INTERVIEW with Olivia Holland, Dance Teacher and Artist, October 2016

 

Dancer, dance teacher and artist Olivia Holland fills Georgina Butler in on how relocating to New Zealand has helped her to rediscover her passion for dance.

 

Olivia Holland is a graduate of the Royal Ballet School White Lodge and Elmhurst School for Dance whose professional dancing career has included contracts with Royal Ballet of Flanders (November 2011–June 2012) and Northern Ballet (July 2012–July 2015).

Ever since she started touring with Birmingham Royal Ballet while she was a student at Elmhurst, Olivia has been painting pictures inspired by her life as a dancer. These exquisite artworks are influenced by the performers she has worked with, the ballets she has danced in and the countries and theatres she has visited. A keen photographer, she has also recorded her experiences backstage in captivating snapshots.

Since Olivia last graced this site for an interview in June 2014 her entrepreneurial spirit and sense of adventure has taken her to the island nation of New Zealand, also known as the ‘Paradise of the Pacific’. Surrounded by stunning natural beauty, motivated to continue painting and newly devoted to the art of teaching, Olivia is falling in love with dancing — and the life it has given her — all over again.

Olivia Holland 2016 - LEAOD painting.

[© Olivia Holland]

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INTERVIEW with Nefeli Tsiouti, Project Breakalign, September 2016

 

Dancer, choreographer, educator and researcher Nefeli Tsiouti is dedicated to mastering all aspects of her craft and creating a better future for the next generation of artists.

She took a brief break from her current hectic schedule on a world tour with Project Breakalign — a dance science enterprise focused on preventing injuries in breakdancers — to share some of her experiences, thoughts, advice and ambitions with Georgina Butler.

 

Nefeli Tsiouti was born in Sydney, Australia, and has double nationality: Australian and Cypriot (Greek-Cypriot). When she was 2 years old her family returned to Cyprus, where she lived until she turned 18. Aged 9, Nefeli began taking classical ballet classes. By the time she was 15, Nefeli was also learning contemporary and jazz dance technique and had experienced a year of hip-hop dancing. She simply loved to dance!

Between the ages of 18 and 23, Nefeli lived in Athens, Greece. Although disappointed to narrowly miss out on winning a place to train professionally at the Greek National School of Dance, she eagerly completed a Bachelors degree in French Language and Literature at university while also working as a dancer and dance teacher. During this time, Nefeli started ballroom dancing but just a year into forging a professional career she sustained an injury that prevented her progressing. Unfortunately, this was not to be the only time that an injury would curtail Nefeli’s desire to dance. Only a year after rehabilitation, she rediscovered the hip-hop culture and began training in breaking, adopting the name Bgirl sMash. Ten months later, in 2007, she suffered a severe shoulder injury. She was forced to stop dancing immediately and underwent surgery in 2008.

In 2009, aged 23, Nefeli moved to London to do a Masters degree in Choreography at Middlesex University, graduating in 2011. While studying, she formed hip-hop dance theatre company Scope Dance Theatre – enabling her to showcase her choreographic skills and perform alongside her dancers. Besides choreographing, Nefeli has been a lecturer in Dance in colleges and universities across London since 2011 and a freelance sports massage therapist for dancers since 2015. Currently completing a Masters degree in Dance Science at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance (supported by no less than three scholarships), Nefeli has devoted many years of independent research to the sector. In 2013, she founded Project Breakalign —  a venture comprising a team of dance and medical specialists who are on a mission to reduce injuries among dancers.

Project Breakalign aims to offer conditioning, strengthening and injury prevention education to dancers (specifically breakers) through the Breakalign Method. The rationale behind the project was the fact that breaking has no established way, or step-by-step sequence, of being taught so it can cause frequent and chronic injuries. As research around breaking and hip-hop dancers in general has been very limited, the team behind Project Breakalign combine and adapt dance science and sports science research. Their approach is based on breaking technique and aims to prepare the body physiologically, biomechanically and artistically for the moves the style requires.

Nefeli and her Project Breakalign team are traversing the globe at the moment giving workshops, partaking in panel discussions and spreading the word about safe dance practice to b-boys and b-girls everywhere. Happily, she managed to set aside some time to answer a few questions!

 

Nefeli Tsiouti (photo by Peter Muller).

Nefeli Tsiouti (photo by Peter Muller).

 

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DANCE EDUCATION: Learning Beyond The Studio, August 2016

 

I have created a range of dance resources which I hope will prove to be useful for learning and teaching purposes.

 

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 undoubtedly 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 we 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 and keep learning. Doing so might involve delving into terpsichorean* history; examining terminology; getting acquainted with anatomy; investigating dancers, choreographers, musicians and works of note; or pursuing personal research interests.

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

 

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