Tag Archives: Active Armchairs

For Body and For Brain

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Written by Georgia Smith, Adult Dance Co-ordinator, TRS Teacher and Active Armchairs Facilitator.

We see it everywhere these days, on social media, in the newspapers, on the TV. It seems like the world is pushing a health and wellbeing agenda which can only be a good thing, but what does this mean for the older generation?

As part of our ‘Pull Up a Chair’ campaign this January, we have been thinking about the benefits of dance to older adults. Here at The Right Step we take a holistic approach and always create our sessions with the body and the mind taken in to account. Over the past few weeks, we have talked about the benefits of dance on our social media channels and through a series of blogs including Rebecca’s three part series about motor skills. For this blog, I would like to share some benefits of dance, For the Body and For the Mind. Of course, this is a huge subject and there is a lot of literature out there so this is a summary and specific to Active Armchairs.

Starting with the body, a common symptom for older adults is stiff joints and decreased muscle mass which can make individuals weak and seem frailer. Dance and movement can help to mobilise joints and retain muscle mass as a dance class is a great way to move all different parts of the body rather than focusing on just one joint or muscle. It can strengthen all areas. This can help individuals to retain their independence as they would have the strength to continue to do tasks for themselves.

They say that music and song lyrics are the last to go from someone’s memories so a dance class is perfect for those that are living with Dementia. Recently the Guardian reported:

“Moving more might help to keep people’s brains sharp as they age – even in the face of dementia, researchers have said. Scientists have found older adults fared better when it came to cognitive tasks if they clocked up higher levels of daily activity”

With a focus on enjoyment also, The Right Step aims to lead classes that not only included exercises for the body but also include conversation and creative tasks to help older adults to think and engage physically, mentally and emotionally.

Dance is one of the most social activities we can do so a huge benefit of Active Armchairs is that is brings people together, especially those that may be socially isolated. A dance class can combat loneliness and bring back the sense of belonging to those that may now be living in a different environment or away from a spouse or loved ones.

The Guardian’s article also stated,

“previous work has shown that moving more is linked to a lower risk of dementia, and slows the decline in thinking and memory skills in older adults as they age – but the latest research goes further.”

Please click here for the full article: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jan/16/activity-sharpens-even-dementia-affected-brains-report-suggests?CMP=share_btn_tw

We don’t allow the participants to feel childish in our classes (although play and silliness is part of the fun!). A large part of how we do this is discussion about why we are dancing. The benefits above are often talked about. In her class at Valley View recently, Active Armchairs Facilitator, Becca, had the following experience.

‘When I arrived at Valley View Care Home Derek asked me if we were going to fly away because he remembered that we’ve been doing some songs by Frank Sinatra. When we were using the pom poms I could guess which movement Derek would do and we had a giggle about it. I asked him if he remembers what it does for him and he said ‘it helps loosen our joints’. The care worker there was very impressed.

Seeing Derek have fun and learn about why we do these things lets me know I’m having a positive impact. I like it when people improve and remember things.’
Becca

Although the Active Armchairs Facilitators are artists and not necessarily medically trained in any way, they are keen to maintain and develop participants’ bodies and brain and do all they can to follow the latest research in to do so. The majority of the benefits happen accidentally because dance, and art in general, are therapeutic and physically beneficial without having to force it. 

Above are just some of the benefits of participating in a dance class but let’s not forget the most important thing… Dance is fun and can bring happiness whether that happiness is through the music, the dance moves, the social interaction and conversation, or just enjoying the atmosphere of the room. So ‘Pull Up a Chair’, it’s time to dance!

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Motor Skills Part Three

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The third and final blog post in my motor skills series… a few things to try!  If you missed them, please check out the previous blogs posts…
 
Section One: Gross Motor Skills 
Section Two: Fine Motor Skills
Section Three: How to Maintain and Improve Motor Skills With Dance (this section)
 
Some things to try! 
 

Use a giant elastic in a circle. The fact that you’re dancing as a team gets everyone excited and they forget themselves. This generally increases the size of movement at any age or ability and therefore is great for gross motor skills. The fact you’re also holding onto the elastic is great for strengthening fingers and, therefore, fine motor skills too. 

 
There are plenty of things to do with a giant elastic, but for this purpose you could put some music on with a simple beat. Gently bounce the elastic to the beat as a group, as you continue change the movement you’re doing. You could try up, down, up, down, bicycle arms, swaying side to side and much more. The picture is of some of the TRS Teachers in Educating Dance training using the giant elastic to create large shapes. 
 

Swap hands! In dance class we always do things both sides. It often feels odd not to because one side will be stronger or more flexible than the other. With the hands this is known as Bilateral Integration and this can be improved by doing a prop exercise with the other hand too! For example, if you’re using scarves, encourage the group to swap hands half way through.
 
