Tag Archives: collaboration

Enhance – Active Armchairs Sessions

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Written by Steph, Level 3 TRS Teacher and Level 2 Active Armchairs Facilitator.

It’s been a long time in the planning but the Enhance classes have arrived, and we are now already a few weeks into teaching our first classes! 

Together, myself, Rebecca and Katie planned each of the sessions before any classes began. Group planning ensured that we are all covering the same content in our classes and allowed each of us to have a creative input into the sessions. It’s always great to chat to other teachers about activities, dances etc that they might have used in other classes so sitting down together and sharing our ideas has ensured that we’ve brought all of our best bits together. 

In terms of the class content and approach to teaching the research project classes, we have exactly the same approach we do to every single Active Armchairs class. Nothing differs in the research project classes to ensure our work is authentic as possible. Participants still have the choice to join in, we make adaptations to suit the group (regardless if that takes us off piste from the plan), we make adaptations for the weather (very important for our recent heatwave!) and ultimately our participants at the centre of everything we do. 

We decided to start our block of tested classes with a few of our Active Armchairs classics. These are generally the songs and dances that we would use for a taster session because of their popularity and sing along worthiness! Thus our first theme was aptly named ‘Golden Records’.  The theme features songs such as ‘Delilah’, ‘Shake Rattle and Roll’ and ‘I love to Boogie’. Delilah in particular is a great sing along song, and during my first class whilst I was teaching the movements to the dance the whole class erupted in song acapella! This was shortly followed by an excited participant expressing their love for the song! “Oh we love that song!” Shake, Rattle and Roll is another popular song, and a personal favourite of mine. We use brightly coloured shakers for this dance, creating different rhythms and sounds before breaking out into song and choreographed movements for the chorus.  The shakers not only bring lots of colour and different sounds into the room, they also encourage more prolonged movement. The effect of this was certainly clear in one of my classes when a participant expressed how the movement made their body feel…”Ooooo my arms, they’re having a great workout. We were all having so much fun shaking and singing we didn’t realise our arms and muscles were busy working!”

It is always exciting to take Active Armchairs classes to new venues and participants. And the classes so far haven’t been without numerous magic moments, brightening everyone’s days, including ours! Seeing participants enjoy themselves in the moment is truly special, but knowing they are eager to get going again the following week is equally as rewarding… “When are you coming again, make sure you come back…we want more of that!”

As we have now completed our first theme, ‘Golden Records’, we are now onto our next exciting theme, ‘Summer Garden’. Watch this space for the next installment of Enhance classes, celebrating all things wonderful in the Summertime! 

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Enhance – The Story So Far

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For those of you who are new to the TRS blog, welcome. To those who visit regularly,  I’m so excited to have this new strand for you!!

We have officially announced our brand new and exciting project, Enhance, although it’s been in the planning stages for over a year now. The team and I will be writing blogs throughout the project and I thought I’d start with an intro about what we’ve been doing so far. It’s been a journey with many twists and surprising turns that have lead us to something that Alice and I never expected when she first said to me, “I’ll do some Active Armchairs research.”

The very first step on this journey was to speak to the TRS Teachers. Alice and I chose the All Hands Meeting for this and we all mind mapped, drew, talked and got enthusiastic. The most important thing to come from this was that the participants should always be considered first because their well being is at the centre of everything we do. We talked about what is important to participants of Active Armchairs and ways in which we could carry out tests that would be most appropriate to them.

As I had a lot of experience with dance and project management, but little with research, I felt it would be a good idea to speak to some experts. I also went along to some events to find out more. Places and people who have influenced the project along the way include Medway Healthy Weight Summit 2018, Scott Elliot (Head of Medway Health and Wellbeing Services), Patricia Vella-Burrows (Pricipal Research Fellow, Sidney De Hann Research Centre), various staff members at University of Kent, Medway Dance Network and Medway and Kent Dance, Arts, Culture Health and Wellbeing Symposium. Without all of this input the project wouldn’t be what it is today.
 
