Tips

Loving Your Body: The Key to Enjoying Dance

Times are changing, and we as a dance society are slowly but surely moving away from the idea that the body is simply just a frame, and instead we are beginning to see the body as a whole. From the inside of our body which fuels, moves and supports us, to the outside of our body which allows us to express ourselves, while discovering and exploring all that life has to offer!

Loving the body, and treating it with kindness is the key to fully experiencing the joys of dance, as well as discovering the full capacity of your dance abilities. Knowing how to take care of your body is all about truly listening to yourself and your needs, from physical training to rest and nutrition!


Physical Training

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels.jpg

Remember that we all have uniquely different bodies, even if we can be somewhat “categorised”, our bodies are still entirely different from one another. Which is why it is important to give yourself the time to try out different dance styles and supplemental forms of physical training that allow you to reap the most benefits. Common forms of supplemental training that dancers turn to include Pilates, Yoga, Cross-Fit, Running, and Swimming. But have you ever thought about taking up Muay Thai Boxing, Stand-Up Paddle Boarding, Ice Skating, Rock Climbing, or maybe even joining a Trampoline Dodgeball team? By training the body through different types of physical activity, we are setting up the body to be more versatile in dance. We expose the body to unfamiliar movement patterns, rewire our muscle memory, and even target muscle groups that have never been touched! So instead of hitting the gym next time, think about trying a new form of physical training, and who knows you might surprise yourself!

Rest

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With all that talk on the importance of physical training, we sometimes forget that we need to let our bodies rest. Once again, the definition of rest can vary from person to person. Some of us need to let our bodies completely rest by avoiding all forms of physical activity. While others, may define ‘rest’ as being gently mobile throughout the day, doing light stretching or mobility sequences. It is important to know when to rest the body, to avoid overuse injuries. Dancers tend to need that extra rest reminder, as their determination to train and ‘push through’ is one that sometimes causes serious injuries overtime. Resting the body is the first step, but resting the mind also allows dancers to refresh and rejuvenate their ability to pick up choreography or combat those performance nerves.

Nutrition

It goes without saying that our daily diets are never one in the same. We all have different food preferences, tastes, and dietary restrictions. Of course, there are plenty of books, experts, television shows and articles that provide recommendations for a healthy diet. But as dancers, it is important to listen to your body. How does your body respond or react to different types of foods? How often do you need to fuel your body so that you can grand jeté all day? Ideally as dancers, we want to aim for foods that energize us, provide our body with nutrients so that we can use both our brains and our bodies, and of course food that tastes good! Don’t forget to bring your water bottle to class, because staying hydrated allows you to spin, leap and glide for hours on end. One reason why we dance is because it is part of the many joys of life, which is the same reason we love food too! For all the dance foodies out there, be sure to check our Dancers’ Cookbook page!

Give yourself the biggest hug and learn how to find the right balance of training, resting and fuelling your body. Everybody deserves a little TLC! So be patient and take the time to respect the beauty of your uniqueness and individuality. I don’t know about you, but I am ready to treat myself to some dark chocolate, a couple of minutes of shavasana, and maybe even try out tree trekking!

Photo Credits: Dancewear Centre, and Bruce Mars from Pexels

 

What’s in a Contemporary Dancer’s Bag? With the National Dance Company Wales

People often look up to big name singers, athletes, and movie stars, but for every young aspiring dancer out there, it’s a different story. Looking up to professional dancers, renowned choreographers, and dancing legends, these are our idols. Besides our interest in a professional dancer’s training routine and performances, we’re also curious about the little things, like a professional dancer’s favourite warm-up tune, or even what’s inside a dancer’s bag!

Unzipping our most burning questions for the dancer-on-the-go, Hong Kong Dance Moms (HKDM) sat down with three of the company dancers from the National Dance Company Wales while they were on tour in Hong Kong as part of ArtisTree Selects: Moving Pieces. Sporting our exclusive HKDM dance bags, dancers Cyril Durand-Gasselin, Marine Tournet and Julia Rieder gave us an inside look into their dance bags, sharing their invaluable rehearsal, performance and preparation tips! 


