did what you did is more useful than just using instinct and hoping for the best.

To begin with, I get the actors to sit at a table, with their hands flat on the table and feet flat on the floor, and deliver a highly emotional extract of script, with no particular emotional force, just focusing on making sense of the words. They are instructed not to gesture with their hands, not to do anything deliberately with their facial expressions, not to move/shift in the chair/tuck their feet under them, etc. They are told they can do whatever they like vocally.

Most people, in this first stage give me clues as to where their emotions ‘bleed’. It may be an involuntary lift of a finger off the table, or a tap of a foot, or a lift of the chin. This emotional ‘bleed’ may well be anxiety, or it may be a response to the text. Wherever that ‘bleed’ is noticed I then make them aware of what their body does unconsciously to release tension (physically or emotionally).

I then ask them to do the scene again, this time concentrating on finding a moment, just one single moment, when they feel the strongest desire to change one of the semiotic indicators: one hand gesture, change their orientation use a head nod/shake, etc.

We gradually build and build until when we get the actor out from behind the table, hopefully they are now highly aware of whether whatever gesture they’re doing is absolutely necessary, or if they’re making choices in an attempt to be ‘interesting’ rather than emotionally true.

There’s a lot more to the process and it’s not effective on every actor but it’s a useful tool for becoming conscious of how we do what we do and what works to make something seem convincing.

What are your future career plans (dance, acting, and more!)

I moved to the USA primarily to further my film-making career on both sides of the camera. I have a feature film script that is semi-autobiographical, that I converted into a stage play to help me sort out some issues I was having with the chronology and details of the plot, as well as to see how some characters needed to change. I produced the play in London and that was very useful when I rewrote the film script. Ironically I now have a producer in LA who’d like to see a stage version of the new script, and someone who saw the play in London would like to do a translation into German and direct it in Germany.

Vibrancy and Transparency: Fascinations of a Fulbright Scholar

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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