Alongside this, Alice and I set about working out exactly what we wanted to ask. We settled upon the following questions.
 

I also decided to make the study as ‘robust’ as possible. I’ve become very used to the word, robust, as researchers use it a lot when they’re doing high quality research! It is important. The NESTA standards of evidence were recommended to me and I thought this was a great way to ensure people could trust the outcomes of the project. I’m hoping we will reach the very highest standard.

It also became apparent that there is a surprising amount of dance research out there, but it isn’t easy to find. I want the outcomes of the project to be easily found, understood and utilised, and I have some ideas in mind. As well as the report being available to all, we are also going to have a training day for Active Armchairs facilitators. This will be an unusual opportunity for everyone to get together, discuss, develop ideas and share practice. Alice and I will also be sharing how the results will influence Active Armchairs.

Somewhere in amongst all of this I met with Ian Farr, PhD Student at University of Kent. His work allies beautifully with our research aims and this was when the project began to swell and strengthen. Ian has an academic interest in the health and well being of older adults and how psychosocial factors may influence physical performance. His research will be completely independent of anything The Right Step do to ensure objectivity and to avoid bias. Simply put, we run classes and he does research about it. I won’t be there when he carries out any aspect of the study and he won’t be attending any classes.
 
After this we needed to find suitable care homes. They had to meet a few different criteria, but long story short, the chosen 5, who are kindly giving time and energy to make this happen are Ashley Gardens, Barton Court, Little Court, Warwick House and Woodstock. I’m sure their staff and residents will love the 20 Active Armchairs sessions we have planned for them!

We also have 3 facilitators, Steph, Becca G and I will be visiting on a weekly basis, except on testing weeks, and we can’t wait to get started. We’ll be planning sessions together and adapting them to the group each week.

We have a detailed plan,  we have the right people and we have the places. Next we will start the project. Research has just begun and sessions begin soon. We’ll keep you up dated, but do let us know what aspects of the project you want to hear about.

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Arts 4 Dementia Conference

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Yesterday I attended the Arts 4 Dementia Best Practice Conference, “Towards Social Prescribing (Arts & Heritage) for the dementias”. It was jam pack day that left me thinking. There were also a huge amount of important thoughts and ideas shared by speakers so I thought I would share some aspects of the experience. 

We were welcomed by Veronica Franklin Gould who was the driving force behind the day and who is clearly extremely well-respected by her colleagues, I can see why. Immediately she left us with actions to complete… Providers of relevant activities should sign up to the Arts 4 Dementia website and notify the local NHS social prescribers. A clear message… share information and start a conversation. 

We not only heard from professionals working in the field, but also from Christine Maddocks about her experience living with vascular dementia. In Alexandra Coulter’s words she was “the voice of the individual in the system”. She inspired everyone and was an instant reminder to all of why we were there. 

One of the most relevant sections of the day for me was when two outstanding academics, Dr Daisy Fancourt and Professor Sebastian Crutch spoke. Relevant because we are about to run our own research into Active Armchairs, but also because the studies that have already been carried out can influence our provision and teaching.

Daisy talked about how the arts are multi modal (they have lots of components at play) so there are a wide variety of outcomes. She said “The more people engaged with these [arts] activities, the better their memory was years on.” A fact that can boost all providers of arts activities to anyone, if they are living with dementia or not. As dance artists and arts providers, we can also take other things from her speech. For example, we should try to include lots of different elements and approaches such as song, dance, conversation. Theses are already all important elements of Active Armchairs, but perhaps we can develop this further.

Having taken part in the Created Out of Mind training and I’ve also read about his research, I was keen to hear what Professor Sebastian Crutch had to say. He encouraged us to bring in people with a lived experience and find what works for them. The slide in the photo shows how different people are affected in different ways with different dementias. In summary, everyone is different and so the effect of the dementia is different too. 

