Conference Report

Royal Academy of Dance Conference Report 

Dance and Lifelong Wellbeing, exclusively sponsored by Harlequin Floors.

An inspiring weekend of dance, health and wellbeing.

Our weekend conference was a true celebration of life, dance and health and an exciting, enthusiastic and endlessly productive meeting of minds. From the opening conversation with Robert Cohan, to the magnificent performance showcase which closed the event, there was proof writ large that dance changes lives.

On Friday, the audience was informed, inspired (and often entertained!) by two octogenarians with the energy and vitality of people half their age. Robert Cohan and Gillian Lynne (Keynote speaker) demonstrated just why they are admired and respected in the dance world – consummate professionals, infinitely creative individuals and enlightened human beings. Both had the audience thinking and laughing in equal measures.

The discussion panels proved to be another highlight of the weekend, bringing together professionals from dance, education, sociology, health and fitness and community arts. The discussions provided endless food for thought on the three key themes of the conference: the health and wellbeing of professional dancers, the enrichment of young lives through dance, and dance for older learners. Individual presentations allowed more detailed insight into themes such as dance and spirituality (Pamela Alexander), dance and disability (Avril Hitman, Magpie Dance) and challenging gender barriers (Fergus Early). The RAD’s current outreach work was also represented with a panel on Step into Dance, RADiate, the Faculty of Education project with older learners and the RAD’s Continuing Professional Development scheme.

A dedicated Sunday audience listened to Gary Avis, Principal Character Artist and Ballet Master for the Royal Ballet, contemplate his career transitions with Faculty of Education Lecturer Dennie Wilson, whilst fellow colleagues shared their research on teaching dance anatomy (Janine Streuli) and adult ballet practice (Rosie Gerhard). Continuing the theme, Jennifer Jackson shared her work in ballet for mature performers, whilst Holly Price, showed how the experienced ballet teacher can provide an environment for children’s social education.

And so to the finale, and a ‘performance showcase’ which was, quite simply, extraordinary. Where else could we have seen such an array of performances, from the mature energy of adult dancers to the youthful vigour of savvy street dancers and the exuberance of young children? The large group dances (Company of Elders, Growing Older (Dis)gracefully and Step into Dance) were the perfect contrast to the Don Quixote pas de deux performed by Eri Nishibara and Taylor Clow from Elmhurst School for Dance. The solitude and serenity of Bisahka Sarkar’s classical Indian dance solo was breathtaking whilst the contemporary dance piece by Dance United was as good as anything you will see on the professional stage. As we all left for what remained of our weekend, the air was still buzzing with excitement and ideas for future events – so, watch this space!

Many thanks to everyone who participated in the conference and made it such a success: the presenters, panellists, performers, backstage crew, front of house and behind the scenes. A special thank you to Harlequin Floors for sponsoring the conference and to our keynote speaker, Gillian Lynne, for her memorable keynote address.

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