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Cyril Durand-Gasselin

Greeting us with a warm and friendly smile was Cyril Durand-Gasselin, who has been a full-time dancer with the company since 2017. Having recently performed in the National Dance Company Wales’ Double-Bill Performance in Hong Kong, Cyril moves with flawless precision and a presence that can fill an entire stage. From discussing his own supplemental dance training to advocating hydration, Cyril gave us some insightful tips.

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What do you put in your dance bag for a rehearsal? And for a performance?

C.DG.: “For rehearsal, of course my dance clothes, just because I like to wear city clothes when I’m outside. I have my bottle of water, it’s really important. I have knee pads, it’s not the protective ones. I mean I could have this, but it’s in case during the day you have a weak knee, it can be really useful to use it.

I have a notebook that’s really important in the creative process, or during rehearsal, if I need to take notes or just find ideas for myself. I have two tennis balls in socks for massaging. I also have a cereal bar, because of course during the day you need some time to get energy back if you’re feeling a bit tired. 

Cyril Bag

I have my headphones which is useful if you just want to have a moment for yourself to listen to music without disturbing anyone. Or if during a rehearsal, I’m asked to work on something on my own, I’ll use my headphones on the side to work on my section in the piece of choreography. I have my glasses, but I wear contact lens because it’s really hard to dance with glasses. There is some paracetamol in case I have a headache, though I just need to make sure that I don’t take it before I go and dance, because when you have pain in your body it’s better to feel it so that you don’t get injured more. For performance, I have my jock strap and my makeup, and that’s the only difference”.

Cyril

What’s the one item in your bag that you could not live without, and why?

C.DG.: “It’s my bottle of water, because I think it’s really important. You always need to drink water”. 

What’s your best packing hack for when you are travelling on tour?

C.DG.: “I wouldn’t say I have a specific one, I just fold my clothes correctly and I try to put my pants on the side, and all the t-shirts on the other side. And in the center, all my makeup and toiletries. And because I like to do yoga, I’ll put my yoga mat in there which is quite hard to fit, but when placed lengthwise it works!”

Cyril interview

What advice do you have for those who want to be a professional dancer?

C.DG.: “My best advice would be to take care of your body, because this is the tool you’ll use all your life if you want to be a dancer. So it’s really important to eat healthy and drink a lot of water. But also to think physically about balancing the body. For example, when doing a certain choreographic movement, most of the time you won’t do right and left. So you end up working one side of the body more than the other. Before or after class, stretch or do some strengthening to get the body balanced. I’m using yoga for example, so I think yoga is a really nice tool to do that and to centre and balance the body”.


Marine

Marine Tournet

A freelance dancer and former full-time dancer with the company, Marine Tournet’s humble, kind and optimistic comportment was absolutely contagious! Creating disjunct movements with her body, Marine’s movement style has an utterly unique and inspirational flair. Highlighting the importance of having a healthy and positive mind in dance, Marine gave us her personal life mantras that have taken her far in her dance career.

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What do you put in your dance bag for a rehearsal? And for a performance?

M.T.: “For rehearsal, I always have deodorant because it’s important. Also in the U.K., it’s always important to have an umbrella and tissues as well. I always take this little towel to wipe up the sweat after class or during rehearsal. I have this pouch of medicine, and tiger balm incase I injure myself or if I am sore. This is a foot roller to massage the feet either before or after rehearsal. This is a theraband to stretch or exercise the legs, depending on what you need. I have an extra t-shirt in case I’m too sweaty and need to change, and also a pair of shorts and a pair of trousers. Depending on the work we do, I need to change sometimes. This is a foam roller, usually I just leave it in the company studio, so I don’t need to bring it everyday. But it’s really nice to roll over the muscles, the legs and the back. 

And I always have my ipod with me, I don’t actually use it when we rehearse like some people do to warm-up. I actually use it more for auditions to focus on myself and be in my bubble and centre. But for a normal warm-up in the company, I don’t really use it. 

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I always have my water bottle, it’s very important. For a performance, the only difference would be bringing my makeup and hair kit. I also bring my warm-up shoes to wear between rehearsals and the show, and in the evening I will wear them to keep my feet warm”.