He said “What people really need is continuity of support” and I would whole heartedly agree with this. I’ve seen the disappointment when a fantastic arts intervention has to end due to funding. It will be a difficult hurdle to jump. One that those spearheading social prescription seem to think will be solved by volunteers, but that’s another story. 

Sebastian also talked about the importance of support and community. Care is varied across the country, but he encourages people to learn about online support such as Facebook groups and said “Nothing local is not the same as nothing available.”

The comment that resonated with me most was when he said “The fact that it’s in the moment, or short-term, doesn’t make it irrelevant.” He was referring to the various graphs showing short-term and long-term improvements, some of which are only present during a session. I have always considered that, when working with anyone, the moment is just as important as the outcome. In fact, in dance, working to an outcome such as a performance can be stressful. A participatory project often has more benefits to health and well-being and the journey is key. 

After refreshments, we heard from Dr Michael Dixon, OBE GP. He speaks very highly of social prescription and is extremely positive about the initiative. He was inspiring. He said we’re “caught in the scissors of doom” (increasing costs and a reduction in funding), sees social prescription as a way out and believes that prevention is critical to the survival of our health services. I believe that it’s not only that we should think of; If we can prevent illness, we also prevent pain and suffering. 

The thinking is changing, why wait.
Dr Michael Dixon, OBE GP

The keynote speech was given by Baroness Greengross, a lady whose prestigious achievements, when listed, take up a lot of space. She clearly has a passion and knowledge for the subject and believes “The key is timing. We must guide people to the arts at the earliest stages.”

 

 


In plenary debate, chaired by Dr Marie Polley, we heard from six people (see list in photo) for five minutes each. Various points of views were heard and it was concluded that there was more conversation to be had and that a group for Arts and Dementia must be created as part of the network. I would go further in suggesting that, a group representing the artists should be created too. Social prescription will not work without them. 

“Where people’s’ souls are nurtured as well as their bodies.”
Professor Martin Green OBE FIAM FInstLM, FRSA, FIPSM, Cheif Executive Care England

“It really should be about conversation”
Georgia Chimbani, Dementia Lead, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services

“Biggest thing to happen in the arts for some time.”
Dr Richard Ings, Arts in Health, Wellbeing and Criminal Justice lead, Arts Council England.

Ian McCreath summed up in a way that I recognise as the approach used by many arts organisations and individuals to deliver their services, “Universal, but recognising that some people require additional support.” I agree, sessions only for those living with dementia and their carers have a place, but I believe in an inclusive approach whenever possible and appropriate. 

The afternoon was split into two sections of relevant examples. The first was entitled Arts for People Affected by Early-Stage Dementia, chaired by Dr Patricia Vella-Burrows who I’ve been lucky enough to hear speak and learn from a several times now. Examples from poetry and music were, of course of interest, especially Gemma Dixon’s story of Bob who played the organ before class. “His confidence was boosted, he had ability to speak in full sentences where he couldn’t before”.

 

 

The section about dance was most relevant though and it was a delight to hear from Dr Sophia Hulbert and neurophysiotherapist who has a love of dance. It was boosting for me that many of the things Sophia attributed to the success of her sessions (including items in the photo of ‘Conceptual Underpinning) are also found within Active Armchairs.

 

Sophia also did a quick demonstration. This was a fantastic way to get everyone reawakened after lunch and demonstrated how “Imagery can really empower movement”. In this case the imagery was also uplifting as it was about flying in a hot air balloon. I always enjoy seeing a conference of people who usually sit at a desk dancing! 

 

 

The second section in the afternoon gave everyone a better understanding about how Social Prescription can, and does, work. Nicky Taylor talked about how working in partnership has more impact, Dr Richard Hooker encouraged us to always remember the carers, Wendy Gallagher told us about the Handbook for engagement with people living with dementia and Bogdan Chiva Giurca, an extremely inspiring young man said that “One step is to bridge the inter generational gap”. Kathryn Gilfoy, Director at Resonate Arts, had many examples of different activities to share and I enjoyed her slide about the benefits of arts and person centred care.

