Lockdown has brought life into sharp focus for all of us. For almost a year now we’ve been keenly aware of our freedom of movement - or lack of it - and nothing can be taken for granted.
Danseuse, Position de Quatrieme devant sure la Jambe Gauche
So, what of people whose work is contained in movement - how have dancers, dance artists and teachers adapted to these circumstances? During this past year they have been unable to deliver their physical skills in a physical sense. Their teaching, rehearsal and performance schedules have been cut and their incomes drastically reduced.
And yet the need is there to stay connected with their class participants, to continue with training and to keep income streams flowing.
For dancers who usually work flat out on teaching and performance schedules, the initial enforced ‘rest’ may have been much needed. For others, it’s been a frenetic gear change to keep businesses afloat and to adapt to digital technology. Few have the luxury of not worrying about income, as dancers and performers tend to live hand-to-mouth - freelancers being paid project by project, term by term.
Whatever the experience, the need to keep muscles strong, minds alert and bodies conditioned is essential. And to continue to reach out and offer dance to children, young people and vulnerable groups for whom it’s such a valuable coping mechanism.
Edinburgh-based professional dancer and Director, Eowyn Emerald Barrett says,
“as far as class goes... we have been using Down Dog for yoga classes, that is a great choice. They have so many options, you are able to really build the type of yoga practice that suits you. Pilates classes live streamed with The Wallace Practice, or Jonathan Krebs (her husband & trained Physio) will just take us through his class. Ballet barres with some of my favourite teachers from Portland, (Oregon) so those are mostly in the evenings - radiators make a great barre. I have also been making videos for local studios that are posting them on their websites or student learning portals.”
While the rest of the nation may have gamely attempted Joe Wicks’ workouts with their youngsters (and feeling the burn!) dance artists, have been following their own regimes, as Eowyn describes, picking and mixing from online classes and their own expertise.
The restrictions offer the chance to embrace new training and teaching opportunities on digital platforms and to share best practice in ways only dabbled in before. While working from home is not ideal for dance artists, many have cleared their front rooms and pushed back the sofa to accommodate a new home ‘studio’, adapting their practice to suit the space available.
Ruth in bluebells
Image: Rowan Gane
Yoga shines in this situation. A portable, mind-body-spirit workout that develops fitness, flexibility and strength is a definite go-to. The most brilliant thing is the lack of space and equipment required - one Yoga mat is all you need. Pranayama (breath control exercises) can also help to restore balance and calm at this very worrying time:
“Daily pranayama trains the lungs and improves the capacity of respiratory system immensely. Pranayama directly works on the nervous system. Daily Pranayama positively affects autonomic nervous system which controls and governs essential functions of the body like the heart rate, respiration and blood pressure.” www.yogajournal.com
If yoga’s not your thing, why not blast out some of your favourite music and dance like no one’s watching!
L’entente cordiale, George Ogilvy Reid, 1913
The dance community have been offering a plethora of classes online to support one another’s practise and that of their participants. One of the first was Tamara Rojo, Director of English National Ballet, who taught a daily professional class from her kitchen. A kitchen worktop is the ideal height it seems to practise your barre exercises!
Add this to the daily outdoor exercise allowance and it’s possible to keep up a varied regime that allows dance artists to keep working, creating and delivering in lockdown. Flexible thinking has never been so useful and the power of dance to uplift the spirits and connect people is so valuable at a time like this - and something to take with us as the restrictions begin to ease.
Keep well - and keep dancing!
Blog by Ruth Kent, Performance and Events Officer