Q&A with our 2017 Musical Theatre Directors

We caught up with Director of Urinetown Michael Howcroft (MH) & Director of Made in Dagenham Guy Unsworth (GU) ahead of this year’s musical theatre showcase at Stratford Circus.

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What are you most enjoying about working with the Trinity Laban students?
MH: I directed The Clockmaker’s Daughter last semester here at Trinity Laban and the great thing about both groups of students is that they are all unique. They have an individuality and a quirkiness which makes them great fun to work with. The students work really well together and have a fantastic sense of humour! The group that I’m working with on Urinetown are particularly talented – considering they’re at the end of their second year and still have another year of training. They’re an exciting bunch!
GU: It’s always great to work with final year students at the end of their training as they’re putting all their many skills into practice. This particular bunch each have their own character as a performer too, and this show is a chance for me to make the most of that. The musical itself is also a great showcase for everyone – there are great principal roles for some, and those with smaller parts are playing 3, 4 or 5 different characters. It’s a fantastic show to display their talent.

What can audiences expect from the works?
MH: Coming to see Urinetown, audiences can expect a funny, raucous, anarchic, political, thought provoking and fun evening at the theatre – with great tunes!
GU: Made in Dagenham is brilliantly entertaining with excellent music and we’ve got a full band from Trinity Laban’s Faculty of Music which is tremendously exciting. Although it dates back to 1968, it’s also an incredibly relevant story today – it’s heart-warming, real and important.

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What are your favourite moments?
MH: I’ve got lots of favourite moments. The writing is very clever. It has a brilliant way of playing with our understanding of musical theatre tropes – the things we take for granted with the form. For example, the love duet in the middle of act one where the hero and heroine get together, we’re given just enough sentimentality and then it’s subverted by doing something silly. There are lots of moments like that, something familiar is set up and then, hilariously, it’s finished off in a ridiculous way. It’s like a Mel Brookes movie. Or Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer.
GU: There’s a brilliant scene in the Ford-Dagenham social club with everybody in. It’s been a tricky one to put together but it’s really good fun – there’s music, dancing and a quantity of good jokes.

Why should people come to watch the show?
MH: Urinetown will be performed the week after the general election. Politics in the west has become incredibly polarizing in recent years and there’s a similar, if exaggerated, situation in Urinetown. The piece speaks to 2017 with a sharp political relevance, especially now Donald Trump has pulled out of the Paris climate agreement and the Conservative Party in the UK seem ideologically driven to privatize everything. Urinetown is all about what happens when the world runs out of resources; there’s a massive drought that means there’s no longer any water and people have to pay a private company, run by a corrupt, Trump-like businessman, to go to the toilet. If the world does not stand up to Donald Trump and his cronies (just look at the nasty business practices of Nestle, or Ivanka Trump’s dreadful employment conditions in China, not to mention the countless scandals Donald Trump has paid his way out of), the reality of Urinetown might not be so far away. Also, it’s not produced very often so it’s an opportunity to see a rarely performed piece. Finally, we’ve relocated the work. Urinetown is normally set in America, but because this year is Hull City of Culture and in 2003 there was a book called The Idler Book of Crap Towns with Hull as ‘crappest’ – we’ve set Urinetown in… Hull!
GU: I love promoting student shows because the students are at a very exciting point in their career: they’re about to go out and do it for real. They are the undiscovered talents and in a year’s time they won’t be – they’ll be the discovered talents. This is a chance to see them before you have to pay hundreds of pounds for a ticket.

For more information and to book tickets visit our Events page.

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

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

 

Post-Exercise Muscular Soreness

Feeling like you’ve gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson for a day or two after you’ve done a serious workout?

We all know the feeling- stairs? Not a chance.

But why do our muscles hurt so much when we’ve been working so hard?

Post-Exercise Soreness explained.

The DOMS

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness: refers to the potential reaction our bodies have when we take up a new exercise plan, adapt an existing exercise plan or alter the intensity or duration of regular physical exertion. This may happen regardless of our fitness levels and although often unwelcomed, it can be the sign of a Physiologically Positive Reaction.

DOMS usually develops between 12-24 hours after the activity itself. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘that’ll hurt tomorrow’ but the truth is the greatest discomfort is often experienced between 24-72 hours post-exercise. Although DOMS can be associated with a positive reaction, is often a sign that you need to take a rest, this is useful feedback from your body.  If you are experiencing symptoms associated with DOMS, to include muscles soreness ‘tender to touch’ and reduced joint mobility, this may lead to instability if not well rested. Instability and weakness combined with muscle soreness and fatigue can lead to injury.

What’s happening?

There is some controversy surrounding the cause of DOMS, however most believe that DOMS is the repair process that develops as a response to the microscopic damage of our muscle fibres likely stemming from novel stresses that were experienced during the exercise.