Lycra is great for resistance. A fun game for children and able adults… as a group, hold the lycra at the edges and pull it taught, but not completely tight. One person goes underneath and stretches the lycra in interesting shapes. You can also do a similar thing as a group sitting on the floor and making shapes with legs. 
 
The Smallest Movement Counts  in Active Armchairs and this is applicable whenever you’re working on fine motor skills. Small movements and gestures are great for brain breaks in the classroom at school or for a few minutes of hand training in a care home. I mentioned finger counts in my second blog post, but there are plenty of other things that can be done. You can try tapping each of the fingers on the thumb, putting songs on with simple rhythms and moving fingers in different ways or remembering and talking about signifying gestures such as pointing and waving. 

Egg and Spoon races can be achieved whilst standing or sitting. It just takes some imagination. The idea for egg and spoon races in Active Armchairs came from Steph during the Age of Creativity Festival last year. The theme was partnership and the egg and spoon passing sprung from that. 

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these ideas and have learnt at least a little something. The plan is for 2019 to be the year of useful, informative and inspiring blog posts so please keep an eye out and see our News Page for more. 

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Motor Skills Part One

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Our ‘Pull up a chair’ campaign is in full swing. It’s January so, on social media, we’re exploring the benefits of dance for older adults. As part of that I though I’d share the motor skills blog that’s been in the pipeline for a while now. Not just about adults, but it is about a huge benefit of dance…

Motor skills involve actions using muscles and, as this is an inherent part of dance, it is important that we know about them and how our teaching can affect them. There are two types of motor skill and both are very important for development and maintaining freedom. In this blog I’m going to explore each type, how we use them and how props can be used to great effect. It got a little bit detailed so I’ve split the post into three sections.

Section One: Gross Motor Skills (this section)
Section Two: Fine Motor Skills
Section Three: How to Maintain and Improve Motor Skills With Dance

 

Gross Motor Skills: these require the larger muscles, whole body movements and core stabilising. Movement examples include walking, jumping and rolling as well as hand eye co-ordination such as throwing or catching.

The gross motor skills are easily developed in a dance class with children and young people and when our youngest participants are left to move as they choose (see my improvisation blog), they will naturally choose to move in a way that develops their movements in the way they need. For example, 2 and 3 year olds can often be found with their heads on the floor whilst standing. This is a key part of their development and they do it without encouragement.

In Active Armchairs we need to give a little encouragement and provide opportunities for gross motor skill use. This is because the majority of our participants have reduced mobility, they might be nervous to produce large movements or they don’t believe they can do any large movements. A key part of Active Armchairs is that the smallest movement counts, but we still give everyone the choice to use larger movements if they feel able that day. For the majority of movements choices and alternatives are given. For example, an arm circle can be performed from the elbow or wrists. Some people prefer to just use the shoulders, but not the arm.

We use props to encourage people to do larger movements and develop their gross motor skills. For example, when giving someone a scarf they almost always wave it. This is a movement that involves the larger muscles of the arm and, even when sitting, core muscles are needed for stabilisation as well. The scarf often makes people do larger movements than they would without it and they rarely realise this is the case because they are enjoying themselves. We are always careful to keep an eye out for fatigue though because using props for gross motor skills is tiring. 

Other examples of props that have a similar effect are large pieces of material used for partner work (see photo), giant elastics, balls and bean bags (for throwing and catching rather than hand work), rhythm sticks and parachutes (see photo above of Active Armchairs at Age UK Folkestone).

Why are gross motor skills important?

They are needed for everyday movements such as standing, walking, getting dressed and lifting a kettle. These are known as Activities for Daily Living (ADLs) and are essential to keeping freedom. As someone’s ability to undertake the ADLs decreases, so often does their freedom. This can be devastating as it can affect choice, individuality, self care and self confidence. Gross motor skill maintenance is a key part of our social dance classes. Often, by the time we are in Active Armchairs, much of this ability has been lost. There are fun things that can be done though. The third section of this motor skills series has lots more ideas for you.

Gross motor skills are also key for some things that might be a little more unexpected such as writing (click to read my blog about ‘The Dancing Day’ for more about sky writing), screwing a lid on a jar or using scissors. This is because it is important to maintain the correct posture when completing these tasks. If gross motor skills aren’t developed early on, problems with writing and therefore academia can follow. At the same time, gross motor skill development can have a positive affect on handwriting.

The next section of my blog will be about Fine Motor Skills.

 

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2018 Roundup

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We have been busy bees in the office in the run up to Christmas. As well as celebrations taking place, we’ve had newsletters and Christmas cards to design, print and send. We’re feeling very Christmassy already and can’t wait for Christmas jumper day on Monday (look out for the photos!)

