Laura Dajao

@LauraDDances - Dancer, Choreographer, Teacher and Performer


DTxTP week with Cindy Claes Producions

Posted on February 8, 2014 at 8:30 AM

DTxTP with Cindy Claes Productions  - What an AMAZING week! Training in the Dancehall Exchange Training programme, organised by Cindy Claes Productions with guest teachers Shady Squad. People from all over came to participate, PuzzelB from Belgium, DTX collective, other independent artists and people who have a love for dancehall.

The week long intensive consisted of many aspects of Dancehall - classes with Conray and Matthew, A storytelling workshop with Funmi, a dancehall lecture by H Patten and dancehall theatre workshops with Cindy Claes.

An amazing mix of people, with an incredible energy regardless of how tired they were!! Spanning across Europe, dancers and participants had different dance backgrounds and personalities which made the week fun and inspiring to be a part of.

The week began with class by both Conray and Matthew Richards, Founders of Shady Squad - learning about Dancehall Steps and their origins, incorporating them into routines, and having a great time performing and cleaning them! The detail in history and in the execution of their teaching was really thorough and really easy to understand - a great energy and enthusiasm for their dance style and an openness and generosity for sharing their amazing talent. Different styles of teaching - where their personalities really showed - very telling of their characters I thought - Conray with his funny stories and fun anecdotes of the movement and their backstory and Matthew's "Stay with me/follow the leader" style, and animated approach. Both had a great structure to their classes - introducing and breaking down movements to slowly build up to the routines. Music was a major part of this and starting off slowly with these dancehall songs then building up to real time was fun And challenging at times! Some great music and in keeping with it's foundations, lyrically very instructive - at times which made it easy to listen and follow (not understand haha but to know musically where certain moves went). I've always loved musicality in dance, and try to implement it in my own work so it was always really rewarding getting the routines down, from timing to the feeling of the track. I never tire of working with the music to keeping as well as putting a move on every "AND" count! After every section their would be a loud, collective and resounding cheer and "whoop whoop" for the teacher teaching! 

For me, it was a challenge to adapt footwork and knowing which parts were relevant for my body type, i.e. which bits i could do with my hands - the hand or foot bit... I know what I mean! Such an amazing thing to be able to adapt a step and have it be in time and look exactly like the standing version. The one move my for me this week that was the most fun/challenging was - Mistake - (and I made many!) A footwork based step involving crossing of the feet in a padabure style fashion and finishing with feet apart. Obviously got extremely confused trying to replicate and copy the movement on my knees with my hands - often getting twisted and wrong! But it was Tuesday, that I offered Conray my chair And we went through the movement together and I felt an amazing vibe. It transpired that later that day he stayed in the chair to carry out the storytelling dancehall theatre workshop!

Funmi, an amazing artist, had us playing games and doing exercises, again slowly building up the vocabulary of her stimuli to make a piece of theatre in an abstract way - small unpolished piece using all the exercises and games that we had done previously. Using a routine, from one of Conray and Matthew's session, we integrated them into a small sharing in groups about Forever, the sea and inside of me. Such a great workshop filled with character and bonding experiences breaking the Ice and learning about each other. So much so it led to Matthew exploring my chair, 1) sitting on me in my dance chair and 2) later on battling me in my other chair!

The dancehall theatre workshop really broke the ice on Monday and continued throughout the week to bring people together and really work and participate, jumping out of our comfort zones and really getting us to think about our techniques in dance and way of dance in different ways to create narratives. Warming up with a dancehall crew battle was a great start to a session really warming up and using our vocabulary of dancehall to do a call and response for 4 counts and battling the other side of the room! The first time we did it, it was Matthew in my other wheelchair and Cindy paired us off to lead the 4 counts. Loved it! Crazy scared - but completely let go and was just having fun!! With a sense of wanting to come up with better moves or "out-doing" the other side - so humbling to see Matthew use the chair and be open to using it! Probably one of the highlights (there were many) of the week!

It was only that evening that I got home to find a trailer featuring Shady Squad and myself for a new dance move!

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Cindy Claes - just an amazing person - drive, passion, genuinely passionate about developing artists and people's perceptions and skills through dancehall - just truly honoured to know her as a teacher, fellow dancer and person and probably my number 1 fan! It all started with her, my dance career back in 2008, supporting and really being there for me as a teacher and artist, broadening my horizons on so many different levels. I feel like I'm a better person and a better dancer because of her. Cindy - you're number 1!!

Anyways, I'm always really humbled when footage like this gets really publicised on YouTube or Facebook and people's comments really touch me, and I genuinely have moments where I need to take deep breaths with my hand on my heart and be thankful. I'm ALWAYS taken back by the sincerity of people's emotions when they see me dance or taking part and feel grateful for their support and kind words.

So, something that I'm not usually comfortable with and we worked in in a workshop with Cindy is Freestyle techniques. I've always been scared of cyphers not because of the pressure but because of the idea that I have in my head that I don't have enough vocab to freestyle to any good standard and it looks amateurish or wishy washy! So the techniques we went through with Cindy really clicked and resonated with me, so there were these tools to relax and just flow through as opposed to being scared or tense about them! I suppose it also highlighted my standard and level of my vocab which is always something to work on for me, given the time it takes to adapt and all the jazz. So definitely another highlight of the week.

After a day of workshops I and a few others stayed for Big Up Wednesdayz International. Seeing people I hadn't seen since the Blacka di Danca workshop:

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And dancing in RT's Azonto video (didn't make the cut - with any footage of me, however, was an awesome couple of days of rehearsal!) 

So I was around these awesome people all day :D


Thursday brought around the Dancehall Lecture by H Patten In conversation with Shady Squad: an amazing insight to history and politics about the dance style, culture and ownership of it. Jamaican identity is clearly at the roots of it and as it becomes more widely know and practiced it brings about debates of ownership and integrity of the style appreciating and respecting the pioneers and their amazing influence to Jamaican culture.

With a short break in between our workshops - as always, I bring too much food! so I shared some cookies with PuzzelB  :) 

Really fascinating stuff to hear from Jamaicans and their views of it all. Some being more articulate than others still having valid and interesting points to make about the dancehall scene.

The last day.... I couldn't believe how fast it went... Everyone came in in their phones taking pictures, exchanging details and genuinely feeling happy and sad that it was soon to be over!

So it was for the last time, we took class with Conray and Matthew, and we had a really long break as Cindy and her company rehearsed to show us an extract of their work in Progress Is my Whining winding you up? Such a great piece - I won't say anymore than that for now as it will be performed at Wild Card Next week and ill probably review it then ;) And lastly as a final send off, working on isolations with Cindy and going over the weeks routines with Conray and Matthew.

Right, so isolation is really hard for me in terms of my upper body and torso let alone my lower half and hips which dancehall mainly utilise. So amazingly but not surprising, I was knackered! Lol. Loved it though, crazy to see how far some people can go with their whine and the extremity and clarity and size of it is just mad! A genuinely beautiful end of the session where it was very emotional knowing this was the end of the week and that we'd no longer have to get to husky's for 10am and train all day! Tube strikes, bad weather and all that jazz didn't dampen the spirits of the week an I'm truly sad that its all now over (for now).

Met such wonderful people, amazing dancers, the talented and quirky Shady Squad and got to spend the week with Cindy Claes production on the amazing journey of dancehall. All peppered with chocolate and cake and good times jamming and dancing in the studio with a new phrase from the Belgian crew PuzzelB: C'est Stylé?!! (I think that's how you spell it!)

#FunTimes #WillRememberThisForever <3

Categories: Reviews: DANCE