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Andrew Swan © Cylla von Tiedemann

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Contemporary Dance Technique

Classes in contemporary technique are physically demanding and artistically stimulating.  Teachers use sound anatomical practices to encourage strength, stamina, flexibility, versatility, musicality, dynamics, and phrasing.

The class begins with work at the barre or in the centre, followed by movement across the floor, including a variety of jumps, and finishes with a vigorous high energy dance phrase. This training is shaped by the expertise and teaching philosophies of our resident and guest faculty. It focuses on integrating use of the torso and limbs; articulation of different body parts; alignment; and use of energy, weight, and space. Dancers work on physicality, centering, coordination, and clarity of movement.  Emphasis is on strong technique as a base from which to build expansive movement qualities and confident performance.  In this exciting and inspiring atmosphere dancers will improve technically and grow artistically.

I find that the program not only trains the body but also the mind; this is extremely challenging and also rewarding and eye-opening. – Vanessa Faria, graduate, from Toronto, Ontario

Graham Technique

Graham Technique is derived from the work of American modern dance pioneer, Martha Graham. These classes provide dancers with an understanding and an experience of the basic movement principles of contraction/release and spiral, beginning in the body’s centre and radiating into its extremities.

The contraction, an elongated curve of the back, begins with an impulse from the centre of the body related to the exhalation of breath; the release, a lengthening out of the curve of the contraction, relates to the breath inhalation; in the spiral, the torso coils around the central axis of the spine.

With variations in falls and turns, the body sculpts the space in three-dimensional curves. One of the most dramatic of modern dance techniques, the Graham movement vocabulary has tremendous power and expressive potential.

Each class begins with breath-related exercises seated on the floor, and it progresses through codified floorwork to standing work, complex movement phrases travelling through space, and jumping.

Graham technique is important to learn; I find it almost a necessary technique, in that it grounds you and matures you. It has become almost a rite of passage for me with regard to dance; it has helped me in a transition from a childhood state of mind to an adult state. – Stuart Wright, graduate, from Toronto, Ontario

Ballet

Ballet classes consist of classical ballet work particularly designed for contemporary dancers, emphasizing principles of functional anatomy and movement flow in combination with musicality, physicality, strength, and aesthetic expression. Students will improve skills in areas such as fast footwork, quick changes of direction, speed, agility, port de bras, and elevation. The individual attention and positive, focused atmosphere in the classes enable students to make major advances in their technical work.

Additional Technique Training

Ongoing training is supplemented by periodic intensive workshops from expert guest artists in various related disciplines which include Limón, Horton, and other relevant techniques.

The leadership and core senior staff… know each student individually and… carefully plan the teaching provision to ensure that the student experience of guest teachers is balanced by the consistency of inputs from core staff. – Christopher Bannerman, Canadian Heritage Assessor

Limón Technique, based on the work of José Limón, uses principles of fall/rebound, suspension, spiral, and points of opposition, and it plays on the dynamic interface between the stability of the vertical body and the mobility of the off-centre, falling body – the “arc between two deaths.”

Horton Technique, based on the work of Lester Horton, is a rigorous, powerful, and demanding technique, which utilizes lateral torso movements and a dynamic attack, building increasingly difficult movement sequences.

All dance technique classes feature live music provided by an experienced dance accompanist using piano or percussion.

Dancers with this training and experience are well prepared to adapt to a range of professional contexts, whereas those without the benefit of a sound technical training will struggle to develop it later in their careers. – Christopher Bannerman, Canadian Heritage Assessor

Special Workshops, Master Classes

Workshops and intensive courses are given by guest artists and speakers. Topics have ranged from various dance techniques and practices to health and fitness subjects such as first aid, injury prevention, nutrition, and performance psychology.

We get a lot of encouragement to think for ourselves. – Juana María Galindo Torres, graduate, from Bogotá, Colombia

Body Work

The challenges of technique to each particular physique and nature require exploration and practice outside of class throughout a dancer’s entire career. Body Work is an umbrella term for sessions which are designed as an adjunct to technique class and provide students with personal practice material in a number of critical areas.

Cardio/Conditioning

Cardio/conditioning students participate in a preparatory class emphasizing the development of strength, power, flexibility, endurance, and coordination. The class involves choreographed phrases created specifically for the needs of dancers in this training program.

Some of the material is derived from the work of neuromuscular educator Irene Dowd.

Movement Clinics

Movement Clinics are usually one-on-one sessions, in which an appropriate faculty member can address the needs of a single student to find strategies which will free them from particular technical or performance concerns that may be impeding their progress. The sessions sometimes address more than one issue, encompassing a broad view of the student’s approach to movement.

Smaller classes, sometimes one to one with a teacher, focused on individual issues… This is a very positive addition to the curriculum, highly valued by students, and it clearly indicates a caring learning environment and contributes to positive staff-student relations. – Christopher Bannerman, Canadian Heritage Assessor

Coaching

A hands-on experience for the dancer, these classes are taught in small groups, addressing individual technical, movement, and performance concerns in a caring and creative learning environment. Exercises are broken down to their fundamental components for a deeper physical and intellectual understanding.

The dancer is encouraged to ask questions and clarify issues, principles, and exercises that have been introduced in their technique classes. Coaching classes provide important time for students to work with each other in order to understand their own and each other’s needs.

The classes provoke personal investigation and movement research, and they promote a sense of responsibility towards learning, critical analysis, and becoming one’s own teacher.

Anatomy

This course is designed and taught by a physiotherapist with a parallel career as a dance artist. It gives the dancer a practical understanding of basic human anatomy and functional anatomy. Additionally, classes investigate principles of muscle and exercise physiology, the nervous system, and their application to the dance artist.

Classes are interactive, and include exploration of functional anatomy – body landmarks, locating muscle groups, and palpation in a professionally facilitated manner.

Classroom discussions and physical workshops also focus on strategies for injury prevention, rehabilitation from a dance injury, principles of stretching; basic taping principles and the purpose of taping for an injury are covered.

Principles of nutritional requirements for a dancer are also addressed. Handouts with diagrams and other reference materials are provided. Pre-class readings, assignments, and examinations are a mandatory part of the coursework.