Tips from Dame Darcey Bussell and Dame Monica Mason.
As a non-Dancer and simply an admirer and scholar of the art form. It was a great pleasure to mix and mingle amongst Old and New faces at Cecchetti this past Sunday. This year it was held at Royal Ballet Upper School in Covent Garden, London, and I had the privilege of attending in to represent Science in Dance and support KS Dance as they endeavoured to demonstrate Advance 2 Enrico Cecchetti Syllabus in front of some of the Ballet World's most infamous practitioners, Teachers and Dancers.
I was blown away by the professionalism and delivery that Dani Burgess (1st year KS Dance), Chloe Howarth (2nd year), Ella-Louise Appleby (3rd year) and Ollie Summerell (KS Dance Lower School) brought to the performance. Some of the hardest virtuosity and steps Ballet has to offer were on display and performed with ultimate control and definition. Well done to you folk! and I am honoured to work with you on a daily basis, your hard work is paying off.
Part of the Demo day also included an open rehearsal of Kenneth Macmillan's Elite Syncopations in which Mayara Magris demonstrated a solo variation coached by Dame Monica Mason followed by Beatrice Stix-Brunell and Nicol Edmonds who showed a Pas de Deux from the Ballet, Coached by Dame Darcey.
Anyone who has read our blogs before will recognise the themes I like to run that pertain to motivation, coaching, mindset, mental health just to name a few. However, in this blog I wish to string all these themes together. Being a Coach of Sport and Strength Training myself, I see Dancers and Athletes at their highest and lowest ebb. So, I asked Dame Darcey and Dame Monica a question in an open Q&A at the end of the rehearsal session.
My Question went like this...
"When you are Coaching all these wonderful Dancers, who are technically near perfect, to Dance a long standing and traditional piece of choreography... How do you find coaching different Dancers in the same role and how do you differentiate and tailor your Coaching and Wisdom to get the most from that Dancer?"
The answer... was not short yet it touched on so many themes that I felt would have benefited every on-looker in the room. I simply wanted to know one piece of advice... but they gave so many gems and bits of insight. They reminded us of the fact this is a rehearsal and they will take any opportunity they can to get the piece as close to perfect for the stage as possible and that picking up on tiny nuances of the piece is not a criticism of the Dancer performing them but rather a gold dust-like piece of advice that will help them receive the applause and achieve their goals.
This got me thinking about POINT 1 of this article. Dancers, corrections and technique tweaks, no matter how big or small, are tiny bits of gold worth cherishing. Teachers and Coaches, spend time on the things that matter, lend corrections with attention and affection. These fantastic Dancers from the Royal Ballet were not necessarily getting it all spot on first time, and thats why even the PROS have a COACH. Dancers at that level work with their coach to get it as performance ready as possible. It isn't about bombarding students with corrections and Dancers, generally, speaking when a Coach asks you to change something its not a criticism of your method but rather the help and guidance that you signed up for.
POINT 2 was even more obvious, Coaches are to Dancers, what the WIND is to a SAILING BOAT. Be guided by the type of person you have in front of you. Coaching at any level cannot be a one size fits all approach and one method of Teaching does not really fit with more than one Dancer. Coaches and Teachers should spend time crafting their ability to differentiate for the Dancers they have in front of them. Work out what makes them tick in order to get the most from them. Some Coaching will need to more passive, some will need to be more aggressive.
It was humbling to see Dancers of the Royal Ballet be coached so rigorously, yet the Dancers on the floor were working with their technical tweaks and corrections to strive for the best performance. Never has "WORK IN PROGRESS" been more applicable and recognising that process is a key to achieving the best performance possible. It is NOT going to be perfect FIRST Time.
Finally from a Science in Dance stand-point, the process of Coaching and Being Coached and subsequently improving is not something that people should hope for... but rather a train which you should just "HOP On" to. The point is development is always moving forward and as long as you take time to reflect on corrections and performance, then improvements will be found.
Thank you to KS Dance for giving Science in Dance the chance to attend the day and Thank you to the ISTD and Cecchetti Group to staging such an insightful and entertaining day.