Our newsletter has been going out in all of our classes recently and is also found in the many Christmas cards that Becca and I sent on Monday. We hope everyone who has had the chance has enjoyed reading it, but I’m sure there are others out there who don’t have one so… we have included a copy below for everyone can have a read. Enjoy! Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year!

 

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Improvisation

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The TRS Teachers are always excited by new ideas and trying new things. We recently had our sharing days and the TRS Teachers met for the All Hands Meeting on Monday too so this has been even more apparent.
 
Improvisation is the term used for spontaneously moving. The movement isn’t choreographed, it is usually very creative and it almost always leads to an unexpected and exciting outcome.

Why Use Improvisation?

Improvisation can be used just for fun. In our Educating Dance and creative dance classes we often use improvisation to help find movements around a theme that can be used later in choreography. We can also use improvisation or brain health.
 
It has been proven in both recent and quite old studies that dance is great for brain health. I think the first time I realised just how good dance is for the brain was when I read ‘Use it or Lose it: Dance Makes you Smarter’ by Richard Powers. A fascinating article about a major study that found dance questioned whether physical and/or cognitive recreational activities were affective in protecting against dementia. The only physical activity that proved affective was dance.

The article (read it here: http://socialdance.stanford.edu/syllabi/smarter.htm) goes into greater depth and there is a lot to be said on this subject, but for the purpose of this blog post I will focus on one element… I believe that one of the reasons for the protection dance offers against dementia is the fact that improvisation often plays a key role in dance. Thinking on your feet whilst also taking part in physical activity and, therefore, with the respiratory system working harder seems to have great benefits. Quick thinking, random thinking and making decisions that are not carefully planned whilst the body is also physically moving seems to be excellent for the brain and neural pathways.

The Different Types of Improvisation

In our training for school staff we teach how to give ownership of the movement to the participants. By ensuring they know there is no wrong outcome because they are being creative, the dancers can choreograph themselves and can achieve extraordinary outcomes when supported in the right way. Improvisation to explore a theme and experiment with movement is a great way to do this. Teachers can support students in free improvisation that is often very personal and always open ended or in closed improvisation that has a much more specific aim. 

Ideas for Improvisation

Improvisation Journies are great fun and very exploratory. The teacher has a pre-planned and very simple journey Just a few lines with lots of description ideas. The journey could take place in multiple settings such as for an around the world theme (home to hot air balloon with words such as high, free and clouds, to jungle with words like trees, vines, logs to go under and over or animals. Back to the hot air balloon with the same or different adjectives and onto the desert with ideas such as hot sand under foot, quick skittish lizards and sand dunes and so on.) 
 
If the journey takes place in one setting you can go into more detail. This is great for a topic like Habitats. For a jungle theme the teacher can describe the habitat in much more detail. There are tall trees with branches that spread wide. Vines from the branches for monkeys to swing on. The playful monkeys are jumping, climbing, swinging and picking flies from each other. The flies move from giant plant to plant. There are some fallen trees and you have to go over some and under others.
 
The teacher has the option to be as specific or vague as they like and can alter their words each time they do the journey depending on how the group are responding or if they have done it before. 
 
Improvisation stories are a great way to include the class topic in a cross-curricular dance class and we use it a lot in Educating Dance. In our training, Dance: A Cross-curricular Approach, one of the first journies Sophie (our first ever TRS Teacher) and I did was Water’s Journey. The improvisation can be undertaken as a whole class moving as particles (as one, slowly and quickly etc. depending on the water’s current state), as an individual moving as the water moves through a story that can begin at any point (basically ice to sea to river to water system to tap etc. but this can and should be expanded upon) and can even include a staff member or guest as the sunshine (we always had Sunshine Sophie!) or within small groups with each group having previously been given the water state they will move as. It is a hugely diverse topic!
 
Story improvisation can become a great game for exploring a theme (such as Dinosaur Excavation), as a way to close a session (line up as a…) or as a cool down (Astronaut Suits). It could also be used within the school day if the story is appropriate. Please see my ‘Dancing Day’ blog post for more on that.
 
The first ever story improv I wrote was one I use just for fun as a game in dance clubs, but that is also great for gross motor skills development… I invented Pumpkin Soup whilst sitting on a train because there was a cafe at the station that had a similar name. Whilst the teacher says the story (and hopefully moves a little themselves as well) the children improvise. It’s quite a closed improvisation and due to that can be done with a whole class. I will create a full download for the story and instructions soon (in our new section of the website), but for now suffice to say that there’s a bowl of soup, a sudden mess and some sliding, tip toeing and sticky feet followed by a big clean up operation.
 
