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"You don't do it down the supermarket": An Irish lawyer on taking up contemporary dance classes

Professional dancer Sibéal Davitt (pictured) also tells us how dance classes helped her follow her dreams.

IF YOU WANT to get more active in 2016, you could join a gym, take up running or get a workout DVD.

Or you could try something a little different, and take up contemporary dance. That’s what Aengus O’Hanrahan did a few years ago, and the company he learned with, CoisCéim, are hoping to tempt more new beginners to take part in their classes which begin this month.

Ten years ago, CoisCéim launched Broadreach, its dance classes in Dublin that are open to everyone.

contemp dance Source: YouTube

First steps

“I hadn’t done any dance before,” said O’Hanrahan, who is in his forties. “Friends invited me along to a dance show, and I was curious to see what it was like. I really enjoyed it, the physicality of it. I was used to seeing people using their voices to convey emotion and it was something else to see someone’s technique and physicality of it.”

Inspired by the energetic performance – “there was a lot of energy in it, moreso than you get in theatre or to some extent the energy of a rock show” – he was inspired to take up contemporary dance classes.

“Anything new, you’re slightly nervous and slightly excited,” he said about his first class.

“I was looking forward to challenging myself again,” he said. “It was something so outside of the everyday – you don’t generally do contemporary dance down the supermarket.”

That was two years ago, and he’s learned a lot about himself since.

Using your body

“Why I like it is it’s nice to use your body,” he said.

I’m a lawyer by trade so I spent all my time in the office working with my head, so this is an opportunity to use your body. As you grow older you forget what it’s like to learn how to use your body like you did when you were two or three.

He’s learned how to become mindful during classes. ”You start thinking an awful lot more about your body and how it moves.

When you’re doing that, you’re not really thinking about whatever rubbish is on your desk at work.

He does a lot of cycling, but has found physical benefits from the dancing. “You do a lot of work on your core. There are physical benefits in that. Mentally and psychologically I always find it a great relief,” he said.

It’s also enjoyable to meet other people. “When you’re doing work together as a duet or a trio or whatever it is, you’re sharing and helping and there is a lot of trust involved.”

His advice to people?

Just jump in. I didn’t have any real dance experience. You are not going to be the only person there who has no experience. It’s definitely no fear of embarrassment. Everyone makes mistakes. The teachers in CoisCéim will always say don’t worry about making mistakes, this is a safe place for us.

“You can laugh, you can cry – it’s mainly about having fun. It definitely adds a positive contribution to your life.”

Creative Steps

sibeal

Broadreach’s other activities include Creative Steps, for young people aged 15 – 25 who want to create and perform dance theatre for the stage and the screen.

Professional dancer Sibéal Davitt took the Creative Steps course after leaving school, and it helped put her on the road to her career.

“I left school in 2007 and I wanted to go to dance college but I decided to do a BA instead,” she said. “I went to Creative Steps as a kind of a past-time.”

But it turned into more than that, with training and performances. “It was really good, good for building up technique. Now the people I work with a lot are friends I made in the group.”

“With the course you get as much as you give,” said Davitt. “If you go to all the classes and make rehearsals, you will get more out of it.”

Creative Steps isn’t for complete beginners, but rather for those who do have dance experience.

“There’s definitely a class for whatever you want to do,” said Davitt. “The benefits are keeping fit, but that’s kind of on the surface level. There’s so much more than that. It’s finding out about yourself and what your body can do. It’s exciting what you can do.”

She even pointed to a current “craze” with movement classes, and movement-based martial arts classes like capoiera.

“I think it stems a bit from the success of someone like Conor McGregor and MMA – you can do so much with your body from becoming looser and more efficient, and there is so much to gain from that in dance.”

Take a class

CoisCéim and Broadreach will run a series of dance classes in Dublin, with the new term starting on 19 January. For more information, visit the CoisCéim website.

Read: This Irish arts festival has helped get mental health on the national agenda>

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