I absolutely love dancing. If I could dance all day, every day for the rest of my life, I think I'd be happy. While my dance background is mainly street and hip hop, I love trying and learning new styles. Unfortunately adult dance classes are hard to come by outside of London and travelling into the city for a weekly session just isn't doable for me right now. So, I was absolutely thrilled to discover that City Academy offer a two-day intensive dance bootcamp* full of a variety of exciting classes at Sadler's Wells, a venue regarded as the world's number one for international dance. After 14 hours of incredible classes in one weekend in an amazing studio with a lovely group of people, my body was exhausted, but I couldn't have been happier.
Day 1: Wellness
Contemporary, Ballet and Stretching
Saturday commenced with my first taste of contemporary dance. After doing some basic exercises and release technique, we familiarised ourselves with the use of weight and balance in movement, before progressing onto some choreography. I really enjoyed the choreography part of the class, and, although contemporary isn't for me, I loved getting a taste for the style.
Next up was a ballet 'toning' class. I haven't done a ballet class since I was a toddler, so I was really looking forward to this. We started with basic ballet exercises and positions at the bar to form the basis of other movements and even progressed onto learning preparations for pirouette! I'd love to spend more time practising ballet, learning the beautiful movements and conditioning my body in such an effective way.
Our final class with Paola was a whole hour dedicated to stretching, where we also did some partner work, helping each other to relax.
After lunch was a two hour Alexander Technique workshop with Cristina. The Alexander Technique isn't a form of exercise, or a relaxation technique, but it is used widely by performers and athletes as it teaches an awareness of your own body. The purpose of the technique is to improve posture, movement and balance, to aid breathing, and to prevent or correct problems from back pain and other musculoskeletal problems to stress! I think the technique could have been introduced and explained more clearly and thoroughly, but I was really pleased to have been made aware of it - it got me thinking about how I walk, how I hold myself (and my handbag!), and made me conscious of where I retain tension.
Dynamic and Easing Yoga
And the part of the day I was most looking forward to... yoga with Ali. Dynamic Yoga was a series of fluid movements which I found really enjoyable - calming and energising at the same time - whereas Easing Yoga was much more relaxing, and included long, deep stretches, which felt amazing. I'm pretty sure I started to fall asleep during the singing bowl meditation at the end!
Throughout the classes, Ali did a great job of giving different options for each pose, so that each of us could choose something to best suit our ability and comfort. I would have liked to have learned something new, however. At one point, Ali gave the option to go into shoulderstand if it was a pose that we had already learned. I hadn't done this pose in a class before, and so was unsure of how to enter and exit it correctly, but I would have loved to have learnt! Ali also referred to spiritual concepts such as yin and yang, and the sun and moon, and while I don't enjoy yoga for this spiritual element, it would be have really nice to learn about it and to have had the concepts that Ali alluded to explained a little. Overall though, the sessions were amazing. I wish I had more chance to go to yoga classes (I currently only get my fix through a weekly Body Balance class) as I think it's so beautiful.
Day 2: Dance
Classic Hip Hop, Diva Central and Funky Street
These classes were without doubt the highlight of the weekend for me as I was in my element. Tarnya Neil took all three sessions and she was honestly the most amazing dance instructor I have come across, which made the classes even more enjoyable. As well as being absolutely lovely, Tarnya gave really useful introductions to each style of dance, differentiating each of the sessions really clearly.
The Hip Hop class started with some basic classic hip hop moves; the Smurf, the Prep, the Reebok and the Wop. We also did some arm exercises to prepare us for a taste of locking, before learning a short piece of choreography including the moves that had been taught.
The next class, Diva Central, was probably my favourite of the whole weekend. I had been dying to take a class in this style for such a long time and it exceeded my expectations. A lot of the Diva style relies on different poses, but I have never before come across an instructor that has taught how to pose. In my experience, students told to 'pick a pose' gravitate to a simple hand-on-hip, and occasionally bravely stick an arm in the air, because they just don't know what else to do. Tarnya taught us a kind of 'body vocabulary', covering foot positioning, body points (points of focus for the poses, such as shoulders, hips and head), and weight transfer. After strutting our stuff and practising these poses, we learnt a killer routine, inspired by Beyonce's I Am tour opening number. I honestly couldn't have enjoyed this session more.
Finally, Funky Street had a relaxed, urban vibe, and we focused on styles such as House, which I was really pleased about because I love this style of dance, but always find the footwork a challenge. Of course, Tarnya did a great job of breaking it down, and we had a brilliant time learning a piece of choreography.
My passion for these styles of dance, and my excitement for how much more accessible they are in London, genuinely makes me consider moving to the city when I graduate so that I can enjoy them even more. For now though, I'll definitely be looking into doing some more one-off workshops with Tarnya.
Latin Rhythms and Rock n Roll
After lunch, Paola joined us to teach Latin Rhythms, giving us a taste of salsa, merengue and samba; styles that I have always wanted to learn. We covered the basic steps of each, helping us to differentiate between them.
Following that was Rock n Roll. Again, Paola taught us the basic footwork to start, and then we were partnered up to really put our rhythm to the test!
Bollywood and Bellydance
Although our instructor Selena openly admitted that Bollywood dancing is 'cheesy' (reeeeeally not my thing...) I joined in with the session, keen to learn the key characteristics of the style. It was great fun, but required a lot of energy and bounciness which after 12 hours of classes I admit I was lacking a little!
Bellydance was a great end to the day though as it was a little more technical and low impact. The class was quite choreography focused, whereas I would have liked to have spent more time learning the individual moves and isolations, as well as their names, to develop more of a basis for the routine. It would also have been great to have some more commercial, or familiar music integrated into these classes, as well as traditional Bollywood and Bellydance tracks, to put us more at ease, and make us feel more like Shakira!
An amazing weekend with City Academy
Overall, the weekend was better than I could have imagined and I am so pleased that I discovered City Academy. The Dance and Wellbeing Bootcamp was a great way to discover new classes, meet likeminded people, and have a lot of fun. As well as offering dance classes, they also specialise in other creative classes including acting, singing, writing and photography to name a few. If you've taken any courses with City Academy, I'd love to hear your verdict!