PIERLUIGI ABBONDANZA

Italian Summer School 2013, Sportilia

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DANCE FEATURES

Careers Corner
Managing the transition from performer to another dance career

T

he move from dance performer to another career within the dance industry can be daunting and difficult. Equipped with a wealth of experience and

abroad. I always attempted to maintain good relations with my employers and to take opportunities to meet other artists and enablers within the profession. In general, my work opportunities have come through contacts within the profession and usually one engagement leads to another.” Claire Cunningham: Rehearsal Director and Yoga Teacher Claire teaches yoga for various companies throughout Europe. She has incorporated her teaching in the role of rehearsal director for companies such as Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and The Clod Ensemble. She is also Head of the Postgraduate Yoga Module at London Contemporary Dance School. Throughout her career as a dancer, Claire performed with Wayne McGregor: Random Dance for ten years and then enjoyed a freelance career for a further seven years. She also choreographed 4m2 as an associate artist at Deda; was revival choreographer for Theatre Rites ‘Mojo’ on Broadway; and a movement coach on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Throughout, Claire maintained a steady yoga practice, which she believes has contributed towards an injury free dance career. While attending the Sivananda Ashram in India, she completed a teacher training certification and completed an MA at The Place. “I believe professional development to be an ongoing process, which dancers inherently understand after years of trying to perfect their art. So this discipline and curiosity, along with many other transferable skills can make a career transition a little smoother. The starting point of this transition, where certain decisions need to be made, is the biggest hurdle. I have also come to realise how important it is to pursue official qualifications in order to have time for reflection and eventually deliver ones ideas/subject with authority, confidence and enthusiasm.”

skills from a life of dancing, many performers are unsure of how to apply these skills to a different role. Having a good network and support system and achieving recognised qualifications can make the transition a lot easier. Here are five case studies from dancers who redirected their careers, all with the help of Dancers’ Career Development (DCD). Not only were they helped financially, DCD also encouraged and advised each of the performers with their transitions. Chris Tudor: Company Dancer to Teacher and Choreographer Chris has had a successful career dancing, teaching and choreographing. He trained at London Contemporary Dance School and has worked for various dance companies. He was a founding member of Richard Alston Dance Company in 1994, becoming Assistant to the Artistic Director in 1999. Since 2001 he has taught for Rambert Dance Company, NDC Wales, Scottish Dance Theatre and Phoenix Dance Theatre, and is currently teaching at Royal Ballet Upper School. Chris regularly choreographs for theatre, television and film. Chris had to stop dancing in 1999 due to a chronic ankle injury. His existing professional network opened up many connections and has made the transition from dancer to teacher and choreographer easier. Since the introduction of new guidelines for teachers in higher education Chris chose to study an MA and hopes that on completion it will enable him to continue his teaching, but that it will also open other opportunities for employment within the training sector. “I feel that I have been lucky throughout my career, working with some of the top creative artists in the UK and

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Florence Peake: Performer, Choreographer and Teacher Florence is a London based Dance Artist and creates work of an interdisciplinary nature. She has training in dance and a background in painting. She has performed worldwide independently and in collaboration with other artists, choreographers and filmmakers. She is currently lecturing at Coventry University and Surrey University. Since 2004, Florence gained certification in a specialised dance technique called Skinner Releasing Technique (SRT). Florence has taught SRT in its pure form and having this training has given her a framework to teach Contemporary dance technique, improvisation and choreography in major dance institutions in Britain. The security of teaching has made a difference to Florence’s outlook and future career. She has found that teaching supports her artistic practice; she has not had to give up performing or choreographing, it has increased her skills and given her an exciting and varied career that keeps expanding. “I have learnt to diversify, to expand my knowledge and information as a performer, dancer and SRT teacher into all kinds of contexts, environments to work with different kinds of people. I do not think by expanding our skills as dancers we have to give up on any dreams of performing or choreographing, however the way we do this may have to change.” Isabel McMeekan: Company Dancer, Teacher and Founder of Everybody Ballet Isabel earned her position as First Soloist with The Royal Ballet and Birmingham Ballet and since retiring she has volunteered for the charity Maytree, founded Everybody Ballet, gained The Royal Ballet professional dancers teaching diploma and become a Trustee of Amber’s fund for The Royal Ballet. Isabel has set up a business, Everybody Ballet, that