Carnival Dance is a wonderful way to inject colour and excitment into a class and works especially well within Active Armchairs. It can also be easily adapted for different themes. This is basically when the whole group moves, everyone is moving individually, but is occasionally inspired by someone else in the room. For carnival dance we would all have colourful feathers or scarves to dance with. When the facilitator sees something they particularly like they can commend the person who created it and incorporate it into their own movements. This also means that those who are shy, new to improvisation or struggle to improvise can still join in because ‘copying’ is welcomed and encouraged. An extension to this is when the facilitator begins to pick some of the movements and sequences them to choreograph a motif (small section of dance).
 
Although this is called carnival dance, the theme doesn’t have to be carnival. At Christmas I’ve used tinsle, jingle bells or silly hat voguing for a similar affect. 
 
Strike a Pose is a way to introduce a moment of improvisation into lots of different aspects of the dance class or school day in general. They could strike a pose at the end of a dance or exercise (you could give warning or spring it upon them depending on the group) or and the start before the music begins (this is a great way to get a group of young children to stay still!). 

It is an important part of travel / stop games (where the teacher shouts travel and then, after a while, stop and the participants move within a theme). It can also be done when improvising with props. It is very exciting when done with a giant elastic! 
 
 

Partner Improvisation is great for relationship building. Of course it can be done in schools and is brilliant for PSHE themed dance lessons, but my two favourite examples of partner improv are found in Active Armchairs, the dance together (holding hands as the participant leads the facilitator) and the Floating Material (a person at each end of a long piece of material wafting it in various ways). 

 

The photo on the left is of spontaneous improvisation with a participant who asked me to dance during Active Armchairs. We were supposed to be copying Georgie (leading her warm up in the background), but this particular lady became so excited by the class that she just got up and went for it! She led me and I had to follow. This is the best type of improvisation, when some one lets go and just goes for it. 

 
Improvisation is clearly a subject that excites me and I could go on and on about things we can do, but my biggest tip is to just give it a try. You’ll never guess what the group will come up with and in the highly unlikely event that they don’t know what to do, you can always move to the next bit more quickly or change tact slightly so the theme changes.

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A Year in The Life

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Steph, Level Three TRS Teacher, Level Two Active Armchairs Facilitator and Educating Dance Teacher (what a mouthful, she’s reached the highest levels possible at TRS!) was voted TRS Teacher of the year 2017 by TRS staff in November last year. As we are coming up to this year’s vote I asked her to write about her year and I’m pleased to say it’s really varied and has been very exciting!

This is how young dancers in Steph’s classes put their hand up to talk… in any funky position!

A Year in The Life of Steph…

One of my favourite things about my work with The Right Step Dance Company is the variety it brings each day. The past year has been no exception to this. Teaching all over Kent and Medway, I’ve covered thousands of miles, planned hundreds of classes and had a wonderful time sharing my love of dance and movement with hundreds of class participants for another year. 

Flicking through my diary, I’ve been reminded of some of the new schools and care homes I’ve visited this year amongst my regular classes. I’ve been teaching for The Right Step Dance Company for over 5 years, and whilst there are new classes and ‘one off’ sessions happening all the time, I have some brilliant regular classes too.  One of my longest running classes is the Friday afternoon Dance Club at Byron Primary School. I wrote a blog post (read it HERE) about their Dance club earlier in the year after their fantastic Summer Term. Often we get to see the development and enjoyment children have in their dance classes, but there isn’t always a show or opportunity to share the brilliant work the children have achieved. To overcome this, we decided to film the last class of term so they could share their achievements and experiences. I was so pleased to have been able to put this video together for the Dance Club participants at Byron Primary.

Another filming day, and definite highlight of my year, would have to be the BBC Filming Day at Hale Place Care Home. We were honoured and utterly thrilled to have been asked to be part of the filming as one of the home’s favourite activities. We continually see the positive impacts of Active Armchairs, but when others can really see and feel the benefits of the classes too and wave the Active Armchairs flag of joy it’s a brilliant feeling! Myself and Rebecca had a wonderful morning with the residents and carers, and I think its fair to say we both left that morning with big smiles on our faces!  Hale Place was a relatively new class for me at the time, and has now become one of my regular weekly classes. I have loved getting to know the residents even better over the past year, and look forward to another year of dancing and singing with everyone.

There have been great team moments throughout the year too, with our twice yearly All Hands Meetings and training sessions. We usually find ourselves teaching alone, so having the opportunity to meet with others teachers on the team at All Hands meetings means we can share experiences and advice. It’s also just a lovely opportunity to have a good catch up over a cup of tea and some biscuits!  We often have training within these meetings, and in our most recent one we had a session with confidence coach Andrea Barker.  The session was not only a great team bonding experience, but also enabled us to take strategies away to implement into our practice.  Catch us striking our power pose below!

