We were really honoured to host the fantastic dancer, choreographer and teacher Gerrard Martin for a contemporary class via Zoom on Tuesday 28th July. After beginning the session with a warm-up, Gerrard took us through some technical exercises that allowed us to work on our strength and flexibility before doing some small jumps. He then gave us two minutes to do some improvisation, thinking about expanding within the space and using each part of the body. To finish, he taught us a sequence that included floorwork. At the end, there was even time to ask him a few questions about his work as a dancer and choreographer. The class was really fun and a fantastic way for us to keep up our contemporary over the summer. Gerrard was a wonderful teacher who allowed us to move creatively whilst developing our technique and strength. We hope to be able to work with him in person one day!
For our second online watch party, we streamed Phoenix Dance Theatre's 'Windrush: Movement of the People', a wonderful piece exploring the Windrush immigration and its long-term impact and the racism and prejudice that continues to haunt this event in our history. After watching the show, we held a discussion on the Facebook page for the event in which a number of us commented on how the performance implicitly explored the impact Windrush had not only on society, but also on the arts, as it incorporated a range of costumes, musical styles and movement languages that have been inherited by the UK from the Caribbean. We also discussed the symbolism of the props, costumes and staging. Overall this was a brilliant opportunity for us to explore and discuss repertoire that is so relevant both within the arts industry and in wider society.
On Tuesday 7th July, we were lucky to be joined by the wonderful Marta Scott, who is a performer, choreographer and teacher living in Brighton. Not only has she choreographed pieces for Notting Hill Carnival on multiple occasions, but she has also worked for the London School of Samba, which is the oldest samba school in the country, and runs her own dance company, which focuses on inclusivity and empowerment. These ethos really came across in her class with us, which began with an introduction to samba as a style, before she taught us some of the basic samba steps. We learned how to practise these in order to execute them more quickly, and then she took us through some routines which worked on samba technique, fitness and confidence. Thanks to Marta's infectious personality and the wonderful routines she put together, all participants had a really wonderful time and came out of the class having been immersed in the samba carnival spirit.
For more information on Marta's work, check out her website: https://msdance.org.uk/
On the morning of Wednesday July 1st West End performer Cris Penfold gave an online jazz class for our dancers. Cris led an energetic class with a warm up that included moving stretches with an emphasis on dancing through positions, kicks, and turns. He then taught a piece of choreography to “It’s Time to Dance” from Broadway musical The Prom. We focused on moving through each step fully and creating sharp movements. After learning each section the class split into two groups to perform the choreography. Here Cris encouraged us to focus on facial expressions and having fun with the choreography. Splitting into groups allowed us to learn from the others in the class and helped create a feeling of an audience, despite us all being in our respective homes. We ended the class with a Q&A session where Cris talked how he became a professional dancer, his experiences performing in shows like West Side Story and The Wind in the Willows, and his thoughts on how the industry will react and adapt to the current circumstances. We had a great time taking class with Cris and are hoping to repeat the event in person in Cambridge soon!
On Sunday 28th June, members of the CUDS committee were joined by CUTAZZ, Pole Society, Strathspey and Reel club (Scottish country dancing), and Irish dance in a quiz featuring dance-themed rounds submitted by each society. One of the loveliest things about the dance community is how friendly and accepting everyone is and conversation immediately began as we learnt about each other’s societies and dance styles. Once the quiz began, it became clear that we a lot of us had very little dance knowledge beyond our own styles, there was definitely a lot of guesswork involved, but this led to plenty of discussion and learning! The rounds were creatively put together by each society, with rounds involving naming pole dancing moves and selecting which of a list of phrases were actually names of Scottish country dance patterns – twenty-first of September, anyone? The event was a brilliant way to meet and get to know new people! In these challenging times, it is more important than ever to find ways to come together and CUDS hopes to continue forming these bonds either virtually or in person.
