Tring Park and IADMS present: Building a Dancer

Author: Sarah Beck

On Sunday 10th May 2015 Tring Park School for the Performing Arts, UK, hosted a one day Professional Development Conference for dance teachers, in association with IADMS, entitled: Building a Dancer. An enthusiastic group of dance teachers, ranging from those working with professional and vocational dancers to grass roots community dance schools, gathered together to learn and discuss.

At the start of the day I was able to present a brief overview of the IADMS mission and the work IADMS does to achieve this. Key resources relevant to this group, such as the resource papers and the Bulletin for Dancers and Teachers were highlighted and copies of ‘The Challenge of the Adolescent Dancer’ paper flew off the promotion stand during the following coffee break.

Rachel Rist presenting
Pictured: Rachel Rist

Former IADMS President, Director of Dance at Tring Park and Conference Organiser, Rachel Rist, gave the first presentation of the day which provided a detailed guide through a complex list of safe dance practice topics for teachers to navigate with a particular emphasis on ‘building a thinking dancer’ rather than an ‘obeying’ dancer. Principles highlighted and examples given were then beautifully demonstrated in practice to delegates who had the opportunity to watch Rachel in action teaching her Year 7 (11-12 year olds) Girls ballet class later in the afternoon. During this class the young students were highly engaged with their learning and went through a process of identifying, problem solving, and reflecting on their own technical and postural corrections through Rachel’s questioning and guidance. A particularly nice idea was asking each dancer to vocalise their ‘big learning’ and ‘small learning’ at the end of the lesson. Personally I found this approach to dance teaching incredibly positive as well as refreshing and inspiring. 

Julie Pedrick, Pilates and Rehabilitation specialist at Tring Park, delivered a practical demonstration of some key conditioning exercises with three willing student volunteers. Working through all areas of the body, from the feet up, delegates gained an understanding of the important teaching points in each exercise and how they may be beneficial for their students. 

Julie Pedrick presenting
Pictured: Julie Pedrick

After lunch, parallel sessions were offered. I attended a session introducing the teachers to certifications available through Safe in Dance International (SiDI). In this session Maggie Morris and Sonia Rafferty introduced the ten core principles examined by the course, which are drawn from a multidisciplinary examination of dance studio practice.  

Maggie Morris and Sonia Rafferty presenting
Pictured: Maggie Morris and Sonia Rafferty

Alexander McKinven, Physiotherapist and IADMS Development Committee Chair, and Terry Wright, Deputy Director of Dance at Tring Park, talked us through (and demonstrated) the role of the central nervous system and an application of neuroscience in building the technique of dancers, with a particular focus on strategies of motor learning.  

Alexander McKinven presenting
Pictured: Alexander McKinven

With the day finishing with class observations, overall the conference did a fabulous job of bridging theory and practice; transforming all concepts discussed into tangible applications in the dance studio. I personally now look forward to October 8th for the special interest group day: ‘A Day for Teachers’ at the IADMS 25th Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh to continue these discussions!