provides adult ballet classes for beginners and also offers private one to one tuition. She was required to write a business plan for Everybody Ballet which has helped her harness her objectives and gave her a structure to work to. “Inevitably the life of a ballerina has to draw to a close at some point. Retiring felt hugely liberating and terrifying. I feel it is really important to have a support network around you. I think one of the main factors that I have noticed is how I had to put a structure in place for myself, as dancers we are often organised by the schedule that is put in place for us. Ultimately the drive, determination, discipline, experience and all the other life tools we have gained as dancers places us in good stead for the ‘outside’ world.” Joce Giles: Dancer to Learning and Participation Director Joce trained at the Arts Educational School, London and the Royal Ballet School, and became a founding member of the Peter Schaufuss Ballet before joining the Scottish Ballet. He then took up the role of Dance Development Officer at The Works, Cornwall before joining Rambert Dance Company as Head of Learning & Participation. Joce continues to work for Rambert Dance Company as Learning and Participation Director. While working full-time, Joce chose to study an MA. At the age of 27 Joce felt that he had taken his performing career as far as he could and made the decision to stop dancing. He was still passionate about dance and felt that there must be a way to put his experience as a dancer to use. “I think real life, on the job experience is a great way to learn but this should be combined with specific training to gain skills that are not developed through dancing such as IT, finance, and presentation skills etc. I have taken part in two mentoring programmes since I stopped dancing, which have been hugely beneficial and made a big impact on my development. I think everyone going through a career transition should do so with the support of a mentor.”
To find out more about how DCD empowers professional dancers to navigate a positive transition and to read more inspirational case studies visit the website www.thedcd.org.uk.

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ISTD Higher Level Teaching Qualifications
If you’re feeling inspired to take your teaching to the next level, find out more about our Level 6 Diploma in Dance Pedagogy and other higher level qualifications. The ISTD understands the importance of sustaining a lifelong career in dance teaching. So, if you have already completed your initial dance teacher training, or if you are a professional dancer looking for a career change, invest in your professional development through the ISTD’s advanced dance teacher training programme. One option is to follow the route of ISTD qualifications. The ISTD’s Licentiate and Fellowship are two highly regarded, internationally recognised advanced teacher training qualifications which build on the skills learnt in the ISTD’s initial teacher training and combine these with the knowledge and experience that come with practice as a teaching practitioner. The alternative option is with the portfolio of ISTD regulated qualifications. Through the ISTD’s partnership with Middlesex University and its Institute for Work Based Learning, ISTD trained dancers and teachers have the possibility to progress onto two Middlesex University validated awards, the BA Hons in Professional Practice and the MA in Professional Practice: Dance Technique Pedagogy. Alternatively, the ISTD’s Level 6 Diploma in Dance Pedagogy is a vocational dance teaching qualification regulated at Level 6 of the Qualifications and Credit Framework that will develop and refine your teaching skills within the context of your chosen dance style. These five qualifications offer a wide range of opportunities for anyone who holds an initial dance teacher qualification as well as professional dancers looking to change career or experienced dance teachers from other sectors. This portfolio is aimed at those interested in building on their initial teacher training, in gaining recognition as a teacher in the wider sector and in being able to transfer their skills across sectors. Visit www.istd.org/courses-and-training to find out more.
“As soon as I saw the details of the Diploma in Dance Pedagogy in DANCE magazine, I knew this was the course for me. I had been looking for a way of expanding my teaching skills as well as enhancing my qualifications. The course had to fit in with a busy work and home life as well. It was also very exciting to be one of the first to participate – a pioneer! Well, 13 months down the line and I can honestly say I have learnt a lot and my approach to teaching has changed (for the better). For those considering enrolling on the course, I would say if you really want to change your teaching for the better and learn a lot about yourself, go for it!” Penny Woodman, ISTD Level 6 Diploma in Dance Pedagogy student “This course has been a complete challenge for me, having never done anything like it before. It has definitely taken me out of my comfort zone but I have felt very privileged being taught and trained by some wonderful and inspiring teachers.” Rachel Starling, ISTD Level 6 Diploma in Dance Pedagogy student

“The ISTD understands the importance of sustaining a lifelong career in dance teaching”

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DANCE FEATURES

Speak to Your Pupils With Ease
Serena Greenslade’s tips on effective communication in class

W

ouldn’t it be wonderful if all dance teachers had to worry about was teaching dance?