I really enjoy the opportunity to work with other TRS teachers, and as a Level 3 TRS Teacher, I had the opportunity to mentor one of our newer teachers to the team this year.  When teachers join me in my classes for training, I love to share experiences and tips so it’s been great to be able to focus this into a mentoring process.  I know myself I find it very beneficial to be observed, and to share teaching practices with other teachers, so combing this with my experiences as a freelancer made for a great first mentoring experience.

As I reflect upon the year, It’s very hard to pin point a few favourite moments, as in all honesty every day and every class brings something magic. I mentioned the notion of ‘Magic Moments’ and how we capture them in classes in an All Hands meeting a few years ago and it has since become a wonderful way to share these little snippets of joy with everyone.  There are plenty of Magic Moment quotes to be found on TRS social media; Whether it’s a comment about the participants class experience, a child that expresses their enjoyment and pride at learning a new dance step, the older adult that taps along to the music for the first time or feedback from a teacher/carer about how a participants response is a breakthrough….we are so lucky to be a part of so much magical! Here are two of my most recent Magic Moments. 

“Year 5 at Singlewell Primary School have been learning Bhangra Dance this term and will be showing some of their moves in their assembly this week. They were looking fantastic in their dance class earlier in the week and we can’t wait to hear how it went!”
Steph

“Singing in the rain is my tune of the day today!! We had a great sing along at Fort Horsted and reminisced about the great Gene Kelly and his wonderful dancing in the rain and swinging around the lamppost!”
Steph

As the final school term of the year approaches, and I begin to think about Christmas classes and plans for the new terms in 2019 (!) I find myself feeling very grateful for having another great year of classes and experiences with the Company.  This year especially seems to have flown by…but maybe that’s because I’ve just been having too much fun dancing!

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Partnership

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Written by Georgie Tedora, owner of The Right Step, South Kent, TRS Teacher and Active Armchairs Facilitator.

For the past 2 weeks we have been celebrating the Age of Creativity Festival. We know what this is, but perhaps you don’t? To give you a better idea here’s what Age UK said:

“The Age of Creativity provides leadership, profile, advocacy and infrastructure development for everyone who believes in the value of creativity for older people. Established in 2012 with funding from the Baring Foundation, the project aims to support professionals working in arts, health, culture, social care, academia, voluntary and community sectors to enable more older people to take part creative activities and enjoy improved health, wellbeing and quality of life.”

This year’s festival theme is partnership, TRS already do so much involving this, but we thought we’d go even further in celebration of the festival! More about what we did during the festival later. 

So, let’s start off with the basics….

What is partnership? To different people this can mean different things. It could be a spouse, it could be business partner, or even your ‘partner in crime’. To us partnership is one of the key aspects of The Right Step Dance Company. Just by going through some testimonials from participants, teachers and observers I have picked out so many words which all relate to partnership:

The Right Step Dance Company states in it’s executive summary that TRS “links companies, dance artists and participants, taking on administration and building relationships with those who love dance.” We are always looking to create new partnerships within our company. Creating these links allows this to happen. This has even passed onto our TRS teachers. When asked what partnership means to them here’s what some had to say:

“Working, thinking and creating together” – Georgia

“Partnership is working and communicating with one another or others in the community. This could be local, global or international.” – Becca G

“Working together to create opportunities together. Partnership is key in all aspects of life!” Georgie

Like I said, TRS use partnership on a daily basis, ever since the start. Here are some blasts from the Past that give some great examples of partnership in action!

Hale Place Care Solutions, Active Armchairs with Steph on BBC Filiming day

Age UK Folkestone, Active Armchairs with Alice on the very first day of classes for The Right Step South Kent

Montgomery Court, Social Dance with Georgie, John and Doff enjoying themselves

And here’s another great example of encouraging partnership within our classes:

“My favourite story is one you’ve all heard before… when a participant joined the circle at Valley View because I used the giant elastic. It was the first time she left her table to join the circle for me!” Rebecca Ashton, Company Director talking to TRS Teachers

TRS have always been able to understand the importance of partners within our Active Armchairs classes, avoiding the social isolation that can sadly occur for older adults. This is why we encourage all participants to join in our sessions, and for those who would prefer one-to-one within their own space, we offer that too. One to one still involves the contact and social aspects just on a smaller scale. Partnerships can be and are created anywhere and everywhere. Which is where the next part of the blog comes in…

For the past two weeks the TRS Teachers have been focusing on the theme of Partnership, and it’s even spread onto our schools classes too:

With partnership in mind, I’ve been tying my scarves together in Active Armchairs this week. It unites the group as we shake and wiggle and makes a for a great game of tug of war! Steph

“At Durland House we I asked the participants what partnership meant to them, and almost at the same time they all said ‘togetherness!’ We then had a fun game of the egg and spoon, encouraging team work, balance and focus. They were so good I thought I’d make it a little harder by using plastic balls too!’’ Georgie