Following this Professor Helen Chatterjee MBE discussed social isolation and how museums can help combat it. Her points about the research already carried out motivate artists to provide deep level cognitive stimulation to ensure that activities are truly engaging. I also picked up some more thoughts for the up coming Active Armchairs research project. 

Nigel Franklin, Chief Executive, Arts 4 Dementia, closed the day. In just a few minutes he left us with actions and inspirations.

“There are more people living with dementia now that ever have before.”
Nigel Franklin, Chief Executive, Arts 4 Dementia

It was one of those days that leaves your brain fuzzed with thoughts and ideas. I will act on them.

In terms of practical application, I believe there are some gaps that still need exploring, transport and fair payment for artists for example, but as an overall ideal for shifting prescription to preventative measures, I’m completely on board. Not just for people living with dementia though, if done well, Social Prescription could help everyone with their health and well-being and provide a cultural shift. We will see.

I do hope The Right Step will be found delivering prescribed dance activity, especially as what we currently offer is already of high quality and always developing to suit the needs of participants, but we will have to see how the commissioning side evolves and how we are able to be included.

I will conclude with an open invitation for anyone working in social prescribing to contact me. We must open conversation about how we can bring dance with a health and well-being agenda to the masses.

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Happy Birthday to Us!

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Yes, TRS is 9 years old today. I’m immensely proud of how far we’ve come and I’m extremely thankful to all of the amazing people who’ve helped me and the team along the way.
 
When I first had the business idea, there was even a name so my husband, Lawrence, thought of one. I sought business advice from The Princes Trust and they sent me my amazing mentor, Ian Goodwin. We needed teachers and along came Sophie, then Alix, then many other wonderful TRS Teachers. I need office help and Georgia was the one to help me let other people in. There were too many classes to manually look after so Kenny, Gavin and the team at Snapwire saved the day by designing our managment portal. When the ideas kept coming and there were gaps that needed to be filled with dance, James from Tremendous Design Agency helped to brand it all.
 
There have been dance collaborations, partnerships and funds galore. We love to work with Luci and Medway Council on things like Big Dance and other annual dance events. We’ve partnered with Sun Pier House for festivals and our had our fantastic office there. Funds for projects like Changes in the Current and The Sirens of Cetham seem like long ago, but they were so important to us and we still think about them. Funds from Age Concern lead to Active Armchairs training. The collaborations that come from Medway Dance Network are just as important and I’ve enjoyed hearing about everything that happens in Medway.
 
We headed out into Kent and worked with more schools and care homes. We appeared on the BBC (more than once!). When Georgie’s franchise launched last year I was made to think again of how far this has come… my tiny desk and one binder to multiple dance companies under the TRS brand.
 
I’m so grateful for all of this and promise to work hard to continue to bring dance to Kent and, who knows, further afield!
 
Thank you everyone for all that you do for TRS and long may it continue.
 
Rebecca x

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TRS Tots

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Last week we launched TRS Tots. We’ve been providing classes in the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) for years, but now these sessions have an official logo and marketing material thanks to Tremendous Design Agency. We’re looking forward to holding more classes in nurseries, pre-schools, children’s centres and other places were babies, toddlers and young children gather. They’ll be sessions for parents / guardians to dance with their children and for the children to move without them from 2. 
 

Anyway, to celebrate,  I thought we would share some of our favourite things to do so here are some ideas from the TRS Teachers.

