Artist: Robert Connor, Dance Theatre of Ireland
Artist Assistant: Joan Donnelly
Following in the discipline of a regular warm-up, we start the session with breathing, and moving in a unison pattern of two-steps, elevating rhythms and simple stretching.
This warm-up is becoming a fixture in the class, and each time we do it, there is the opportunity to perfect the set movements and enhance the individual styling on the free-styling part of the song.
Today we added some new moves to the phrase that goes with a popular song, “Sorry” by Justine Beiber. The students expressed their satisfaction with learning new steps, and today we learned a “kick, step change” and a way to create ripples or waves (undulations) through the arms and full body. The gentle beat of the track invites a smoother, more fluid movement response, and lends itself to ripples, swings and twists, adding on to the “skate” that moves with a figure of 8.
The day’s target is to get the students making some of their own material and to culminate the “Fiesta” dance. The “making” session is preceded by a review and revising the hand jive movements from trios to duets. In this section the students must leave their individual places, skip an improvised path anywhere else in the room, and connect with one other who becomes their partner. They must memorise where in space and with whom they meet, in order to dance the simple phrase of handshake, bump and twirl. This sequence is repeated with a rhythmic hand sequence variation, with a second partner, with whom they will create their own material.
For the making, everyone is given the same task, to create a short sequence that is 4 x 8 beats long, and includes a turn, a jump, a change of level and some contact. What the specific moves are is up to them. They have many choices, to move in unison or not, to change places or spacing, to compliment or mirror. While all are working to create, Joan, Ms. Barry and I circulate, to help people who need a pointer, or just confirmation that what they are making is in the timeframe. There is no shortage of ideas, even some partnered lifts! We put these newly created sequences as the culmination of the Fiesta dance and they dance the entire piece quite independently!
Seeing their facility gives me a greater confidence to explore more ideas that can stretch their understanding of dance…that it works from other premises besides (or as well as) responding to music. And that the vocabulary-building of these first few sessions is also giving the students confidence in their own movement.