Glenageary Killiney NS 2nd Class, Artist Robert Connor, Teacher Nicola Cummins, Final Dance Session – 22 March, 2019

For the final dance session, we met at Dance Theatre of Ireland’s Centre for Dance.  We did a warm-up and performed all the dances we had learned.  It was an exciting culmination of all the time we had spent together.  For the entire process Ms. Cummins had the students reflecting on their experience through their diaries.  Here is a digest of their memories.

 

2nd Class have been very lucky to have had the opportunity to work with Robert Connor, a contemporary dancer, from Dance Theatre Ireland as part of the Artist in Residence program funded by DLR Arts Council.  He came to us twice a week for an hour and a half for 16 sessions.

 

  • At the start I didn’t have a clue what we were doing and then at the end I was a brilliant dancer. I was really happy.  Harley
  • I learned more than I ever knew before. I am fit now.  We got a new friend – Robert.   Tamina
  • I had fun with Robert. My favourite dance was ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling’.  I had fun.   Hugo
  • I remember I was a bit embarrassed, now I’m not. I loved it so much.   Mimi
  • At the start I was very scared, now I’m not a bit. I loved it so much.    Robert
  • I loved all the dances. I loved going to the dance theatre.  It was really fun and fit!   Jessie
  • The thing I really liked about it was it was really fun and lots of good exercise.  Luke
  • My favourite dance was ‘Uptown Funk’. It was a lot of exercise.  Our dance teacher was called Robert.  I loved it.  I wish it did not have to end!   Millie
  • Dancing with Robert was fun and he is brilliant at dancing. I hope he comes back again.   Tillman
  • I really loved the way that every few days we learned a new dance. It really keeps your heart pumping!   James
  • I think it was very good fun. My favourite dance was Titanium.  Felix
  • I am amazed how much I have learned since the first day.  Dusan
  • My favourite dance was Titanium and I hope Robert will come back again!    Callum
  • At first I didn’t really like it, but by the second lesson I thought it was incredible and I improved so much. I couldn’t believe how fun it was.  I had many favourite dances, but the one I really liked was ‘Can’t stop the Feeling’.  Johnny
  • I loved doing the dances. I wasn’t very good at the start, but at the end I got better!  I loved doing all the dances with Robert Connor.   Daniel

 

  • When we started I wasn’t very good at dancing, but Robert helped me to be good and on your feet. So we went to his dance studio.  It was a great experience.   Aimee
  • It was crazy to look back at all the dances we did. We made a new friend Robert! Sebastian
  • The first dance was ,La Fiesta, then Uptown Funk, then Faith. My favourite song was Titanium. Hannah McClure
  • I learned about respect, kindness, kinesphere and movement. My favourite was ‘Titanium’ and I had a great experience.    Daisy
  • It was fun and my favourite dance was ‘Can’t stop the Feeling’.  Rhys
  • My favourite memory was when we learned ‘La Fiesta’. It was fun!  Lochlan
  • My favourite memory was when we gave Robert his card. I loved all the dancing!   Hannah Mc Connell
  • One of my best memories was when we were in groups and one person at a time would do a dance and the rest of the group would copy. I really enjoyed dancing and my favourite dance was ‘Faith’. Gina
  • I liked dancing very much because we all got fitter.  Denise
  • I was scared at first, but then I was happy when we did it. It was the funnest thing ever and my favourite dance was ‘Faith’.  Lily Rose
  • My Favourite dance was ‘Faith’.  Caragh
  • I remember the last time we went to the studio. I was sad after the last class.  But we were luckier than ever to have Robert.  That’s all that matters!  Bye Robert.  Jasmine
  • I loved dancing with Robert. My favourite dance was ’Titanium’  It was really fun!    Matthew

Glenageary Killiney NS 2nd Class, Artist Robert Connor, Teacher Nicola Cummins, Seventh Dance Session – 11 February, 2019

“Today we learned a sequence for Uptown Funk:

Attitudey bop

head nod

funky guitar 2 step

walk forward, back, right and left

knees and arms – point on “city”

sweep, hug, kiss

melt – 4 beats, walk 4 beats  x4

A and B move and hold for 4  x6

all move

1,2 double thumbs

touch, touch arms shake

Low, middle, high stop”

Lochlan

 

Glenageary Killiney NS 2nd Class, Artist Robert Connor, Teacher Nicola Cummins, Fourteenth Dance Session – 13 March, 2019

The objective for today was to work a bit more with the song “Titanium” and to introduce a new song as at the last session the students expressed interest in both ideas. So we did the Warm Up straight through and in fact it was really impressive how everyone was moving together. In taking this sequence first thing every day throughout the residency as a practice, the whole class is moving very well together, and with confidence. We also did some slow stretching squeezing circling and waving and followed that with the shoulder circle, parallel swings and long lunge stretches.

I took a moment to review how we have analysed the structure of the song Titanium, and to recognise the beat even in the parts where it isn’t as prominent. We worked with moving in a very slow, large, sustained quality for the first section of the music and then for the second section, to continue to move sustained, and large and very slightly faster, but still in slow range. In contrast to this we tried moving with staccato quality for the very rhythmic chorus – moving broken, sharp, strong and rhythmically on the beat. Like the energy of ‘punch’, each movement is quick but also stops, change the body part that moves and change direction, e.g. high, low wide, forward, behind. Not having to memorize the movements, but be clear, change body parts and be rhythmic.

We tried this with the music, the structure of which meant we cycled through each stage several times. So we were changing the tempo and energy of the dance relative to the music.
Once the students got the hang of this, we went into pairs, with an A and a B. Both took a starting shape standing that is open, with lots of space. With the B holding their shape absolutely still, the A moves in a very slow sustained quality around over under their partner’s shape, for 16 beats, and then they reverse roles. They switch again moving slightly faster and finally moving fast staccato on the beat in very close proximity to their partner. What was amazing to watch was their concentration and fluidity in slow motion, and the stillness of partner who was holding very still, which also allowed the moving person to really move in their partners space shapes. When they progressively moved faster they still had an acute sense of this attention to the space. It was also exciting how their movement changed in energy with the music in a very clear progression into the solid beat. We then divided the pairs into two groups and they danced the whole song through a second time with only half the pairs moving at a time so they could watch one another.

After the water break we started on a new dance, to ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling’ by Justin Timberlake. It’s too much to describe all the movements, but what I will say is the ability of everyone to ‘pick up’ the dance was remarkable. What would have taken more explanation and repetition, for example learning the first dance ‘La Fiesta’, today took much less of both. In one moment everyone moves to a different place while turning, a rolling grapevine, then strikes a shape. This challenges their use of space, quick decision making – how to navigate through the changing gaps between each other when everyone is moving and turning – but how they did this today demonstrated how much they have grown in their skills and abilities to navigate space while dancing.

Glenageary Killiney NS 2nd Class, Artist Robert Connor, Teacher Nicola Cummins, Thirteenth Dance Session – 11 March, 2019

Today before we started our warm-up we connected our voice – with expanding and stretching and then shrinking and squeezing – going from a low voice to a high as we expanded out and from a high voice too low as we contracted. Then we did the How Deep Is Your Love warm up and just danced it through without any prompts. Everyone is moving together with far more unity as the weeks have progressed. We then did some stretching and balance and reviewed the wrap swing with the simple forward swing, which we then made into an inverted jump.

Today we looked at the song Titanium; not everyone was familiar with the song so we played it once through and I just asked everyone to listen and how they felt like moving to it – to see what kind of movements the music prompted in them. When it had played all the way through we then just briefly talked about some of the ways that people felt like moving – jumping, stomping, moving smoothly – and we spoke about parts of the music that was easier to feel a continuous movement quality and other parts that the beat was very prominent. We listened again to this smooth vs more rhythmic response, and we then looked at the structure of the music and counted the bars of each section so that we could identify how long a section of the song would be before changing to the next. We identified two contrasting qualities – smooth and sharp – in musical terms you can think of legato and staccato as contrasting qualities. I proposed that because the song had been suggested by the class that we work together to make a dance of their own making and to begin this process I suggested that contrast would be one way of moving between smooth and sharp – unbroken smooth movement and then showing the beat with sharper movement.