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What’s the one item in your bag that you could not live without, and why?

M.T.: “I think it would be my hairbands, because it would be a problem if I didn’t have any!”


What’s your best packing hack for when you are travelling on tour?

M.T.: “I would like to have one, because I don’t have one. I just squish everything into my luggage and sit on it”.

Marine’s Take Care Tip: To help dancers with any pain or soreness, Marine recommends macadamia oil mixed with a few drops of wintergreen essential oil.

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What advice do you have for those who want to be a professional dancer?

M.T.: “To always be positive. Even when you go through a hard time, especially if you get injured, you can get depressed very easily. Especially if you see your friends who keep dancing, and you come to class to watch them on the side. It can be a very hard time, but just know that it is going to go away soon and you’ll recover. And you can learn a lot through watching as well, so it’s important to watch. 

Be a sponge. Whenever the teacher gives a correction, even if it’s not for you, just always take it for yourself as if it was for you, because that’s how you learn. Just keep watching everyone, and taking everyone’s corrections

Watch videos! I spent my life watching videos on Youtube when I was younger and wanted to be a dancer. I watched a lot of ballet videos, because I wanted to be a ballet dancer. I just watched a lot of things and went to see shows, to learn about the dance world outside; all the choreographers, all the styles, it’s very important to know and learn about everything. 

Be curious, even if it’s not dance related, it will always be beneficial to maybe learn about acting or martial arts or music… or anything! You will find out later that it can relate to dance in a way that you didn’t know before. So stay curious and learn! Be generous, be yourself and be honest with yourself and with the people around you. The only competition is with yourself, it’s not with the others. Believe in yourself, and trust your body and its knowledge. Trust your body, because it knows if you can keep pushing or not. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and work with them intelligently”.


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Julia Rieder

Having danced full-time with NDCWales for the last two years, Julia Rieder creates a serene atmosphere with her poise, maturity, and sweet smile. Moving fluidly as though submerged in water, Julia dances with such tranquility, clarity and flow. Creating a checklist of things to bring in our dance bag may be one thing, but Julia sheds light on the most important thing to bring to rehearsal, an open mind and body.

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What do you put in your dance bag for a rehearsal? And for a performance?

J.R.: “In my dance bag, I’ll never go to class without my water bottle. A reusable one, not plastic. I have tennis balls for massage. I have some tiger balm to heat the muscles. And for class, I bring a little snack for breaks. And then the essentials, some tissue, some plasters. I have a little pocket where I put all the urgent stuff. Some hair pins, phone, headphones, charger, and knee pads just in case we do lots of floorwork”.

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What’s the one item in your bag that you could not live without, and why?

J.R.: “I’d probably say water or a snack. Just because you couldn’t go even half a day without fuel”.


What’s your best packing hack for when you are travelling on tour?

J.R.: “I usually roll my clothes to make more space in my luggage. It’s quite basic, just monitor the amount of dance clothes you need for class as well as some change of clothes because you will sweat a lot. But the usual things, and some city clothes as well just in case we visit some sites and do not want to look too casual”.

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What advice do you have for those who want to be a professional dancer?

J.R.: “It’s lots of hard work, but don’t overthink too much because a lot can happen by luck. It takes some luck to do everything you wish for. 

Just enjoy the ride, because there are so many occasions to connect with people and great audiences as well. Enjoy every night, and take what’s there for you as if it were the last time. 

It makes your day full. And staying open and balanced”.

julia interview

So now that the NDCWales has created the ultimate checklist for your next dance bag packing mission, be sure to pass on the torch and let the next generation of dancers know about your own personal life hacks in dance! Until next time, that’s a zip!

A Special Thanks to the National Dance Company Wales and ArtisTree!

The Big Leap: Studying Dance Abroad

Dance itself is an adventure, so it’s only natural that as dancers we like to challenge ourselves! It starts by challenging yourself to jump higher, to do more pirouettes, deepen your stretches, or to take on a new role in a dance number. The list goes on, and as you accomplish each milestone, you find yourself in search of something more challenging or something deeper. And maybe, just maybe it’s stepping outside your borders and challenging yourself to learn dance in an entirely new country, with new people, teachers, cultures and languages. Here’s our tips on the big leap!

