First lessons of Year 2
Our first day back at college was already intensive and focused on preparing us for our auditions and gaining and strengthening our technique in order to become well rounded performers.
We started the morning with a full physical morning with the Year 2 Dancers led by Sarah Berrington, which involved a vast amount of cardiovascular activity testing our stamina, as well as strengthening exercises such as sit ups, press ups, squats, and lots of active and static stretches to loosen our muscles and test our flexibility. Working alongside the dancers as well as my usual MT class really pushed me to do my best and give it my all as I felt I had a standard of fitness I had to match and prove I could do so.
We then had a whole morning of Tap and Jazz (in a mixed class of MT and Dance year 2) which once again added a lot more pressure to not let myself down and motivated me to raise my game and keep up with them as much as possible. In Jazz we recapped basic technique exercises such as standard Pirouettes from 3rd position and put these into a short exercise routine which combined both single and double pirouettes going from the left to the right alternatively. At first I found this rather confusing as I had learnt some variations on the standard pirouette and preparation in my external Ballet classes last term and therefore I had this ingrained in my head; however, luckily I soon grasped the concept and was able to perform the exercise without making the mistake of confusing the preparation or turning inwards instead of the more conventional outwards turning spin. I also made an effort to ask Sarah for extra help and to watch my turns to make sure I was doing them right in the short water break we were given. We did more standard drills and warm up exercises such as split leaps across the room on the left and the right, and I felt I could see much more improvement compared to the year before, especially in my confidence and my extension and spring I had in my steps which helped me gain height to my leaps. When watching my peers do this I noticed that the were all far more heavy footed and landed much more heavily, which not only made it far less graceful, but from my understanding the heavier you are on your feet the less spring you have on you step and therefore the less height you will have to your leaps. Watching the Year 2 dancers perform the warm ups was very helpful as I could see all this put into practice, for example Faye Radford would push into the floor on the step pull change preparation giving her the spring and height to her leaps, and would also take wider steps meaning she travelled further over all.
Sarah went on to explain to us that we would all be expected to take place in the Season Dance Show this year and that we would be working on our routine in our timetabled Jazz lessons. The theme of the show is Body, Soul and Mind. Sarah had the idea of us exploring the idea of an upbeat Jive inspired routine which would be fast, energetic and playful and could incorporate Tap steps and partner work – which we would then contrast with a slow and more expressive lyrical routine. We learnt the first section of each of the ideas in the lesson to give us a taste and to make sure that was the route we all wanted to go down. Particularly Sarah wanted to see if our MT class would pick up the lyrical routine well enough and actually look elegant and presentable enough attempting it, as none of us had specific lyrical classes at college before now.
I used to do a lot of lyrical/contemporary routines back when I used to dance at school and with Sarah many years ago, however because it was so long ago I was worried I would no longer be able to keep up. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised with how I took on this challenge and the results I achieved. It took a great deal of confidence to position myself at the front of the class (as its so easy to try and hide at the back of the class, especially when you among far more experienced dancers), however I tried not to think of how the others might view me and instead just concentrated on being able to see Sarah and my movements in the mirrors, so I could ensure I would get the most out of the lesson and hopefully make progress. The lyrical routine was at a relatively intermediate level and luckily had steps I was familiar with such as a moderation on an arabesque jump, split roll, knee spins where the leg swaps, jazz split, attitude freeze position etc. I think by having the attitude that I just need to face the class and its challenges head on and not worry about not being any good really helped me as I could just concentrate on the routine and steps rather than getting myself panicked or distracted in the fear of not being a good enough dancer. Saying this, there were moments where I got frustrated at myself and just wished I could do it, but coming away from the situation I can see that this won’t happen unless I practice and work on the parts I found difficult (like entering the Jazz splits in a more fluid motion instead of it being so disjointed and ungraceful for example). Last year I really struggled with getting worked up and frustrated with myself and not being good enough at dancing and it really just ended up holding me back as I became to fearful and self critical that I wouldn’t even try things as I just couldn’t deal with not being able to do it – but I am adamant that I won’t let this become a pattern this year!
In tap I really threw myself, after gaining lots more confidence and regaining my love for the style since starting Tap classes outside of College at the Jessica Barber Academy of Dance. Once again, the year before I fell into my usual trap of just not practising or trying hard enough as I thought I wasn’t any good and didn’t like not being able to get the steps straight away. However, I realise this is my mental mind set holding me back not my actual physical capability. I positioned myself at the front of the class directly behind Sarah so I could be sure to see her feet and to ensure I stayed focused and only concentrated on myself and the steps, without letting myself be influenced by others progress. We started the class by recapping basic steps such as basic 4 beat riffs, then adding in extra beats progressively until we had reached 6 beat riffs – I think we all found this quite simple however it was a good warm up and refreshed our minds of the logistics of tap. We then moved on to tap step pull changes as well as the turning version of the step which I felt very confident in but surprisingly lots of class were not! The other steps we recapped were time-steps and the corresponding breaks; I was really pleased with my execution of this exercise, as I managed to remember how to add in the double and triple beat versions which I learnt at the end of last term. To progress further with this I just need to work on speeding up the steps slowly and try and get a more even rhythm all round as sometimes I have the tendency to rush certain bits and slow slightly on others. I hope that the more I do the steps the easier it will get to slowly increase the pace until it comes more naturally. The hardest part of the class for me was the more advanced close work as it moves so quickly and each step is so subtle and tight together. I found that I could do the actual steps okay when I focused on and copied Sarah’s feet intently , however when this security blanket was taken away it was so much harder to remember the order of each tiny isolation and step of the foot. I took a video of Sarah performing the short routine of close work so I could watch it and practice it in my own time. Interestingly like most tap steps, these were much easier to do at a faster pace than slowed and broken down into individual parts. Once again I felt far more motivated and pushed myself far more by having experienced tappers like Faye in the class as even though I knew she was far more advanced than me I was inspired by her and wanted to learn from her.
The Jive Tap routine was really up my street and I enjoyed learning and performing it a great deal. The steps were fairly straight forward over all, but the real skill and style came from the way the routine was executed using facial expressions, energy and clean and crisp tap steps. Some of the steps used in the dance a combination of classic jive moves such as partner turns (where you hold hands and turn under each others arms in a full circle), step kicks across the body and out, and then also some tap steps in the transitions between the more traditional ones, like tap step pull changes, basic riffs and the most basic version of close work (out in out in). I think me and Sian (who I was partners with) picked it up quickly and worked well together to perform the short bit of routine confidently and with a great deal of energy and in keeping with the jive style. I really enjoyed this lesson and look forward to learning more of the routine next week!