We spend some time improvising using “mirroring” as a structure to be together in pairs so that one person was essentially leading a movement and the other being their copy. I suggested moving smoothly, large and big for the first section and then when it goes into the chorus that they change the moving quality to showing the Beat and for there to be a clear contrast between one and the other. It was harder to sustain the smooth quality. Nicola observed as well that in some pears the smooth quality was very very evident, and in another pair of boys the mirroring and the Rhythmic quality was very clear.

In the last part of the class today we revisited the “low dance” and the first dance we did which was “La Fiesta” and even though we had it done either of these dances for several weeks they recalled and performed both pieces well.

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Glenageary Killiney NS 2nd Class, Artist Robert Connor, Teacher Nicola Cummins, Twelvth Dance Session – 8 March, 2019

“We learned a new swinging dance.  I loved it.  It was quite easy.  After a quick break we danced to ‘Faith’.  We put our own phrase into the dance.  We only have 4 lessons left.”      Jessie

Before we did the warm-up we arranged ourselves in the space and then played a brief exercise on changing places, whereby one person at a time could move to another space and whomever was nearest to them had then had to move to another space. So there was a kind of knock on effect of one person moving, changing space causing someone else to have to move to another place and it meant that everyone ended up in a different place than they originally selected.

We did our warm up routine and our stretch squeeze and long stretch. We then spent time on a new swing sequence which utilises the second position (wide stance) that they’ve been practicing. It involves turning and twisting, with loose arms that wrap the body, so we call it a “twist wrap”. By emphasising the use of their eyes to make sure they see fully around them, they can self check that they are doing it correctly. It’s a combination of 4 twist swings and a rolling grapevine followed by a simple parallel swing, where the arms lead a full forward bend and return up. We talked about momentum being the kinetic energy of an object in Motion and how we can use momentum to make a dance more exciting.

With then reconstructed and worked further on the “Faith” choreography with the view to finishing the dance and incorporating their compositions into the choreography once everyone had time to practice and or revise and make changes as needed. We went from the beginning of the song and incorporated their compositions into the structure of choreography , finishing the song with the big “TA DA!”

Before we finished for the day we took a moment to talk about how to approach the last four lessons. They’re still very interested in seeing can we do some dance to the song “Titanium” and they are also interested in revisiting some of the dance as we have done so far. Nicola and I have agreed that the last session of the residency the students will come once again to the Dance Theatre of Ireland studio for the grand finale.

Glenageary Killiney NS 2nd Class, Artist Robert Connor, Teacher Nicola Cummins, Eleventh Dance Session – 4 March, 2019

“We learned about movement and phrase. We put 4 movements together to make a phrase.  Our groups movements were cross arms, jump arms, fist cross, boneless, shaky hands and wavey arms.”    Jasmine

We started again with the warm up to How Deep Is Your Love and then and then into our stretching sequence.

We spent time going over the set phrase to Faith particularly practicing the simplicity of being with the rhythm in the two-step and then adding the shoulders with the one, two, one,two,three rhythm. This same rhythm carries on into walking the figure of eight and then the rhythm changes for the quick Grapevine throw movement.

I wanted the students to begin working on making their own compositions in a process of working together in small groups. I discussed with Nicola how best to divide them whether to self-select or randomly assign the groups and we agreed to do it randomly. So we had everyone line up in one long line and with the all the boys together at one end of the line in the girls at the other and then I asked everyone to close their eyes and with a tap on the shoulder each person received a number between 1 and 7. Then we grouped the ones together, the twos together, the threes together etc so that we had 7 mixed groups. We made sure that each group had adequate space.

We first had the students take turns in their groups, each one being a leader and the others copying, their movement so that in each group each person had a chance to lead and suggest their movement.