 

Where to go?

Photo by Luis Fernandes from Pexels.jpg

No matter where you decide to go, only you can gage your level of comfortability or willingness to take risks. So it’s great to challenge yourself by studying abroad, but you also don’t want to make it an impossible dream. Here are some questions to consider:


  • Are you fluent in the country’s official language?

If not, it’s important to find out the language in which courses are taught and what type of language qualifications are required to study there. But it could be a great opportunity for learning a new language or brushing up on some rusty language skills.


  • What area of dance would you like to study?

Speak to any graduate in the workforce today, and they will likely tell you that their current occupation is not what they actually majored in. However, many graduates can attest to the fact that they have applied many useful skills and knowledge attained from their past studies.

There are four major areas of study in Dance; Performance, Dance Education, Dance Science, and Dance Studies. The programs offered are usually dependent on the current market in dance and the arts within that country or region. So make sure to do your research on the schools that offer the programs you are interested in. All of these can lead to some great career opportunities in the arts!

 

  • What’s the day to day life like when you are studying in the program?

Work your way through the grapevine and speak with some graduates or current students of the school you are interested in. Or better yet, take a campus tour if it’s offered!

 

Time is of the Essence

Depending on how long you would like to study abroad, there are various study paths you can explore.

Short and Sweet

If you just want a bit of a taste of what it’s like to study dance in a different city, then make a trip of it! During a long holiday period, join a 1-4 week dance intensive abroad! Dance intensives are usually offered during major holiday periods in that country. So search up Winter, Summer, Spring Break, or even Chinese New Year dance intensives that might be offered overseas.

The Honorary Local

Exchange programs are an excellent way to dive into a new city, culture, and dance learning environment without making the commitment of a lifetime (maybe a bit melodramatic, as we all know that nothing in dance is forever). When considering dance at a school in your home country, look into the types of exchange programs they offer. Part of the beauty of exchange programs is simpler logistics, such as visas and accommodation arrangements, which can be easily arranged because of the length of the programs which are generally one semester long (3-4 months). However, not just anyone can join an exchange program, there are usually grade requirements, certain credits that must be met, and it can cost a pretty penny. But doing your research and working some extra shifts in the summer can totally be worth this experience of a lifetime!

 

I Pledge My Allegiance to The Stage

Wherever the stage goes, I go. Sound familiar? If you ever dreamed of running away with the circus, you might just have what it takes to make the big leap and study dance full-time in another country.

For those who choose to study abroad in a full-time dance program, it is not only a matter of studying overseas, but following your dream in dance…which also happens being a million miles away. With the choice of following your dream, making your own mark, immersing yourself into a new culture and discovering a whole new world, comes the sacrifice of leaving behind your friends and family back home only to visit them one or maybe three times a year. Sometimes it helps to make a list of pros and cons, and more often than not you just gotta go with your gut and what your heart is telling you. It is a big commitment, but it’s not forever. Most importantly, you’ll never regret it. Because hey, at the end of the day, we’re studying dance and pursuing a career that challenges us to be creative, passionate and expressive. What a way to live!

 

The Nitty-Gritty

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Before you take the big leap, make sure to consider these last few questions. Yeah, they may not be all that fun, but they are necessary.

 

  • How do you apply for a student visa in that country?

  • How much is tuition, boarding/rent, and the general cost of living?

  • Will you need to work, and if so can you get a working visa?

  • Does the school offer scholarships?

 

It’s a lot of work to take the big leap and study dance abroad. But nothing ever stopped a dancer from learning a grand jeté or learning the meaning of “the show must go on”! So savor every moment, work hard, and pursue your dreams to the fullest!



Photo Credits: Main Photo by The Dancewear Centre , Content Photos by Luis Fernandes, rawpixel.com, and Beto Franklin from Pexels



Dance Away the Summer Slump

Keeping Up Your Dance Training Over the Summer Holidays

  

The school year can build up a lot of stress, so it’s only natural that we use our summer holiday to relax and recharge. But beware of the summer slump! As dancers, the skills we trained so hard for during the year can deteriorate if we don’t do any supplementary body training over the summer.