A common misconception is that DOMS is due to lactic acid build up however it is generally believed that lactic acid is not involved in the DOMS process.

Activities which are thought to result in DOMS are ones which cause muscles to lengthen whilst a force is being applied, also known as an eccentric muscle action. There are three main actions; Concentric, Isometric and Eccentric- The notion of a concentric chest press evokes a much more stressful loading onto the muscles than let’s say a handstand where an Isometric action is seen. However eccentric movements such as the lowering phase in a bicep curl are considered structurally, to cause a higher stress level on muscle fibres than the aforementioned. Try and work your way gradually into a new exercise program to help reduce the severity of DOMS!

 There is a fine line between positive, and injury provoking muscular ‘pain’.

Every body is different and you must remember to listen to yours.

As performing artists we should not be working towards ‘pain’. We should only push our bodies to a certain level, and DOMS is a welcomed indication that we have pushed our bodies a little beyond their normal comfort zone. If you do experience pain during an exercise this could be an underlying factor of over intensified exercise or incorrect form, you should consult a medical practitioner if pain persists and exceeds regular DOMS symptoms.

It is important to remember eccentric movements are to be treated as one ingredient within a well-tailored exercise plan, combining concentric and isometric movement will make for a well-rounded workout. Mastering technique, control and stability within movements will lower the risk of injury and in turn DOMS.

Does Massage Help?

Massage is an extensive physiological tool that eases muscle and joint stiffness. The hands on approach of massage works towards reducing tension within the body, combined with passive movements that not only stretch the connective tissues around our joints, but lengthens muscles and tendons too.  Sports Massage may help prevent the onset of injury, work as a tool to rehabilitate and in turn may improve performance. With classes, rehearsals, shows and tours on the horizon pushing bodies to outside of their regular comfort zone, Dancers, Musicians and Musical Theatre performers may consider seeking treatment in order to gain immediate relief for muscle soreness. It can also be applied post-event to remove waste products/toxins, speed up recovery time and de-stress after a performance.

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Don’t forget TL Health offers Sports Massage where TL Students receive a brilliant discount!

http://www.trinitylaban.ac.uk/trinity-laban-health/health-treatments/sports-massage

Jess Coleman: Graduate Intern, Health.

Nutrition for Musical Theatre Students

The majority of the musical theatre students at Trinity Laban are involved in 25-30 hours of practical sessions per week. On top of this, students will be participating in extra rehearsals, supplementary training, theory sessions and written work and spending additional time learning lines and working on several voice techniques. All of this will put their bodies under an amount of stress, meaning their nutritional intake is vital to ensuring they are healthy enough to keep up with a busy schedule! It is important for musical theatre students whom wish to have a long and successful career to treat their bodies as if they were instruments and understanding how to achieve a sustainable, healthy and balanced lifestyle is vital to ensuring the body can perform optimally.

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Our diets are made up of micronutrients and macronutrients. We need to have all of these nutrients in our diets to help maintain a stable and balanced diet:

Micronutrients

Micronutrients are needed by the body in small amounts and are vital to help the body to function correctly. Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals and can be found naturally in fruits and vegetables. The best way to get all the vitamins and minerals you need is to try to make your meal as colourful as possible with your fruits and veg – eat the rainbow!

Macronutrients

Macronutrients make up the majority of the food that what we eat. Macronutrients are fats, carbohydrates and protein.

  • Fats: Healthy fats are needed to fuel the body and assist hormonal balances. You can find healthy fats in nuts, dairy products and certain meats.
  • Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are needed for energy and fuel the body. You can find them in starches which are found in foods containing grains, pasta, rice and potatoes.
  • Protein: Protein is needed to help repair and build muscle. You can find it in meat, fish, eggs and quorn. When it comes to meat: the less legs, means more protein i.e. chicken or turkey has more protein than beef.

It is vital to ensure your daily intake of micro and macronutrients is suitable to the activity level of that day. If you are using more calories than you consume your body will experience an energy deficit which can lead to poor performance, illness and injury. The amount of calories an individual should have per day is dependent on height, weight, activity schedule and their gender. It will also change depending on their goals… if the aim is to gain weight or muscle an individual will require a diet that allows a higher intake of calories; in comparison, if the goal is to lower body fat percentage or lose weight less calories will be consumed. In any of these cases the caloric intake will still be based on the individual’s genetics and amount of activity performed.

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As performers who sing, dance and act, illness and injury can hinder a musical theatre student’s development and could potentially lose them a professional contract. It is vital to get enough sleep; muscles repair and process any information whilst we are asleep. It is recommended to get around eight hours sleep per night. When the immune systems begins to shut down, increasing the chances of illness and the body starts to feel run down, sufficient rest, adequate hydration and an increased intake of fruits and vegetables can help boost the immune system due to the consumption of extra vitamins and minerals.