I took a moment to work with one group to demonstrate to everyone how to consider making a sequence of their own movement and also to consider how they might put it in the space. We started with one person’s movement and made sure everybody could do that person’s movement. Then went on to the second and the third and the fourth, each contributing a movement that we practiced until they could perform all of the movements one after the other in sequence.

We then looked at how each of the movements could move differently in space starting in a line and then they moved into a circle; in the circle they moved in toward the centre and out again and then they went around in the circle with the final movement. So we had made a composition of four movements and each had a different spacing.

The groups worked together really well. All the groups came up with movement and shared it amongst them so that they could all perform the movement of each other in a sequence. At the close I encourage them to find a short name or tag for each of their movements and to write them in the sequence so that they would have a way to help remember them.

The act of writing actually helps the memory.

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Glenageary Killiney NS 2nd Class, Artist Robert Connor, Teacher Nicola Cummins, Tenth Dance Session – 1 March, 2019

We started with the warm up, going straight through it, and then stretching your own way and with the long yoga type stretches. Then we reviewed what we had learnt on Monday of the first moves of the song “Faith”. We looked at what it means to be clear in movement and to be on the beat, since these movements are very rhythmically connected with the music.

After the water break we spent time looking at musical structure of the song, the measures of each part or of the song, and how to recognise the number of measures for each part. So in this case there is an introduction of 4 measures; there’s the first lyrics which has six measures of 4. The chorus also has six measures of 4. It repeats the structure with a set of lyrics, followed by the chorus again. There is then an 11 measure break before repeating the chorus twice and on the second repetition of the chorus there are an extra two measures before the finale.

We then divided all the students into 7 groups of 4 people each, randomizing that by having them lineup and count off in sevens. I explained that each group would have a chance to make their own four measure phrase. The idea being that each person in the group had a chance to contribute their own movement of four beats and as a way to begin appreciating each other’s movement and helping each other remember we spent time with copying so that each person got to have a turn to copy. So each person got a turn to lead and the other three copied. This was also introduced as a method in helping as a group to remember of what each of them did improvising.

Glenageary Killiney NS 2nd Class, Artist Robert Connor, Teacher Nicola Cummins, Ninth Dance Session – 25 February, 2019

As it was the first day back after the break we talked through our regular warm up to refresh our memories and then danced it through. We went on to stretching, squeezing, circling and waving in our own way and then the deep stretches to “Heal Me”.

Today I asked whether they would like to review some of the dances we have done already or learn something new, and the majority wished to learn something new. So today I introduced the song “Faith”, by Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande, from soundtrack of the animated musical film “Sing”.
We started by focusing on the Rhythm which is a 1, 2, 1,2,3 or slow, slow, quick quick quick and we started with shoulders that raise the right, left and right twice and then the opposite. We added the stepping to follow this rhythm with the two step, once to the right, once to the left and a double two step to the right and then same again to the left. This is followed by a walking a figure of eight pattern which the children were able to see very clearly because there is a blue figure of eight on the carpet just outside the door of the hall. Each side of the Figure 8 is stepped around in a 1, 2, 1,2,3 to get all the way around one side and then the other side. Then there’s a quick Grapevine to the right with a throw on four and then to the left and then 3 shapes of their choice – high, crossed, and medium/wide. It then goes into the chorus and each person gets to move their own way moving forward for 4 beats, back for 4 beats, dancing high for 4, dancing low for 4, a quick Grapevine with a clap lifting under the knee and to the left and then one big pose or freeze. We practice each of these parts with slowly and without music to try and ingrain the neuromuscular pathway and then we did a few times with music.

We spent the later part of the session improvising across the room having lined up in groups of 4 and using a piece of music they had chosen – “Firework” by Katy Perry. Initially skipping on the beat adding their own arms, changes of direction. We then added the idea of skipping for 4 and then changing the texture in the body as though you hit a wall of jelly so our movement went to a smooth slow thick texture for 8 beats and then resume skipping to the other side.

This change of quality and time was a strong example of contrast and how the imagination can feed into the many ways that they body can move and change instantaneously.