“I am working on partnership with my reception class this week. They are very young and new to a dance class environment so I thought something simple like mirroring our partners movements and traveling across the space together in different ways would be a good idea to get them comfortable in the space and with each other.” Georgia at Burham Primary School

“At Hoo Primary we discussed partnership and what the word meant to the children. We also explored how people would work in partnership in a Circus (as that’s this terms theme). The two keywords that came up were Trust and Team Work. So we experimented with ways to use these two themes with the circus in mind and had lots of supportive movements and balances on the tight rope! We also had some very funny clowns who were working well as a team to make sure that no one dropped their imaginary juggling balls! We’ve added these into our Greatest Showman Dance” Steph

“We often finish a session with a mini meditation as part of our cool down to help centre ourselves and calm down from all of the excitement of dance so we can go home calmly and safely. Yesterday we did it holding hands to help calm each other. Wrotham Road” Alice

“Our theme at Hoo this term has been superheroes! We have been working in partners and the children had to pick a superhero each and create movements that fit the superheroes character. We then joined 2 partners up with each other to create longer dances and bigger teams together!” Becca G

“At Mereworth we have been doing street dance this term. We end the sessions with a team huddle up and shout ‘’Street Crew!’’ We have also worked on some secret handshakes (which aren’t so secret) to coincide with the partnership them which turned out so good that we added them onto our routine!” Georgie

Age of creativity festival has really allowed us to explore and expand our partnerships even further. We are looking forward to next year’s festival to see what that theme brings to our team!

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Magic Moments! Sept 2018

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This year we have had so many Magic Moments from all our classes we thought we’d share them altogether for you to see. Whether it’s a small toe tap from an older adult participant who usually struggles or a standing ovation from a performance at the end of term, TRS have so many magic moments and we love to share them!

“I just wanted to say how lovely it was at Lulworth House today. Aga (the activities coordinator) was there and encouraging everyone to join in. She had made a point of encouraging people who wanted to take part to come into the room and so many people joined in, it was fantastic. What a difference. I thanked her for being so helpful.”
Clare

“I have just done my first taster at Friston house and it was amazing!! Rebecca and I both stood back and had a moment when they were all doing “it’s raining men” with their pompoms swinging them around their head. They were all having the best time and smiles all round. I have come out feeling buzzing!”
Shanice

“Year 5 at Singlewell Primary School have been learning Bhangra Dance this term and will be showing some of their moves in their assembly this week. They were looking fantastic in their dance class earlier in the week and we can’t wait to hear how it went!”
Steph

“I was so proud of my class at Burham last term. When it came to the performance they did so well that they even got a standing ovation from the audience!”
Georgia

“I went along to St William of Perth to cover a class. They had been learning a dance with Abi and couldn’t wait to show me! I was so Impressed they managed to remember the whole thing! I gave them a huge round of applause.”
Georgie

“A lady, Rose looked a little emotional at one point when we were dancing to “You are my sunshine” she said ‘My dad taught me this song… such happy memories. Thank you!”
Clare

“I played wonderful world last week at Gillingham Age UK and one lady in front of me was really expressing the words with her face. She was singing the words and doing the movements with so much emotion, closing her eyes singing and shaking her head. It was clear she must have been remembering a special moment, was lovely to watch and made me smile!”
Alix

“I just had my last class at Burham Primary School before the summer holidays and they had their performance. They went full out with make-up and costumes and the parents loved it! It was bittersweet as 6 of these as moving up to secondary school next year, so I had to get a photo!”
Shanice

“Singing in the rain is my tune of the day today!! We had a great sing along at Fort Horsted and reminisced about the great Gene Kelly and his wonderful dancing in the rain and swinging around the lamppost!”
Steph

“I was doing an around the world theme in my Active Armchairs classes recently. One lady is normally tired when I come in to do my sessions, but when I played ‘Tell me ma’ for my Irish Jig her feet went crazy! It looked like she was doing traditional Irish dancing, and everyone was so impressed!”
Georgie

“I heard a lady talk to another lady at Gillingham Age UK, and all I heard was ” if you’re happy, you have everything” and that just made me really smile today!”
Alix

“I was at Victory Care Home on Friday. There was a lady at the back occasionally joining in. My next part was doing a bit of one to one with egg shakers and the participants. When I come around and got to her she asked me if she could stand up and dance with me. I said yes and we had a lovely dance together.”
Becca G

“Last time I was at The Grove, we were talking about different dance styles that we enjoyed and perhaps did or wanted to do when we were younger. One was ballet and I mentioned about teaching and still taking lessons in ballet. This week I brought in my pointe shoes to show them all and we had a discussion about how you go on them, what age you should be before starting and where your weight is. I also gave them a cheeky little demo and they loved it and were very impressed and full of praise! Happy dancers and happy teacher (with a slightly Inflated ego).”
Alice