What’s in the bag prop task, getting them to guess what it is always fun.
Georgia
I second this! A bag full of egg shakers makes wonderful sounds when you wiggle it, creates conversation and excitement as they put a hand in to feel what could be in the bag and then produces big smiles as they pull out a brightly coloured prop that doubles up as an instrument! Magic!
Steph
 
I love to pick out a prop (whatever it maybe, scarf, balls etc) and watch them explore the different movements they can make using it.
Georgie
I like to use bubbles at the end of class. I ask them to dodge them and make funny shapes with there bodies or pop them. They always look forward to it.
Hayley
I love an improv story. It’s great to see the unexpected things that the dancers come up with. Even if I have some ideas, give them something I think is difficult or give them a really specific task, they’re always surprising me! Plus, there are so many things you can do with an improv story! I wrote a whole blog about it here… http://www.therightstepdc.co.uk/2018/11/21/improvisation/
Rebecca
 
Props props props… I love a prop and so do they. I also have a theme for each class… going to the park, winter weather (in winter), dancing in the rain, and then each theme leads to the movements we do such as splashing in puddles, lifting our knees high when walking thru snow, swishing the fallen leaves with our feet etc.
Clare
 
I’d say things that make noise or that are very tactile.
Georgia about classes for babies
 
I love to watch their eyes follow the noisy objects. Parents like to see how they react to different tactile objects too.
Rebecca
 
I used to use light up balls when I taught ball skills – turned the lights in the room off and then they just bounced the balls around
Katie
 

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Inspirational People

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Collated and written by Georgie

This month’s theme for TRS was ‘Loving Dance’ and we thought we’d ask the TRS teachers why they love dance, who inspired them and who continues to do so.

TRS Director Rebecca Ashton:

“3 people stand out as having a huge effect on my career.

My 1st dance teacher, Debbie, is probably the reason I love dance so much. I clearly remember that she taught me friendship between dancers, we can work with other dance schools and didn’t have to be competitive. This sounds very much like how we work as a team of dance artists at TRS.

Another dance teacher at Collectivedance SchoolCollege, Sue, is completely the reason I went to university. She took me to Surrey uni in year 9 and I never looked back. From Sue I learnt that there are lots of different types of dance career, something that influences the way I work with dance teachers now. I also learnt how to dance on Pointe to Meatloaf and how to stand like a Flamingo with my leg by my head, but they’re different stories.

Finally Rachel Deadman, from thedancemovement.co.uk inspired me after Uni. She supported me into work and made me believe in a world of happiness for dance teachers.

Without these 3 ladies I wouldn’t be where I am now. I love them for the inspiration, opportunity and confidence they gave me, and I hope that at least some of the things they do can be seen in my work too.” 

 

Georgie, South Kent Franchise Owner, Level 3 TRS Teacher:

“I have always wanted to dance ever since I was little, that’s obvious to anyone who knows me, but keeping up with dance and being inspired to teach, that’s where I need to thank a lot of people.

When I was younger, for over 10 years I attended Prima Stage school, where so many teachers really boosted my love for dance and especially contemporary. Thanks to those teachers I then went onto college where I met Marie Forbes who made me really believe in myself and that I could make a career out of dance. She had so much passion and really knew how to inspire all those in her class and I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

I then went onto do the DASP with Loop Dance Company where I met Nina Atkinson and Georgia Smith, both of whom showed me the world of community dance. Again, two people who really inspired and pushed me into where I am today. One lesson I learnt which I use almost every day now is to throw myself into anything and you will either sink or swim, but at least this way you can succeed or learn how to.

Which brings me onto my next inspiration, Rebecca Ashton (Director of TRS). As soon as I heard about the work Rebecca did, I knew I wanted to join the company. I especially loved the idea of ‘Active Armchairs’ as this was something very close and personal to me. I have now worked for TRS for 5 years and every year I am growing more and more as a practitioner, being challenged and inspired by people who really believe in dance but also in me. I would not be where I am today without any of these people and I truly hope they know how grateful I am.”