The tables below shows a variety of scenarios and the recommended nutrition information to achieve optimal performance.

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Performer 1 has a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 21, and is considered to be of a healthy stature. Using a calorie calculator (the formula for this can be found at the bottom of this post), it can be suggested that this performer should consume around 2000 calories to maintain this weight and should aim for 2500 calories to gain 0.5kg per week. This performer wished to increase muscle and not fat and so her intake of protein would need to be greater than the intake of fat. As she is quite active, she would also need to have a significant amount of carbohydrate. The general percentage of carbohydrate, protein, and fat for a performer who is aiming to build muscle is 40%, 40%, and 20% respectively.

Remember this differs for each individual so the ratio of each macronutrient may change to suit different bodies.

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Performer 2 has a BMI of 24; he is considered to have a healthy weight but is close to being classes as overweight. The calorie calculator suggests that this performer should consume around 2900 calories to remain at the same weight. This performer is very active and so would need a high intake of carbohydrates for energy and protein for muscle repair with healthy fats to fuel the body. It is recommended for this performer’s macronutrients to break down as 40% carbohydrates, 35% Protein, 25% fats.

Remember this differs for each individual so the ratio of each macronutrient may change to suit different bodies.

table3

Performer 3 has a BMI of 29 and is considered to be overweight. Using the calorie calculator suggests this performer should be consuming around 1980 calories per day to lose 0.5kg per week. This performer is physically active but is in the low-moderate range and aims to lower their percentage of body fat. The breakdown of their macronutrients would be 30% protein, 50% carbohydrates and 20% fats.

Remember this differs for each individual so the ratio of each macronutrient may change to suit different bodies.

The calorie calculator calculates the Basal Metabolic Rate – the formula for this is:

BMR = 10 * weight(kg) + 6.25 * height(cm) – 5 * age(y) + 5         (man)
BMR = 10 * weight(kg) + 6.25 * height(cm) – 5 * age(y) – 161     (woman)

The breakdown of each of these circumstances are based on the individual’s height, weight, age, gender, activity level and goal. However, we do not know the true intensity of physical activity which may affect the individual’s caloric intake. Each person’s metabolism and body type may also have some affect, therefore it is vital to ensure there is a full understanding of the needs and desires of each individual before implementing a chance in diet. For more information please speak to a registered physician or nutritionist.

References and additional information

http://www.calculator.net/calorie-calculator.html?ctype=metric&cage=22&csex=f&cheightfeet=5&cheightinch=10&cpound=160&cheightmeter=168&ckg=82&cactivity=1.55&printit=0&x=87&y=16

http://www.nhs.uk/Tools/Pages/Healthyweightcalculator.aspx

Tarnopolsky, M. A. (2008). Building muscle: nutrition to maximize bulk and strength adaptations to resistance exercise training. European journal of sport science, 8(2), 67-76.

Dixon, M. (2001). Eating… and dancing-Nutritional advice for dancers from Jasmine Challis. BALLETT INTERNATIONAL-TANZ AKTUELL, (5), 72-73.

Montoye, H. J. (2015). Energy costs of exercise and sport. Nutrition in sport, 53.

Kenney, W. L., Wilmore, J., & Costill, D. (2015). Physiology of Sport and Exercise 6th Edition. Human kinetics.

Jessica Hobson: Graduate Intern, Dance Science

Top Tips for the Touring Musician

Musicians’ hands are vital to their musical performance. Rapid, complex and coordinated movements are required and they frequently have to play in less than ideal postures and environments; usually without the support of a medical team and with poor facilities. Touring increases the hours of playing with reduced sleep. Noise, alcohol levels and pressure can be high. In summary, musicians as well as singers and other performing artists often have to perform to the limit of their abilities physically and emotionally. As a result, the risk of acquiring injuries that can lead to difficulties or an inability to play or sing can increase. Continue reading

Trinity Laban’s new Musical Theatre Summer School is now open for bookings

The Witches of Eastwick

Musical Theatre Summer School 2014– now open for bookings

Musical Theatre is going from strength to strength at Trinity Laban and this year we’re going to be throwing open our doors for part of the summer to a new group of students.

Our new Musical Theatre Summer School for 2014 (4-8 August) has an amazing tutor line up from across the world of West End, all led by the fabulous folks from our Musical Theatre Department. The timetable is designed to stretch, inspire and nurture you as a performer and has the essence of the conservatoire experience all bottled up in a summer school.  It’s a challenging course so really for those considering Musical Theatre at degree level, as a career or as an accomplished amateur. If this is you and you’re thinking about a long term future in the business then what better way to spend part of the long summer holidays than making new friends in the lush facilities of our Laban Building while learning from the best.