On the evening of Wednesday 24th June, Neža Dumas, a teacher based in Cambridge specialising in Sexy Commercial, Twerking and Dancehall, led a beginners' Female Dancehall workshop for our dancers. The session concentrated on wining, the waistline movements that form the basis of this style of movement, and took us through some of the basic steps and isolations. Neža then taught us a routine based on these movements. All of our dancers were new to this style of dance, and it was a really fantastic experience for us to learn something different to support our training. As well as being a fantastic workout, the session was really good fun and Neža taught us a lot about the history and culture of Female Dancehall. She also focused on making sure we all felt empowered and confident. If you would like to learn more about what Neža does, you can check out Sweat! Dance Fitness, her studio in Cambridge which offers workout classes as well as workshops in her specialist styles: https://www.sweatdf.co.uk/
On the afternoon of Friday 19th June, we held our first online class; a session with Céline Gittens, Principal of Birmingham Royal Ballet. Céline took us through an hour's class which covered a range of exercises at the barre and in the centre, including pirouettes and some warm-up jumps. We then held a Q&A in which participants asked questions about Céline's career and her views on the dance world in light of COVID-19. This was an extremely insightful and inspiring session in which we were able to dance along with Céline, who had designed exercises that focused on musicality and quality of movement. We learned a lot about the life of a dancer, hearing about what it was like to tour, Céline's progression from dance school to the company, and her views on the company's future under the direction of Carlos Acosta. We're so grateful to Céline for working with us, and hope that we will be able to replicate this event in a studio setting in the near future!
On 12th June, CUDS hosted our first online event - a showing of Spectrum Dance Theater's SHOT, choreographed by Donald Byrd. This piece is an extremely relevant and thought-provoking reflection on police brutality towards black people in the USA, using clips and speeches as well as movement to present the issue to audiences. As well as watching the show together, we also discussed it on our Facebook page, thinking about how Byrd used different performance elements to convey meaning. This was a really wonderful opportunity for our dancers to learn about the Black Lives Matter movement in the context of dance and performance, and a fantastic way for us to reflect on our own engagement with these issues.
Formed in 1994, Richard Alston Dance Company has undoubtedly been one of the most important companies in British Dance Theatre for the past quarter of a century. A cornerstone of both GCSE and A-level dance syllabi, the company is not only a household name but, crucially, many young dancers' first taste of contemporary dance.
CUDS were therefore honoured to host Emma Gogan from RADC for a three-hour intermediate level workshop on Sunday 1st March. Offering a unique insight into this foundational company, Emma led a brilliant technique class, followed by learning company repertoire and creating a short piece from participants' creative work. As the company visited Cambridge as part of their FINAL EDITION tour, this was a truly special opportunity to learn from the world-renowned company before it closes later this year, and the perfect way to end our 2019/20 workshop series.
Keep an eye out on our events page, where we will be releasing our workshop calendar for Autumn 2020 over the summer vacation!
To find out more about Richard Alston Dance Company, check out their website:
Chaired by CUDS Senior Treasurer and Professor in Comparative Cognition, Prof. Nicola Clayton, and artist, choreographer, and former Artistic Director of Rambert Dance Company, Mark Baldwin OBE, CUDS welcomed a panel of experts to the McCrum Lecture Theatre in February 2020 for an evening of presentation and discussion. Offering a glimpse of the wealth of multidisciplinary work surrounding science and dance, esteemed panellists Dr. Philip Barnard, Jane Turner, and Matthias Sperling explained the ideas that had arisen from conversations and scientific research in their work - from neuroscience to animal cognition, environmental concerns to science fiction.
Though we merely scratched the surface of the myriad inter-connections of science and dance in our 2-hour panel session, the event was undoubtedly insightful and inspiring, pointing to new horizons of opportunity in the future of dance and its position in the broader cultural sphere.
Many thanks to all of our wonderful panellists and the entire CUDS committee for offering such a new and interesting evening, with thanks especially to out Events Officers: Hannah Smith for convening the panellists and Jennifer Tang for hosting questions during the event.