FEATURE: Discovering dance by learning beyond the studio, August 2023

 

Discovering dance ought to be an enlightening experience for people of all ages because the learning process never really ends. There are always new ways to think about the basics of movement, more advanced skills and qualities to develop, and emerging choreographic approaches to appreciate.

A comprehensive dance education requires more than a narrow focus on perfecting technique. Indeed, Martha Graham declared that: “great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion.” To have passion suggests possessing a depth of understanding, interpretation and reification that can only be realised by being curious, asking questions and reflecting on what you learn.

Dancers spend countless hours practising in the studio, but it is important to remember that dance as an art form does not exist in a vacuum. Everyone in the dance community — students, teachers and audiences — ought to challenge themselves to really experience the multifaceted nature of dance by seizing opportunities to engage with it in different ways.

 

This might involve:

  • delving into terpsichorean* history
  • examining terminology
  • getting acquainted with anatomy
  • investigating dancers, choreographers, musicians and works of note
  • pursuing personal research interests.

 

Quite simply, using your time outside of the studio to further your subject knowledge may be the best thing you can do to nurture your love of dance.

I have created a range of dance resources, which I hope will prove to be useful for learning and teaching purposes. The rest of this feature will look more closely at the benefits of lifelong learning for dance enthusiasts.

 

'Dance Teacher' illustration for Georgina Butler by Ballet Papier artist Berenice. An illustration of Georgina dressed in a black leotard and purple ballet skirt, with a graduate's mortarboard hat on her head. She is holding a notebook in her left hand. In her right hand she is holding an old-fashioned bamboo cane (historically used by ballet teachers to demonstrate verticality and correct placement to students).

 

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FEATURE: ‘On Point: Royal Academy of Dance at 100’ – London, Summer 2022

 

On Point: Royal Academy of Dance at 100 is a celebratory exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum that explores the history of the academy, which is synonymous with that of British ballet. With syllabus resources, pointe shoes, costumes, choreography and more on display, there is something for everyone to connect with and be inspired by.

The Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) is a world leader in dance education and training. Established in 1920 to raise the standard of dance teaching in the UK and reinvigorate ballet training, it has now been teaching the world to dance for more than 100 years. The organisation supports and unites a global community of around 400,000 dancers of all ages and abilities, in more than 80 countries, through an international network of dance teachers.

The RAD has been part of my life for as long as I can remember.

My childhood ballet teacher, Kathleen Woollard (1929–2020), was an esteemed RAD registered teacher who was awarded life membership. She was a recipient of the prestigious President’s Award, which recognises an individual who has, over many years, dedicated themselves above and beyond the call of duty to the RAD in particular and to the art of dance in general. She gave me the name ‘Georgie’ (‘Miss Georgie’ to junior dance students). She taught me the essentials of technique, tenacity and virtuosity. And she earnestly supported my endeavours – in the studio, on the stage and beyond.

As a young dancer, I excelled in RAD ballet examinations and was selected to assist trainee teachers and demonstrate for prospective examiners. Now, as a qualified ballet teacher myself, I am proud to be a first class honours graduate and registered teacher of the RAD.

 

“This display is a celebration of everybody involved in 100 years of the Royal Academy of Dance.”

Dame Darcey Bussell DBE,
President of the Royal Academy of Dance

 

On Point: Royal Academy of Dance at 100, Victoria and Albert Museum. Display entrance with a video welcome.

 

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NEWS: Social Disdancing – The COVID-19 Pandemic, Spring 2020

 

Social Disdancing’ is just one of the many unusual expressions that have been added to our everyday vocabulary in recent weeks. Since efforts were intensified to curb the global spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), we have become familiar with countries being on lockdown, adhering to social distancing, and complying with requests to self-isolate or quarantine. The reality of a pandemic and the critical need for personal protective equipment (PPE) is receiving unparalleled attention during the unprecedented outbreak.

This is new terminology for an unnerving new world.

Life under lockdown is predominantly characterised by the suspension of our normal routines, enforced by government guidance to “stay at home and away from others” (also known as social or physical distancing). It is a time of immense uncertainty for everybody and the repercussions on physical health, mental health, incomes, education, careers – indeed, the socio-economic status of entire countries – are undeniable.

Under normal circumstances, dance is part of who I am. I teach ballet students. I write about dance performances. I take class, thriving in a studio with like-minded individuals and time to dedicate to myself.

Whenever any aspect of my life feels uncertain, dance becomes increasingly important to me.

Under the current abnormal circumstances, schools, studios, gyms, theatres and countless other venues and businesses are closed indefinitely. But dance is still part of who I am. And times are categorically uncertain. So, I’m dancing through this crisis. At home. And I’m not alone because the wonderful world of dance has earnestly embraced social disdancing.

 

Social Disdancing. Illustration of Georgina Butler doing ballet at home by illustrator Gaia Leandri.

 

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FEATURE: Happy International Dance Day, 29 April 2020

 

Today is International Dance Day 2020, an occasion for people all over the world to express their appreciation for dance. Dancing at home is proving to be an essential way for many of us to keep our spirits up during the current coronavirus lockdown so if ever there was a time to advocate being swept up in dance fever, this is it.

The global dance community unites on 29 April each year to spread the message that dance matters. The aim is to urge governments, institutions and individuals who have not yet recognised the value of dance to do so.

Celebrations take place on 29 April because this date commemorates the birthday of French dancer and ballet master Jean-Georges Noverre (1727–1810). He is famous for liberating ballet from the formality of the dancing in royal courts and developing it into the elegant, expressive and emotive spectacle we know and love today. This made him a dance innovator. In fact, his achievements marked the beginning of efforts to advocate for dance to be acknowledged as a significant art form.

International Dance Day honours all styles of dancing and should be promoted to inspire everyone to get involved in dance. Involvement might mean participating in activities, watching performances, discovering new things about dance, or simply taking a few minutes out of a busy day to enjoy moving your body to music.

For dance devotees, today is an opportunity to engage with others, reflect on our personal experiences of dancing and share our enthusiasm with the world!

 

International Dance Day 2020. Georgina Butler writing while sitting in the splits.

 

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FEATURE: Happy International Dance Day, 29 April 2019

 

The theme for International Dance Day 2019 is “Dance and Spirituality”.

When I am dancing, I am meditating. I am living in the moment: body, mind and soul uniting to make me “me”.

I have always used dance classes as an opportunity to escape day-to-day concerns and realign myself. My fondness for being productive means that I am inclined to treat myself like a machine, diligently getting things done – but no one can be industrious all the time. Dancing is the equivalent of pressing pause, switching myself off and rebooting in safe mode!

 

Georgina Butler. International Dance Day 2019. Dance and Spirituality. Georgina Butler wearing a pink leotard and turquoise skirt, dancing en pointe in front a Peace Pagoda.

 

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