Once a month I attend a day-long dance workshop, run by an organisation called Yorkshire Movement and Dance. It is my monthly dose of dance medicine. Why? Because there is no pressure to be good, no need to nail the technique, no deadline, no publicity and no performance. It is simply a day when dancers come together and dance.
The group began in 1947! It is a voluntary organisation run by workshop participants. The aim of the group is to provide recreational dance for dance professionals and it does this beautifully, cultivating a welcoming workshop environment each month. The sessions are taught by tutors of the highest calibre from local companies with worldwide influence such as Phoenix and Instant Dissidence.
As a regular attendant I am challenged and pushed each month, but without competitive pressure and it is wonderful. I leave each session feeling creatively replenished, which as someone who teaches regularly, is quite a privilege. You can understand my apprehension then at making the transition from a member to a tutor for the groups June session! In this instance, I was indeed feeling the pressure. I didn't want to let my classmates down!
I began the session with a really fun exercise, involving beanbags, where the group must work together rhythmically, to pass the beanbags in a numerical pattern. My second exercise was much more light-hearted and designed to get people awake and moving. We threw the beanbags in two patterns simultaneously, which ended in a lot of laughing and not a lot of pattern! From here I moved onto a more traditional technique class, which I enjoyed as a teacher. It's not often I have such a responsive and supportive class.
Lunchtime was as social as ever, and then we swiftly moved on to the afternoon creative session. I had prepared a session that took the dancers through a process to create a short contemporary dance piece. As someone who attends as a participant, I have come to enjoy the sessions where we come together as a group to dance, rather than performing snippets in small groups. The process began by playing with string. The aim was to maintain a tension in the string with your partner whilst moving around the room. As a playful group of dancers, there was a lot of sabotage, but we really enjoyed the play! From there we thought about movements or moments that we enjoyed within the improvisation and drew them on post-it notes, before naming each move. The 'dead giraffe' was a personal favourite.
The movements then formed the basis of duets. The duets, even though created from the same movements were surprisingly varied and at times really emotional to watch. It was such a privilege to choreograph on this group. The piece was brought together by looking at gesture. I took an idea I had been working on with another group, that had evolved out of Indian Hand Gestures, and we created our own gestural sequence, that could be performed whilst walking.
The final piece was a combination of the walking gestural sequences and the duets. By the end of the workshop, I had discovered the benefit of being the choreographer without pressure as well as the participant without pressure. I am really looking forward to our next weekend workshop, which will be run by Neil Fleming Brown over a full weekend in September. For more information about Yorkshire Movement and Dance please go to www.ymdance.co.uk