It is possible to take a break from dancing while still exercising the mind and body to maintain your skills. Here, we’ve worked up a list of ideas to help incorporate some basic training to target your body coordination, endurance, balance, flexibility and last but not least, your creativity and artistry.

 

Body Coordination

Firstly, raise your right hand, and now your left. You still got it! Jokes aside, here are a couple of ways to incorporate some body coordination exercises into your summer holiday.

  • The Classic Catch: Whether you have a dog, or happen to be outdoors with your family, there’s always time for a classic throw and catch with a ball. If this is too easy, challenge yourself by training your non-dominant hand. The classic catch doesn’t always have to be with a ball, you can always spice up your beach outings with a frisbee!

  • Hula-Hoop: Bring a little island breeze of Hawaii into your summer by picking up the hula-hoop! This childhood pastime is truly beneficial for all ages. What may have seemed “easy” as a child, is actually harder than you think! The hula-hoop involves the entire body, and there is a lot of micromanaging that goes on to keep that hula-hoop circling around. Plus, you can experiment with all the ways of playing with a hula-hoop; around your ankle, your wrist, the possibilities are endless!

 

Endurance

The portion of training that most of us dread is endurance, because it implies time, sweat and effort. Endurance is important for dancers, as it allows us to perform our best over long periods of time. Check out these ways of keeping the blood flowing, and the lungs happy!

  • Splash!: Who doesn’t love to jump into the pool, ocean or lake during the summer? Have a pool party, and swim with your friends. Of course, it may require a couple of races or playing games like water frisbee or badminton to really get your heart rate up.

  • Skipping Rope: Work on your double dutch skills by skipping rope. Not only is this good for your coordination and balance, it is also great for your endurance.

  • Trampoline: Feeling weightless for a millisecond is indescribably fun. Plus nowadays, you can go to an indoor trampoline gym that offers dodgeball amongst many other activities.

 

Balance

We all love to prove that we have good balance. I’m not talking about work-life balance, though that’s important too. We’re talking about working on ankle stability, the core and proprioception.

  • What’s SUP?: Stand-up paddle boarding is a summertime favourite. And the ultimate reward for your good balance is not getting your hair wet! Paddle your way to new views, whilst working on your core, legs, arms, and of course your balance.

  • Standing in Sand: Find your way to the beach, and try out some balancing Yoga poses on the sand. The uneven and soft surface is a great way to work on your ankle stability. And if that’s too easy, try closing your eyes while you balance and enjoy the sounds of the waves!

 

Flexibility

There are some obvious contenders for working on your flexibility over the summer, like yoga, or well…yoga. But here are some other ways to incorporate a little stretch into your routine!

  • Massage: Summer is for relaxing, so rejuvenate those muscle fibres by treating yourself to a massage. Whether visiting a registered massage therapist, or investing in some at-home massage equipment (foam rollers, foot massagers, etc.), a massage allows the body to open up, creating space so that we can start stretching and moving more effectively.

  • Aqua Stretch: Stretching in the pool can be a lot of fun, as we take away the strain of gravity on our joints. The ledge makes for a wonderful ballet barre or wall to help you create resistance in your stretches.

Creativity and Artistry

There’s plenty of summertime activities that can boost your creative eye. Here’s just a few suggestions.

  • Snap that!: We live in a society obsessed with photography, so why not snap some fun summer shots? Underwater cameras like the GoPro are great for capturing some captivating photos of sea creatures, or even your friends doing fun and fancy poses under the sea! Work towards creating a summer album, of all your most memorable adventures.

  • Outdoor Doodles: Whether you are going to the beach, forest, or park bring along a sketchbook and some pencils, or watercolour paints. Let nature inspire you, and start creating your masterpiece! If this sounds like too much work, then find a nice tarmac or sidewalk and start creating some chalk art.

 

There’s no excuse now to fall into a summer slump, because we are always surrounded by plenty of options and things to do! By experiencing new forms of physical activity and summer adventures, we are enhancing both our versatility in dance as well as our artistic thinking. Enjoy the rest of your summer, and don’t forget to add a little spark!

Photo Credit: Dancewear Centre Canada