“When I was at Stoke on the last day of term, the school said that this was the busiest the clubs have ever been! It made me feel really proud and each term almost every child returns!”
Shanice

“I was at the Gillingham Age UK dementia class and this lovely lady Marie and I ended up having a one to one dance, as she said she felt comfortable being around me and loved dancing with me! Which was lovely!”
Abi

“I heard a lady talk to another lady at Gillingham Age UK, and all I heard was ” if you’re happy, you have everything” and that just made me really smile today!”
Alix

“We had a new lady Reenie, who initially seemed very distressed and kept calling out. However, I found that all she wanted was for someone to hold her hand or engage her visually. She literally stopped every time I held her hand and seemed to relax… if I caught her eye she also stopped calling out in distress too and would try to copy whatever I was doing.”
Clare

“Hi mini magic moment today, I covered Lulworth this morning and the residents were so welcoming, one even danced with me, full jive moves! He was impressed I could keep up! Another (who had been glaring at me the whole time but still joined in) made sure I had everything before I left and was telling me to make sure I stayed safe on my way to my next care home!”
Alice

Hearing about the TRS Teachers’ Magic Moments is one of the best things about our job so I’m sure we’ll have more to share soon!

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Healthy Weight Summit

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Yesterday A Better Medway held the 2018 Healthy Weight Summit and I went along with TRS Teacher and franchise owner, Georgie, to find out more.

The day opened with a speech by Councillor David Brake who talked about helping our community achieve a healthy weight, eat a balanced diet and be more active. He talked about our collective wisdom and said we would be “Working together to support Medway residents to adopt healthier lifestyles and achieve a healthy weight.”

The together theme continued and the thing that has struck me most about the day is that the people there want to work in partnership, build connections and network. Why wouldn’t they, together we can do more than one individual. This ties in really well with The Right Step’s plans for the next month as we get involved with the Age of Creativity Festival. For 2018 their focus is partnership. It’s more than a co-incidence that partnership seems to be the buzz word when talking about weight as well as when discussing arts. Partnership is the way forward, with cuts taking place across the country, the only way to make things happen is to utilize the resources and skills that are already out there. The people are out there and we’re going to find them!

20180925_103119After Councillor Brake, Scott Elliot, Head of Health and Wellbeing Services and, in my opinion, a driving force when it comes to getting Medway healthy and active, talked about what has happened in the year since the last Healthy Weight Summit. He discussed how trends in obesity in Medway are relatively static and similar or slightly above average in comparison to the rest of the country.

20180925_105548The thing that shocked us most though was information found in the following graph. I took a photo of the slide so it may not be clear, but the graph suggests that 63.3% of adults are inactive in the UK. I Tweeted whilst there and found out that this includes adults up to the age of 65. Since then I have also spoken to Scott and have discovered that the drop in activity around 65 / 70 years old is huge, he compared it to a a cliff edge and commented that this has something to do with retirement. We didn’t go into further detail at the time, but this is interesting to me due to our work with older adults and older frail adults. I’m sure the Active Armchairs Facilitators would agree with me, we see the inactivity and we see why regularly. See our Twitter feed for more about this.

I hadn’t realised how many brilliant initiatives are already taking place in Medway and still, new ideas are being developed. These include the Health Walks, cycling groups and, of course, the Better Medway Champions.

The reality is, we are all part of the solution. Scott Elliot

I was especially interested in what Penny Lazell, Physical Activity Nurse Clinical Champion about health professionals delivering the message of the importance of physical activity for wellbeing. She has a long road ahead of her, but it sounds like a great initiative. Physical Activity is a large part of personal wellbeing and it’s important to get this message out in hospitals. Even the smallest movement counts and activity is different for every person, but it is still key.

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James Williams, Director for Public Health also spoke. He inspired everyone to go out there and get things done and said it’s “an equalities plan, not all about obesity.” He means that we need to look at all the parts of the jigsaw puzzle that is health (another theme of the day!).

 

20151123_110539At The Right Step we are well aware of the importance of partnership, we are a team of community dance practitioners who work together to do more than any individual could. That is who we are. We also see how dance can be a bridge between arts and sport and therefore is an excellent medium for improving health and wellbeing.

We are always developing though and, moving forward, the summit has encouraged me to look deeper into the type of partnerships we make outside of The Right Step. We work with many schools and care homes, but how else can we partner in order to take dance to more places? This is something for me to explore. For now, I can share some of the work we already have with regards to dance, fitness and weight. Here is a link to all of our blog posts about health and wellbeing…
http://www.therightstepdc.co.uk/category/health-and-wellbeing/ 
We will be discussing all of these things in our next All Hands Meeting (a meeting for all the TRS Teachers that is held twice a year) and we will be speaking to Scott further about how we can reach more of the right people.