Bookings are now open, places are limited and it’s sure to sell fast so our advice is if you don’t want to be Les Miserables, and Miss (Saigon) out on this Wicked experience, then get your Starlight Express skates on and before you know it you’ll be spending your summer to the Sound of Music.

(oh boy!)

‘Eastwick Knows!’

MT_Witches_A5_flyer_2With the pressure of showcase and dissertations submitted…it’s time to focus on the final show of our training at Trinity Laban. Perhaps it’s just me; but I know that the next five weeks will be filled to the brim with a variety of emotions. We’ve been through highs and lows as a group…and we’re slowly realising that we won’t be together soon for much longer after three years. That sentimental moment aside – We are loving life in Eastwick so far!

I’m Marika and am playing the role of Eastwick’s first Iron Lady matriarch Felicia Gabriel. I am going to be blogging life direct from the rehearsal room when I can. Additionally, Lydia (Alexandra Spoffard – in short one of the three Witches who was played by Cher in the film version – yes she has big hair) is our resident rehearsal photographer to show you what we get up to every week day! ‘Hashtag Lydia Davidson : #RehearsalSnapper’

Since our graduate show was announced by Vicki (or Stretton as I affectionately call her), we have been so excited; particularly because a few of us were campaigning for The Witches of Eastwick to be our final show. It has been a while since a Musical Theatre graduating year has performed this show. There has been a buzz surrounding our production, before rehearsals began via social networking and friends at other institutions.

Our creative team seem to know exactly what they want and are working us all very hard. This is going to be a big production (arguably the most ambitious production that Trinity Laban has mounted – what with the flying…magic…various objects being thrown up by me, a church falling down…) We are all determined to make it the best it can possibly be.

Every rehearsal process begins with the read through. This involves us reading aloud through everything (yes, even the songs) in our various accents, marking cuts and discussing any changes that the creatives have made between the auditions and now. It was really exciting to hear everyone in their assigned roles and the dialogue coming to life off the pages before it has even been staged. (Exciting times!)

This first week has been full on; although it has been fun; we have all been drained because it’s such a high energy show. We have accomplished quite a lot already with learning most of the big ensemble numbers musically as well as choreographing them too. These include Eastwick Knows, Darryl Van Horne, Dance With the Devil and Dirty Landry. Damien (choreographer) has done a fantastic job especially with some ‘chair’ography’ and ‘tea towel’ography.’ (Of course…I won’t ruin what we have in store; but you will have to come and see us in action to find out)

One issue that some of us have been dealing with – Why aren’t dance shoes made more comfortable? The ladies of Eastwick are not asking much Capezio; sort out your stage heels out please! (We are suffering blisters, pinched toes, swollen feet…) It’s not beauty but we’re most definitely suffering pain for our art! Or in the words of Sondheim, ‘Art isn’t easy.’

We are very fortunate to have a fantastic voice coach Tom who is a MA Voice Studies student at the Central School of Speech and Drama. He is also American so we can trust that he can help us with words that we struggle with!  We are using standard American accents but in order to stay true to the text, we are incorporating New England vowels etc, so we can entrust Tom to guide us. He also has that ability to explain things in remarkable detail but simplify it.

Research is an integral part of anything we do as actors. We have been asked to find photos of what our various characters’ houses would look like and how we envision the town of Eastwick to be, from the clues given in the script. It’s like piecing together a puzzle. So far, it seems very Desperate Housewives, with a hint of coast line thrown in.

Naomi also work shopped us using improvisation for ideas on how we would set the opening scene – personally I find this approach awesome as often the best ideas derive from an organic process such as improv. Damian moulded our ideas into movement and before we knew it, we had choreographed the opening to The Witches of Eastwick! We also have been ‘actioning’ the script as developed by British director Max Stafford Clark. This simply means applying a verb to a text to achieve an objective!

As well as being a full scale production; the show itself is a very challenging one to learn in four weeks as we were told by Naomi (director) and Robert (musical director) on our first day. The graft doesn’t stop inside the rehearsal room; it continues outside too – we have script work, harmony learning, character research, going over choreography, accent practising and doing anything else we are asked to do by our team.

It’s full on and as we further immerse ourselves in everything Eastwick it will become even more intense. You find yourself humming various lines from the music almost every hour of the day or quoting lines that just stick in your mind. When you’re in a rehearsal room 9am-6pm every single week day and then going away to prepare for the following day…you slowly begin to realise that The Witches of Eastwick is taking over your life.

Stay posted for the next installment of everything Witches…

If you’re on Twitter, please hashtag #TheWitchesofEastwick @trinitylaban @tlmtweets;

Industry comps are available please get in touch!

Marika Visser
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