Glenageary Killiney NS 2nd Class, Artist Robert Connor, Teacher, Nicola Cummins, Third Dance Session – 28 January, 2019

“Today we learned to make music by clapping and stomping.  It is called Body Percussion.  We all did our own signature dance.  Mine was the splits.”                              Jessica

 

At the start of the class I introduced “Body Percussion”, in a “call and response” format.  Using stomps and clapping, I made a 4 beat rhythm, and the students repeated it after me.  I repeated each rhythm 4 times and then changed to another rhythm.  It has an amazing unifying effect, as repeating the beat requires listening…it’s very apparent when we are together…or not.

Warm up.  We started the day with a warm-up sequence, building up 2-steps, grapevine, tendu’s, high marches and long side stretches and finishing with a moment of improvising an a big pose on the final note of the music.  This will become part of each day, an opening “practice” designed to energise and bring each student into their own body, building awareness, melding movement, breathing and music together.  We follow this with a series of circling movements, of shoulders, arms, in circles and full-body swings; as well as balances and deep stretches.

Unison / Individual. We review the La Fiesta phrase, and add to it with choreography for the “intro” section at the start of the dance.   This involves listening through a pause in the music, and timing an amazing jump from facing back to the front,  and landing on the beat at low level.  They Improv/freestyle from small to large, as though turning up the volume.  The dance includes doing the whole phrase twice, four shapes, 8 beats skipping to another location, meeting your partner, hand shake, bump, skip around in partners, and skip back to your original place.  Each student must memorize your new place in space, who you are with, getting there in just the right amount of time, dance together on the beat, and return to original place.

Original / Copy.  Signature. Circle improv.  Each person moves their own way, in an individual way, much as each person’s signature is very unique to themselves.  Dancing for 8 beats, others copy trying to be as accurate as possible. Emphasised original movement, not “off the shelf” i.e that had been learned from internet; e.g. the floss. goes from one person to the next without dropping a beat.  Many did movement that went to the floor.  Jumps, turns, gestures.

Movement / Stillness. Across the floor. Skipping on the beat, any arms, lots of different arms, changing facing – then added hold a shape for 4 beats.

 

Glenageary Killiney NS 2nd Class, Artist Robert Connor, Teacher Nicola Cummins, Second Dance Session – 25 January, 2019

“We learned more of the dance La Fiesta.  We were tired, thirsty, hot, happy and hungry when it was over.  Most of us really liked it and we can’t wait to do it again!”    Hugo

Warm up  and Stretch sequence.  We did the warm-up to “How Deep Is Your Love?” by Calvin Harris.  It takes us through a series of steps and stretches that we will do each day, imparting simple technique, and with repetition students can grow in depth in the sequence.   This is followed by some deeper stretches and balances.  We talked briefly about “Kinesphere”, the space within which each person moves.

La Fiesta – We reviewed the first dance, and all the movements, which consists of the whole sequence twice, followed by four shapes, which is where we ended the first day.  I introduced skipping 8 beats, everyone on their own pathway, weaving through room, going to a different location.  At the end of the 8 skips each person partners with someone you find there; right hands hand shake twice, bump right hips twice, join right elbows and skip round together 4 beats, then skip back to your original place.  Then everyone had to memorise your partner, and where you meet them, be there on time, dance short sequence together, and find you own place again.  The traveling pathways are not set, each student has to negotiate the space as they go, non making any contact with others along the way, and get back in time to start the sequence in unison again.

Across the floor.  This part of the class moves from one end of the room to the other, traversing the space with different ideas.  Students move in lines of 4 at a time, with the next group starting 4 or 8 beats after the group ahead.  We start with simply moving on the beat, any walk, finding variation within a limited “rule” – of only stepping on the beat – in as many ways, facings, levels, different arms as possible.  Starting together after 4 beats, keeping track of the beat, eye contact to make sure you start at same time with your group.  We then changed to skipping…keep the underlying rhythm/step, and find many variations in the arms, level, facing.  We also pay attention to starting together at right time without prompting.  Then we went in pairs, weaving / changing places as you cross the room, making a dance with each other across the space.