Breaking Boundaries: Interview with Trinity Laban student Nefeli Tsiouti

Nefeli 1

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.

Nefeli 2

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.

Nefeli 4

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.

Nefeli 3

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

 

My experience of a massage treatment

aromatherapy

I decided to have my taster session with Dulani; our Sports Masseur and Aromatherapist Practitioner to find out what exactly happens in during a treatment.

I have had sports massage treatments in the past during my dance training, but I have never had an aromatherapy massage; nor did I know what it was.

He started the treatment by stretching areas of my back which felt well overdue! He put gentle pressure in the opposite shoulder to hip and pulled away to stretch my back out. Dulani then progressed by mixing the stronger pressure with more relaxing techniques; this made the harder pressure on my stiff shoulders and lower back easier to handle. Although there was some harder pressure during the treatment I knew my body probably needed it!

During the massage I received a mixture of different oils and fragrances; this made the treatment feel a lot more relaxing even when Dulani was working on the stiffer, tender parts of my back. Dulani made me feel very comfortable from the start and kept asking me how the pressure was. The soft music in the background added to the relaxation I felt during the treatment.

I left the treatment feeling that my shoulders had dropped, my range of movement had improved and felt a lot more relaxed than I have done before when leaving a sports massage session.

Dulani Stephenson : Practitioner of the week

dulaniHi Dulani, how are you this week, what do you do at Trinity Laban Health?

I’m good thank you; I’m a Sports massage and Aromatherapy practitioner here.

Tell us about your background? How did you get into it?

I have been doing it since 1999. I used to play a lot of football but I got injured, and I didn’t rehabilitate it properly, which caused it to get worse and accelerate. I thought if my injuries meant I couldn’t go back to training and make it in to professional football, I wanted to find something else that is centred around sport and health.

I went on to study Sports Massage. A lecturer said I was a natural and I really enjoyed it so went on to further my studies, doing complimentary therapies, then gained a degree in Sports Therapy. I have done a number of small courses on top of that to learn different techniques.

What are the three main benefits of the treatment?

  • Faster recovery from training
  • Relief of muscular tension and shortened muscles
  • Increased range of movement and a general feeling of well-being.

What do you love about treating at Trinity Laban Health?

I enjoy getting different cases, it keeps it challenging with a range of injuries. I have good interaction with all my clients. Working with dancers means a large range of issues, everyone coming in with slightly different cases. This means I always have to think on my feet so I can never get bored.

Describe yourself in three words?

  • Friendly
  • Outgoing
  • Focused

What is the best way to look after your body?

  • Regular maintenance
  • A good diet
  • Regular exercise

What is your favourite ‘healthy’ food?

Watermelon

If you could meet anyone who would it be?

Usain Bolt

Finally… tell us something interesting about yourself?

I’m learning Mandarin at the moment. I started as I want to visit China and it’s a good language to know in business.

Hannah Wheeler: Practitioner of the week

hannahwheeler

Hi Hannah, how are you this week, what do you do at Trinity Laban Health?

Fine thanks! I am a Feldenkrais practitioner here.

Tell us about your background? Have you always been a Feldenkrais practitioner? How did you get into it?

I was a student here at Trinity Laban, I studied BA Dance Theatre and I am trained in contemporary dance. During training I found that Feldenkrais really helped with an injury. After that I decided to learn more about the field.

What are the three main benefits of the treatment?

Feldenkrais leads to a greater awareness of movement habits and how they influence problems experienced in our bodies. Feldenkrais also reduces muscle tone and increases relaxation. It is also great for refining co-ordination.

What do you love about treating at Trinity Laban Health?

I get to treat both student and the general public, so I get to work with all types of people. Also because of my dance student background I am able to relate to what students need, which is great.

Describe yourself in three words?

  • Calm
  • Thoughtful
  • Geeky

What is the best way to look after your body?

Pay attention to it.

What is your favourite ‘healthy’ food?

Sushi.

If you could meet/treat anyone who would it be?

That’s a tough one; I’ll get back to you on that.

Finally…..tell us something interesting about yourself?

I dance whenever I can.

Marina Collard: Practitioner of the week

marina-collard

Hi Marina, how are you this week, what do you do at Trinity Laban Health?

I’m well thank you. I am a Craniosacral Therapist.

Tell us about your background? Have you always been a Craniosacral Therapist? How did you get into it?

No I haven’t, I was a contemporary dancer for 20 years; I then became a dance teacher for Contemporary. I discovered Craniosacral while I was a dancer and had many treatments. The treatments really helped me and were very effective when I was a dancer. I now balance my teaching work and my Craniosacral practice.

