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7 December 2010

Express yourself in a contemporary dance class, writes Lara Brunt...

Forgot rigid dance techniques – if you don’t know your passé from your plié, then contemporary dance might just be for you.

Contemporary dance is all about freedom of movement and emerged in the early 20th century as a reaction to the restrictions of classical ballet.

But it’s not completely without technique or form. Contemporary dance classes at Siobhan Davies Studios in Lambeth draw on the principles of ‘release technique’, which minimises tension in the joints and muscles to create flow and coordination.

“The release technique really works on breathing to initiate the movement. It’s still an energetic class but it focuses on the flow and coordination so that’s why it is a good class for beginners,” says Nina Baker from Siobhan Davies Studios.

The focus on breathing means it is a great way to relax as well as work up a sweat, and people are encouraged to wear comfortable clothing, like leggings and a t-shirt, and dance in bare feet.

The 90-minute class begins with a warm-up – a series of stretches and gentle movements on the floor – before moving on to leg work.

Many of the movements are borrowed from ballet, but instructor and professional contemporary dancer, Laura Glaser, isn’t bothered by labels.

“I don’t use ballet terms in the class,” Laura says. “It’s a non-competitive atmosphere and I try to emphasise the joy of moving. “The music I choose is quite eclectic too.”

Almost any style of music can be used but rhythm is key, and Laura favours instrumental or percussion, rather than popular music. The next part of the class involves travelling across the room, with plenty of direction changes and fluid movements rather than conventional dance moves.

“Then the last part is where we learn a routine which generally flows on from the previous week, so because we have drop-in classes, I give options in the sequence,” says Laura.

“You can work as precisely as in other dance classes but I’m not imposing a form,” she adds.
The class finishes with a cool-down, and participants will find contemporary dance works their whole body and makes them more aware of how they use it everyday.

“Dance mobilises the joints so they’re supple, and we work with training the intricate muscles so that helps you get lean muscles. Your stamina will improve too because we move around a lot,” says Laura.

Classes are held every Wednesday at 6.30pm and cost £8/ £6 concession (drop-in) or £91/ £65 (13 week course). Siobhan Davies Studios,
85 St George's Road, SE1 6ER,  
020 7091 9650.

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