Beyond The Walls

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Image: Age Exchange July 2016 

Beyond The Walls was a multi-sensory interactive arts performance from Age UK and Trinity Laban, utilizing cutting-edge research to improve the wellbeing of people living with dementia. The project was led by Lucy Evans and Stella Howard, two Trinity Laban alumni currently working in our Learning and Participation (Dance) department. Lucy reflects here on their experiences…

The ‘Beyond The Walls’ project followed from on charity Age Exchange’s three year’s research entitled ‘Radiql’, which investigated improvements in the wellbeing of people living with dementia when they engaged with visual and movement arts.

In spring 2016, Stella Howard and I were commissioned by Age Exchange and Trinity Laban’s Learning and Participation Team to undertake further research, the outcome of which would not be an academic paper but an actual dance performance.

The first stage of the process was a great privilege; we were invited to participate in 24 workshops with a group of older people in a Wandsworth care home.  The workshops were co-led by visual artist Mathew and movement therapist Christina.

As the weeks progressed – and as we observed the approaches and also the relationships facilitated by Matthew and Christina – we were able to interact more meaningfully with both the methodology itself, and also with the new people we were getting to know. In the later weeks, when I approached the residents, I experienced them taking my hand and warmly moving it to their cheek. We jived, sang and painted together, and shared memories (at one point a lovely lady turning to me and started to recite a verse about sowing seeds and growth – a precious moment indeed).

Of course we also met with some more emotionally challenging moments. We saw feelings of isolation and anxiety, a side to living with dementia not often evident in participatory activities. And we were occasionally told in no uncertain terms ‘I’ve grown out of this a long time ago!”.

Following the research phase, we moved to the studio to begin developing our observations and at first fragmented conclusions into movement and dance.

Initially, we worked a lot with improvisation to embody the shifting relationships and levels of engagement we had experienced and witnessed. We set up scores which enabled us to explore a variety of ways in which one could feel engaged or disengaged. We explored issues of whom or what we might choose to engage with (or not), and questioned the idea of agency: when and how did the participants exercise choice around engaging in relationships in the arts practice? There was something special for us about investigating this at Laurie Grove studio, away from our roles as practitioners at Trinity Laban, with a view of Goldsmiths and the sunlight painting patterns on the studio floor.

A further exciting element of this stage of the work was the commissioning of several artists: composer Eliot Lloyd-Short, who created an original live and recorded score; prop-maker Andy Pilbeam-Brown, who made nine cardboard suitcases which displayed artwork made by the workshop participants; and filmmaker Roswitha Chesher, who documented the workshops, the devising process and the final performance.

Throughout the process we were determined that our decisions should truthfully reflect the context, practice and its outcomes; that we should face not only the joyous but also the difficult moments. We referred to and quoted movement we had observed, whilst being completely clear we did not want to mimic or re-enact the people we had met.

We set up the stage space in the round and used multi-sensory ideas (tastes, smells and textures) to further bring the audience into the world of the workshops. Musically, Eliot used sound samples from nature (suggesting the imagined themes of the workshops), radio extracts (reflecting the more realistic sounds of the care home), and also played live guitar and viola. The majority of the composition happened in the studio, resulting in a music and dance relationship that was invested and complex. The structure of the work gave both art forms space to react to one another and improvise whilst also charting the shifts in engagement and relationships we witnessed over the 24 workshops.

Mid-process we shared our work with the most truthful and well-informed people we know: the Trinity Laban Boundless over 60’s dance group. It was nerve-wracking to test our interactive ideas on a live audience! But finding out they were both appropriate and effective in evoking an emotional response in our audience was a relief, and spurred us on to push this element of our work further.

The work was presented at Battersea Arts Centre on 2 February, following a panel discussion by leading academics in the field of dementia and wellbeing. It was fantastic to be part of a platform where music and dance, as a means of explanation and communication, held a level pegging with statistical documents.

If you are interested in seeing the work it will be shared again at Trinity Laban on the 14 June, and we’ll let you in on a secret, there’s chocolate involved!

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.

The Dance: A Poem by Noah Lennon, 11

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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?

Continue reading

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

Share practice and ideas as a learning community

Being the graduate intern in Learning and Participation (Dance) I have the fantastic opportunity of being able to take part in the specialist training days offered as part of the Learning and Participation (Dance) Continuing Professional Development Programme. These days are open to those wishing to improve their teaching practice and find new ways of delivering dance classes.

I often find myself leaving the Laban Building full of ideas, ready to reflect on my own teaching practice. It is also great to experience new teaching resources that inspire me to create new and exciting lesson plans and schemes of work. It is a privilege to be taught by highly experienced dance practitioners, who can enrich your learning with their great level of expertise.

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Continuing Professional Development offers many ways to keep up with practice and open up further career options.

When attending these days I am able to meet a range of teachers from different contexts, including current school teachers (dance, performing arts and PE), freelancers working in schools, PGCE students and those taking their first steps into teaching dance.

The dance practitioners who lead the days are always enthused to help you discover more ways to teach and solve trickier problems to questions that may be left unanswered. I hope that I will continue to be inspired during the upcoming weekends by fresh approaches and imaginative possibilities for my own classes. A previous participant who attended a specialist training day expressed how she “Learned a great deal and relished the opportunity”. She explained; “I am actually a qualified History teacher, but I attended the session because I am interested in exploring the possibility of transferring my skills and teaching my real passion, Dance.”

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Reading case studies from past students who attended these days, as well as completing the Diploma in Dance Teaching and Learning (DDTAL) has given me an insight into what can be achieved in such a pivotal stage of my career. A previous student was amazed by what one qualification can do, opening many doors for her! Since completing DDTAL she has been keen to stay in contact with different teachers as it is a great way “to share practice and ideas as a learning community” and is enjoying a fruitful career teaching dance. She also went on to complete her MA in Professional Practice in Dance Technique Pedagogy at Middlesex University.

I would recommend anyone involved in dance teaching or hoping to be involved to come along to the next Specialist Training Day and see what you may discover. Here’s where you can find out more.

Nick Kyprianou

Graduate Intern for Learning and Participation (Dance)

@nickyprianou