I will end with a quote from Scott. I met with him this morning (less than 24 hours after the very busy summit!) and asked him about his thoughts on partnership.

It’s the informalities of partnership and networking that makes them what they are. My quote about partnership would be taken from M Riley who said ‘Start somewhere, follow them everywhere.’ Problems are only going to be solved by working together and we will improve social isolation, community engagement and everything that overlaps. That is why this agenda is such a passion for me.

 

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Sharing Is Caring

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By Georgie

Over the half term we held some sharing sessions for the TRS Teachers. Both for our schools dance classes as well as our Active Armchairs classes. It was lovely to have so many teachers involved, and from all different levels of the TRS team. Sharing ideas and collaborating with one another is a vital part to The Right Step’s ethos and we enjoy it so much.

Firstly, we started off with our Schools Dance sharing. Becca, our Schools Dance Co-ordinator started us off with a great warm up to Bamboleo by the Gypsy Kings. This was a warm up she had done for a carnival theme in a school, so she included the use of bright feathers. Whilst we had the feathers out we discussed different ideas to use them for, for example using them to tickle different body parts. As well as talking about behaviour management within the class. As feathers and any sort of prop can be a slight distraction, especially with younger children. So, using ideas such as ‘Put your feathers on your head’ to keep them still and focused works really well.

20180213_114336Next Georgia shared her ‘weather’ game with us. We created different movements to represent the different types of weather, from sunshine to rainbows to twisters to lightening. You can start off by giving a couple of examples then get your class to help you come up with the rest. A great way to build up movements to use throughout your class. Then you walk, jog, skip and gallop around the room. When the teacher shouts out a weather you do the action that represents this. We discussed how you can use the main idea for this game and change it to the different themes that you may come across in your classes such as superheroes of jungles.

Hayley, one of the newest members of the TRS team shared an exercise where the idea is to walk around the room, but you are lead by a certain body part; for example your hand. Using this to ‘pull’ you around the room. Then you can switch to different body parts! The more interesting the better! We had elbows, bottoms, knees, and ears. A great way for children to learn about themselves and their bodies!

I then shared some cross-curricular ideas. I had chosen some words from some of last year’s book week books such as ‘The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. Ben’ and using these I laminated individual letters, and had the students create as many different words as they could within a set time. This promoted team work as well as using Literacy within a dance lesson.

We discussed lots of different ways to which we can use these ideas throughout our lessons. Coming up with more ideas, for example with the letters. You can then get the children to make the shape of the letter using their own bodies. We also looked at cool downs, how you can take movements which you have learnt in class and repeat them but slowly to start cooling the bodies down!

Overall it was a very successful Schools dance sharing! And we can’t wait until the next one.

 

The next Sharing was for our adult dance classes, mainly focusing on Active Armchairs.  Again, a lovely turn out, we had a good mix of previously trained Active Armchairs Facilitators and our new trainee’s too.

20180214_153431_001I shared my warm up to ‘Love and Marriage’ by Frank Sinatra. This has been used for various themes within classes and as it is a well known song, most participants enjoy it. I also shared my  ‘around the world’ theme using a blow up globe. This is great for conversations, discussing where they have been, where they want to go. You can also use it to practice co-ordination for example throwing and catching or rolling across to another participant. Finally, I shared a dance to ‘Let’s twist again’. This is a great song to use again as most know it and it encourages participants to twist, which can be something that they use less as they get older. It also included the hand jive and jazz hands for an all around fun dance!

20180214_152503Clare shared a few of her favourite things she’s been doing recently. She brought in her stretchy material to show us. These are great as they work like resistance bands but aren’t as strong so anyone can use them. She used pieces of lycra material and cut them into strips. We then went around in the circle and came up with a movement each, which we then put all together to create a dance! She also shared with us her lovely cool down to ‘You are the Sunshine of My Life’ which is such a lovely song and a great way to finish a session.

20180214_154416Georgia shared some of her exercises that she has been using in class. She showed us her foot exercise to ‘Jailhouse Rock’ another great upbeat, toe-tapping song to which most people know! This works really nice as a foot exercise as it’s a nice steady beat, and she even included a bit of a wiggle and boogie for the chorus so that participants can have their own creativity in there. She also shared her dance to none other than ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ by Bon Jovi. Again, a fantastic sing along that most know. This was really fun as we got to play the drums, rock out on a guitar and throw our arms in the air! She also included circles throughout to work through the whole body. Like wrist circles, ankle circles, shoulder circles etc. It was a really fun and beneficial dance.

Again, we had such a great time sharing our ideas, you can see how much by having a quick look through our video below.

Thanks to all that came and shared, looking forward to next time!

 

 

 

 

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