What is it actually like to be a 37 year old belly dancer with zero contemporary dance training in a full time contemporary dance company comprised of 18-21 year olds!?
We are now into the seventh week of Term 2 so it’s time for me to tackle the question of what being a member of the Hagley Dance Company (HDC) is actually like on a day-to-day basis, from my particular context of being twice the age of the other members and being a belly dancer with no prior contemporary dance training……where to start?
It is fun, awesome, challenging, fulfilling, but it can also definitely be frustrating at times!
I had planned to cover both the physical and mental elements in this blog but it got way too long so this one will be just about the physical aspects. Although I’m generally fit & active from cycling & hill walking, and definitely dance fit from all the TribalDiva Belly Dance Company classes, performances and activities I was somewhat expecting that I wouldn’t be able to keep up in class physically; I thought that just due to not being as young as the others and with contemporary dance being so much larger in gestures (not to mention all the floor work!), often faster & definitely more cardio intensive than belly dance I might find I need to take breaks during class initially, and I possibly wouldn’t be able to cycle in to class very often, but I have been pleasantly surprised!
Although I’m still learning a lot of the technique so may not be doing some movements to the full extent I can certainly keep up for the whole class & am yet to need to sit anything out due to tiredness – I’m also biking in 3 days each week and teaching 8 TribalDiva Belly Dance classes on top of that so I’m quite pleased with my stamina levels!
That said however I did need a nap every day for the first week of Term 1 & Term 2 before heading out to TribalDiva classes, and some days I feel like I’ve been in a fight with the muscle soreness from using my body in a totally different way. I also have a permanent set of random bruises as testament to the fact that my technique for getting up & down for floor movements still needs a lot of work!
I am nursing my first ever dance injury, which is actually due to an old cycling injury anyway…I have a dislocated collarbone which for the last 3 years has caused very few issues but now that I’m practicing what are essentially break dancing moves it’s pulling on a neck muscle & periodically that muscle just seizes up & I can’t move my head! It’s not actually as bad as it sounds & acupuncture seems to be the way forward but it did cause me to have to pull out of a show which is also a first (and fingers crossed a last!) for me.
Kereana & I practicing a class phrase taught by Julia Harvie
So I can basically keep up, but can I actually do the moves? Well that is definitely a work in progress! Initially I there were a lot of moves I really couldn’t do & I was really just flailing around at the back while the others seemed to get it straight away. Luckily I wasn’t too hard on myself as this was the situation I expected & with perseverance (and lots of practice at home!) it has definitely gotten better.
The biggest challenge for me has been more on the mental side of things; finding ways to remember the huge volume of technique and choreography phrases that we need to absorb, not to mention spending intense amounts of time with a group of dancers half my age, but more on that in the next blog!
A little of my lunch-break practice to try to keep up!