What are the three main benefits of the treatment?

  • Craniosacral integrates the body as a whole and increases vitality as well as addressing specific problems.
  • Can slow the nervous system down to help anxiety, stress and emotional trauma.
  • Can produce an overall sense of wellbeing.

What do you love about treating at Trinity Laban Health?

There is a mixture of clients who visit Trinity Laban Health, including dance students. It is a very nice environment to work in and the clinic is open to anyone which I love.

Describe yourself in three words?

  • Reliable
  • Consistent
  • Wide interest in the Arts culture

What is the best way to look after your body?

To do some daily exercise which you enjoy and do not take it to the extreme.

What is your favourite ‘healthy’ food?

Porridge

If you could meet anyone who would it be?

I would love to meet Hans Josephsohn he makes the most amazing and beautiful sculptures.

Finally… tell us something interesting about yourself?

I went to Lisbon recently and visited the Gulbenkian Museum.  It was stunning seeing a video of the volcanic vibrations on the Galapagos Islands. I also recently performed in a contemporary piece entitled The Modulated Body at an art gallery. I performed this between three paintings by Francis Bacon and Rodin sculptures. The theme of the piece was based around Rodin’s sculpture Iris

Bowen Technique

bowen

Our intern Robyn Thwaites describes her experience of her first Bowen session at Trinity Laban Health.

My second taster treatment was of Bowen, again another therapy I knew little about.

The session started with a consent form asking about my injury history. Seamus, the Practitioner, asked for more details. I did not have any recurring injuries but have suffered with back pain on and off for a couple of years; sitting for long periods has not helped.

Seamus explained what would happen in the treatment; he would gently roll ‘over’ the muscles rather than push or massage the muscles. I laid on the treatment couch with a blanket over me. Seamus then administered a couple of gentle rolling movements on my back. He then left the room. I admit I felt a little weird and apprehensive, I expected the Practitioner to be in the room and continually apply pressure, not leave the treatment room.  The concept behind the therapy is that the cells in the body do not react to pressure applied for ninety seconds: the Practitioner leaves the room for the body to react.

The treatment continued in the same way, Seamus returned asked a couple of questions and administered some more movements before leaving the room. At the end of the session, Seamus handed me an after-treatment care sheet and warned me that I might feel achy and to keep moving, but nothing too strenuous. If I did start to ache, this would be normal and not to panic. Some of the do’s and don’ts include not to cross your legs but to drink plenty of water.

I left feeling relaxed but not much else. That evening I started to ache as if I had just completed a strenuous workout, the feeling lasted all evening – I even had to sit down while I was cooking dinner!

Over the next couple of days the achy feeling stopped, and I generally felt better: I had less stiffness in my back and generally did not have any pain while I was sitting for a good few weeks after. I think with a couple of recurring sessions this treatment can be very beneficial.

Trinity Laban’s Dance Science and Health Screening and Profiling Service

screening

The Screening and Profiling service, open to all dancers who make a living from dancing or who are in full-time training, is a unique aspect of the student experience. It is an ‘optional extra’ provided by the Dance Science and Health teams which many dancers engage with.

What is involved in Screening?

  • 1 hour one-to-one physical assessments and personal feedback in the dance science lab, assessing aspects such as range of motion, body composition and muscular strength, power and endurance
  • 25 minute one-to one physiotherapist functional assessment and feedback
  • (For Dancers Only) A studio-based group dance specific fitness test, assessing stamina

What are the benefits of Screening?

  • Assess your level of fitness
  • Track your training progress
  • Address potential injury risk
  • Achieve your optimal performance potential

As experienced dance practitioners, the dance science team is well-equipped to help you enhance your training regime while increasing your knowledge and awareness of your own body’s potential. Individual one-to-one feedback sessions and a personal report will allow you to apply the latest theories and research findings directly to your personal artistic practice.

What happens to the information that is gathered?

  • The information gathered is given back to the student in a one-to-one consultation
  • The information is also stored confidentially for future reference
  • On occasion anonymous group analyses are completed on the data to give an overview of the changing picture of students who take part in the screening process. This can be used to inform other aspects of Trinity Laban delivery.

Further information and detail on the assessments included in this screening is available on the Trinity Laban website or e-mail dancescience@trinitylaban.ac.uk. Trinity Laban is a partner of national institute of dance medicine and science (nidms).

For bookings please contact Trinity Laban Health on 020 8305 9479