 

 

Georgia, Adult Dance Coordinator and Level 2 TRS Teacher:

“The people that first inspired me were my teachers in secondary school because they opened up the possibilities of careers in dance and took me to some inspirational places and let me experience the impact dance can have. Without them I wouldn’t have applied to university. During university, I meet Nina Atkinson from Loop Dance Company and she introduced me to a world of endless possibilities, and this inspired me to always dream big and to always strive to inspire others. After my time at university, Loop opened doors to other companies, and they continue to inspire and support my ideas. My network of people is what inspire me and to them I will be forever grateful.”

 

Becca G, Schools Dance Coordinator and Level 2 TRS Teacher:

“Being a dancer from the age of 3 and having so many opportunities pop up from this has inspired and developed me into who I am today. My first inspiration and thanks go to my first dance teacher 

Lesley Munn. From a young age she could see something in me and from the age of 4 I was competing on stage. Miss Dorban is another inspiration of mine as despite her age she created/ choreographed/ envisioned/ taught my beautiful solo’s, duets and trios to compete. My love for performing on stage came from that and grew when I joined stage theatre society. I performed in a lot of musicals till sadly I was too old to continue in the shows but now I am very lucky to be able to choreograph for STS. From choreographing assisting and teaching for both Munn academy and STS I wanted to go to Uni to further my training. From Uni I was very lucky to find TRS. It was almost like fate as a friend already taught for TRS so without knowing I already had many links. So, I would like to thank all at Munn, STS and Rebecca from TRS for where I am today. Without them I would not be able to do what I love every day.”

 

Steph, Level 3 TRS Teacher:

“I am fortunate to have been inspired by many dance teachers, dance friends and visiting professionals during my training. Now, I would say most of my inspiration comes from the participants in my classes and those I dance with. Seeing someone in my class enjoy themselves is so incredibly rewarding and most definitely inspires me!

I love to dance because I believe it is inherent in us. When babies learn to stand, they dance and wiggle before they walk. The human body is made to move, and all movement no matter how big or small can be classed as Dancing…that’s awesome. When you add music to mix, I think that’s a wonderful recipe for the soul!”

Alix, Level 2 TRS Teacher:

“My dance teacher at secondary school inspired me, Diane Rogers, if it wasn’t for this lady, I do not think I would have fallen in love with dance as much as I did. She inspired me in many ways, working together as a team, being positive always, and always motivating me to be better. She always had time.  She’s a big part of why I teach today. 

Loop Dance Company also inspired me and introduced me to community dance. When I first met Marie her passion for dance and to teach was so powerful it shone through her. However talented us dancers were, she put time in, made us all feel good and made all classes enjoyable. I then joined LoopEd youth group where I met amazing people and met the rest of LOOP that continued to inspire me and give me confidence.”

 

There are so many people who inspire our teachers to this day and we hope we are inspiring the people we work with as well. The network we have not only within The Right Step but surrounding is so supportive that everyone can pursue the career they want to within dance. That’s why we are ‘Loving Dance’ this month!

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The TRS Teachers

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It’s February and this month our social media is all about loving dance. As well as dance, we also love our team here at The Right Step. I’m very lucky to work with such a fantastic group of people who are all passionate about dance. It’s not just their passion that makes them so brilliant though. In this blog post I’m going to talk about the things I love about them.
 
Queue the gushing blog post!

Enthusiasm

They have a passion for what they do and have worked very hard to get where they are. They couldn’t do this job if it didn’t excite them.

Teamwork

This is my favourite thing about TRS and it definitely makes the company special. Together we can do far more than an individual. The TRS Teachers share knowledge, like when Alice talked about phonics at The All Hands Meeting or when Steph mentors fellow staff members in her role as Level 3 TRS Teacher. They are there for each other on difficult occasions such as when we did a memory walk for Rose and they let each other know when they’ve done well such as when they nominate each other for Spot Awards.

Pride

We call special things that happen in class, Magic Moments and when I look back on them I can see how proud the TRS Teachers are of their work. I will always remember how proud Shanice was when she came away from her first ever taster at Friston House Care Home. I was there to support as it was her first, but she didn’t need it. The class was spectacular and I awarded her a Spot Award too. 

