Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Getting a Taste of the UD Dance Team

This past Sunday, my friend and I ventured to the University of Delaware to take a dance clinic held by the University’s dance team. I had never seen them perform before, but I learned that they were national champions and I was very impressed by the dancers. There were 18 girls and they all had so much strength and energy. It inspired both of us to do better and work harder towards our dance goals. This was a great experience for me because being a dance major at Towson, the only dance classes I take are strictly ballet and modern. I missed the other styles of dance that I used to do, so I had a blast being able to just let go and have fun. Delaware’s dance team does jazz, hip hop, and pom. Pom is reserved for football and basketball games, but they do jazz and hip hop both at the games and at competitions.

We started off the day at noon by doing a nice, long warm up. We got our blood flowing and did a lot of great stretches, which is definitely what I needed. Even their warm up was grueling! There were push ups, crunches, and contortionist-like splits. I understood why we did so much stretching when we moved on to the skills part of the workshop. We went across the floor and demonstrated all of the basic jazz steps that the team uses in their routines. First, there were jazz walks where we had to add our own style and sass, so that was fun. Then, there were kicks, front leaps, side leaps, switch leaps, and calypsos (the front leg is straight and the back leg is bent). Let me just mention that we were dancing on a very hard, very slippery wooden floor. I like to think of the positive, so I know that this was a challenge and therefore a good learning experience for me. It’s good to get used to dancing on all different surfaces because you never know what you’re going to get as a professional dancer and you learn to adapt. But, I would not suggest dancing on a cement or wood floor if you don’t have to, especially if you are doing many big jumps like we did. This workshop resulted in major shin splints for me, but the experience was worth it.

Next was jazz, then hip hop after that. I loved how for each genre, they gave us the option of choosing from 3 different routines. The jazz routine we picked was called Burlesque and it was super fast and super challenging. The style is kind of like competition dancing so there were a lot of turns, high kicks, and leaps, with the added flare and sass, of course. The hip hop routine was from nationals and it was AMAZING. There was everything from small, hard hitting moves to hardcore krumping. That’s why I chose that routine because I wanted to step out of my comfort zone. This one didn’t come as naturally to me, but it was a fun challenge. Pom was my least favorite, but that’s because I had no idea what I was doing. I don’t think anybody did. We were taught 3 routines in a matter of 15 minutes, so it was all kind of a blur. It’s basically like cheerleading with the stiff arm positions and sharp movements. After we learned all the routines we had a "mock audition", which was nerveracking and exciting at the same time. I felt like jazz was my strongest point. I mean, it is my favorite style of dance after all. They even wrote down comments and gave them to us after the workshop so we could improve on those aspects. Mine said nice extensions, smile, and sass. I was happy about this because I’ve been trying to work on my expressiveness while I’m dancing. The main thing I needed to work on was my arms. For jazz they needed to be cleaner and for hip hop they needed to be stronger and hit harder. When going to a workshop, you should always take all the feedback you can get and apply that to your dancing no matter what style you are doing. Even if you don’t receive written comments like I did, you can get so much out of the class by listening to the teacher’s advice and criticism and figuring out how that could help you personally.

Two days later I am still exhausted and sore to the point where it hurts when I walk. That’s when you know you got a good work out! Overall, the clinic was a great experience and I’m so glad I agreed to go with my friend. It was refreshing and a nice change from my day to day practice and I had so much fun dancing for the pure joy of it. It’s good to have a variety of encounters with dance and practice many different styles to stay well rounded. I loved being able to relax and just dance without being graded while also learning something new. I feel like this trip enhanced my body, my technique, and my spirit.

Here is a link to the UD dance team website. If you look on the left you'll be able to watch a video of their hip hop routines. We learned the first part!

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