In this current climate, with the Covid-19 pandemic limiting all of our daily activities and the usual routines of work and lifestyle, it can be tricky finding content online that is accessible and inclusive. Even more so dance classes and movement sessions that offer movement accessible to different bodies and learning styles.
Here at Stopgap we are offering inclusive online classes through Zoom and Facebook Live which we are endeavouring to make accessible. Usually, in our physical classes, there is plenty of room for questions and one-to-one feedback with a teacher, but at present that’s not possible through our computer screens. Where you would usually be able to ask for a translation for an exercise or some advice on what the purpose behind a move might be, there are barriers to creating this personal relationship with the teacher. Interactivity on some platforms can be delayed and often the teacher cannot see what you are doing in your space, so it is really difficult to work one-to-one in online classes.
However, we would like to share some tips and advice on techniques we use in our training that allow movement to be shared and translated between disabled dancers and non-disabled dancers. The process of translation is one that we develop for years to build up the sharing of movement between dancers in the company, both in class and choreography.
This is a resource to supplement your online class experience with us and also for other classes that may not offer options to modify inaccessible movements. Translation allows everyone to access movement as it is tailored to your body and personalised to what is possible with your own unique physical form.
There are four pairs of specific focusses that we use within translation in order to decipher the most important elements of an exercise. It’s a lot of concentration to translate using all eight focusses so try just one pair of elements and you can layer them up.
Firstly, we have Intention & Energy –
Intention = The aim or plan of the exercise. What are we doing it for? If it is a cardio exercise, then the aim is to raise the heartrate and get your body warmed up. Think about what movement gets you working hard. Sprints on the spot can translate into pumping the arms as fast as possible to build up heat. With certain exercises the intention can be hard to understand especially if the teacher does not give you a clear description, so perhaps move to another element to help translate it.
Energy = What levels of power are they putting into the exercise? Is it a relaxed and released gentle exercise? Or a high-energy dynamic exercise? Try matching the energy level.
Secondly we have Spine & Direction –
Spine = Look at how their spine is moving – Are they upright? Is it flat? Are they curving over? Focus on where the spine is in space and how it is being used.
Direction = Identify the direction in which they are moving. Of course, in our smaller spaces a lot of movement is front facing, so then try focus on the anatomical planes of the body they are using.
Thirdly is Rhythm & Quality –
Rhythm = What patterns and timing are they using? Is it a very even and steady phrase? Is it quick and bouncy? Try capturing the rhythm in your body, it might not be using the same parts of the body. Can you try find the rhythm with your arms or with your head?
Quality = What is the distinct texture or quality for the exercise? Is it soft and floaty? Is it spiky and static? Is it bouncy and swinging? Again, capturing a quality does not need to look the same in form.
Lastly is Detail & Focus –
Detail = What small features can you focus on? Are there particular details in the way they use their hands and fingers? Can you focus on the small detail of the way they place their hands on their wheels? Or how their head moves? You don’t need to focus on capturing every single detail but if an exercise gets repeated perhaps focus on a new detail each time and see if you can notice something new!
Focus = Where is their centre of focus and interest? Where are they looking? Does their eyeline follow along the lines of their body? Or are they projecting out into space? What are they concentrated on whilst moving?
The most important thing is that you personalise exercises and phrases to your own individual movement language. Try and release the idea that you need to look identical, because in reality this is not possible and often means you are focussing on something completely different anyway. By following along these pairs of elements, it gives you ideas about what to focus on within an exercise and how to approach translating movement. It can be great if you try a new class and have the tool of translation under your belt, allowing a level of customisation that helps you get as much as possible out of the session.
Within our online classes, our teachers are always open to discussing translations and as much as possible offer different options for modifying exercises. Now is a great opportunity to explore what helps you access movement and whether there are any specific elements you find most useful to you when translating.
Written by Lily Norton
Visit our Learn and Practice section on the website to find out more about our offer of inclusive online and in-person classes and workshops.