Unfortunately, you also have to talk, and talk a lot. You have to speak to parents, children, schools, examiners and adult learners, to name but a few. Although we can often communicate efficiently by phone and email, if you’re on a dance floor, your voice is all you’ve got. Here are some tips on how to use your voice most effectively. Teaching as Performance Every time you go to work you are performing. You have to share your experience and knowledge with your pupils and you mustn’t let them become bored. Your voice must keep their interest. The way you talk influences the way other people think of you and therefore, how they react to you. If you are unsure of your own communication skills, listeners will assume (wrongly) that you are also unsure of your dance and your teaching. This doesn’t mean that all successful dance instructors are extroverts who love to talk, it just means that they know how to get the best from their voice when they need to. To be a good communicator, you must be as good at listening as you are at speaking. Listen to what your pupils are saying – it makes it easier to respond. You can’t give an intelligent answer if you don’t listen to the question. You need to be able to share your expertise with your students, and the way in which you use your voice will help you. You need to have a variety of power, pace and pitch in your voice in order to sound interesting. A slow monotonous voice will not motivate anyone. If you expect your dancers to perform with enthusiasm and energy, you must sound excited yourself. An important part of expressive speech is the use of your face. Children often find it difficult to tell from our words alone if we are serious, happy or angry. Consequently they need to be able to see your facial expression. When you’re talking to a child, make sure that it is the child you are talking to. This may seem obvious but the sound needs to be directed at them, not over their heads or down at the ground. Open your mouth to let the sound out – too many people try to talk with a closed mouth – and remember that the further away your dancers are, the more you will have to open it. To practice this you will need a mirror. We all imagine that we open our mouth a lot wider than we actually do. Try saying the following sentence out loud: Jive is a lively dance. For every ‘eye’ sound (as in Jive and lively) your mouth should be open wide enough to put three fingers vertically in your mouth! This is only applicable during practice – during everyday speech you should be able to put two fingers vertically in your mouth.
Above: Serena Greenslade (right) with a student

“To be a good communicator, you must be as good at listening as you are at speaking”
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Using Pauses Opening your mouth will also slow your speech down and one of the main criticisms of most people’s speech is that it is too fast. Everyone should pause after each new thought. After each new instruction for a step, you need to pause to let the learner take in what you have explained. You need to give the learner time to react; this continuous feedback will allow you to assess if they understand what you have just explained. Power to be Heard Having a powerful voice means don’t need to shout; you need to be heard. Teachers who have quiet, weak voices give the impression that they don’t want to be noticed and appear to think that what they have to say is of little consequence. A powerful voice can be achieved by practising humming. Humming exercises the resonators. Try saying the following sentence and hold all the ‘m’ sounds as humming: “My mummy made me dance the samba,” should sound like, “Mmmmmmy mmmmummmy mmmade mmme dance the sammmmba.” Find the Right Pitch Most nervous people speak with a high-pitched voice, as do angry people, so if you want to come across as confident and calm, lower the pitch a little. However, you still need to sound enthusiastic, so you will need to change the pitch, power and pace of important words and phrases. If you were to say, “that was a fantastic move,” you would want the word ‘fantastic’ to stand out so that the learner feels as though they have achieved something. Talking – and Listening – to Parents If you teach children, you will have to talk to parents and this is not always as easy as it could be. If you don’t want the parents to stay and watch, make it clear before the first lesson. However distracting some parents might be, listen to them when they are talking to you. Acknowledge what the parents are saying by nodding and smiling, make sure that you’re not just waiting for them to pause so that you can jump in with your ideas. Look at the parents and don’t turn away while you are listening; it gives a ‘don’t care’ impression. You might be able to listen and work at the same time, but it looks impolite. When you do answer, try to avoid using too much jargon; you may want to sound professional, but if they don’t understand you they’ll only ask more questions.

Adult Learners Again, it may sound obvious, but although you are in a pupil/ teacher situation, don’t treat the adults in the same way as you do the children. Treat them as your equal and remember that, unlike some of the children, adults who start later in life do not expect to become professional dancers. They are there for fun, exercise and companionship. These students are much more likely to engage in conversation and are likely to be much more critical of you, so make sure you explain carefully and speak clearly. Talking Over Music Unlike most other teachers, you will sometimes have to speak over music. This means your speech has to be particularly clear. Ends of words are most important, words like ‘point’, ‘feet’ and ‘head’ need to have the final consonant sounded by letting your tongue touch the roof of your mouth. The ‘l’ in words like ‘Ballroom’ and ‘heel’ also need to be heard. The ‘ing’ on the ends of words must not be shortened to ‘in’. If music is playing and you are not standing near to your pupil, remember to open your mouth wider to let the sound out and direct the words towards your pupil. Two Top Tips for Clear Speech If you have a habit of saying ‘um’, ‘like’ or ‘okay’ and you can’t seem to stop saying it, try thinking it instead. This will make your speech sound more clear and make you sound less indecisive. Exercise your lips and tongue just as you would any other part of your body. The simplest and easiest way is to make funny faces. Conclusion The best way to become a good communicator is to enjoy yourself. You know how to dance, you’ve had excellent teacher training so now go and share your experiences. Serena Greenslade

Serena Greenslade is a qualified and experienced elocution teacher. She qualified in Speech Training in 1994 and has been helping adults and children to speak clearly and confidently ever since. Her clients have included the NHS, Bournemouth University, and a wide range of medical professionals, managing directors, dance teachers and sports coaches, among many others.

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