Happiness

The team love what they do and take the opportunity bring happiness to people who might not have much. We do have one team member who stands out as the bringer of  happiness though… Becca T’s happiness is contagious. She such a kind and sweet person, it rubs off on everyone whenever we see her!

Drive

They go above and beyond! For example, Steph initiated a video performance for the dancers at Byron Primary because their class was during the day. She edited it together and even wrote a blog post. It’s this kind of things that reassures me that the TRS Teachers are doing their best for the participants in class.

Commitment

I’ve noticed recently that TRS Teachers either come for a year and then change career or stay forever. Georgia has been working for TRS for 6 years and has been working in the office for just as many. Alix is the longest serving TRS Teacher. She’s been here since leaving University, that’s 8 years! Their commitment means that we don’t let down the people we work with and the participants get to keep the dance teacher they know and love.

Patience

Although we love what we do, it does require patience for many reasons. The TRS Teachers have oodels of patience with participants, each other and with me (when I disapear off to have a baby and then zoom back in with lots of ideas)! In Active Armchairs Facilitator Training, we talk about patience and Georgia leads a few practical exercises as well. It’s a great thing to practice because practice helps us to be mindful and truly present in the situation. 
 
This blog has been one of the quickest I’ve ever written. I have used 7 words to describe the TRS Teachers already and I’ve been writing for 12 minutes whilst waiting for Georgia’s post (insight into our busy lives!) I will stop there, but I could go on and on!
 
Happy Valentine’s to the TRS Teachers x

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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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Props Sharing

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Written by Rebecca, Georgia and Jess.

The TRS Teachers gathered for a props sharing to discuss ideas for using props in the dance class with different age groups and in different settings. The sharing was a great success and not only did we all come away with lots of ideas, we also made some props together such as egg shakers and a giant scarf. 

During the the sharing we explored different ways to use the props we had made and thought of ways we could use these as a way to engage participants and to enhance the dance class.

“I love using props in a dance class because they always enhance the session and they can be used as a tool to engage the participants and develop creative moment. I use props in classes for all ages as they provide a visual stimuli and provide the participants with something fun and tactile. Props can be used to create music (such as the shakers) or encourage a participant to move in a certain way. Some examples of this may be to reach a bean bag as high as you can, move a scarf softly through the space or squeeze a ball to see how tightly you can grip it before passing it to your neighbour. I had a wonderful time at the props session and cannot wait to put the ideas in to practice.”
Georgia Smith (Adult Dance Co-ordinator, Level Two TRS Teacher and Active Armchairs Facilitator)

Jess is the newest member of the TRS Team and is absorbing all the ideas she can. She said…

I have recently started teaching in different environments and with different age groups. This has made me think about the way I can incorporate props into my classes. Not only can props extend the movement and can help tell a story, they can also help participants interact with each other and with me, as their teacher, creating new bonds and friendships within the group. The sharing gave lots of ideas for how to make props and use them in classes in different ways. Props never just have one use, with a little imagination a scarf can turn into anything.

The sharing provided lots of ideas of how to make props and use them in classes in different ways.
Plastic eggs to make egg shakers
Material to sew together and make bean bags
Hoops to add ribbons to and wave

We created a prop shopping list that included teacher’s favourite props. Some of them are the basics that every TRS Teacher needs! 
Feathers
Scarves 
Ribbons
Cotton Snowballs
Pom Poms
Ball Pit Balls
Dusters (A great first prop, 50p for a  pack of 100!)
Bubbles

At The Right Step we love to share great practice and this is what the sharings are about, but we found the props sharing was also very therapeutic. Conversation and craft in a relaxed atmosphere. As well as sharing days between the TRS Teachers we also share props and ideas on our Facebook page, usually on a Wednesday, so keep an eye out HERE

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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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