Rebecca Ashton

Be A Stress Free Freelancer – Boundaries!

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Stress Free Freelancer

 

At The Right Step Dance Company I work with many freelance dance artists, we call them TRS Teachers. Some are community dance practitioners, some are dance teachers, some are facilitators or instructors, but whatever they call themselves, they are technically sole traders and they all work for themselves.

 

Working for yourself is great most, of the time, but it does have extra difficulties that aren’t necessarily there when working for someone else so I’ve put together some tips for freelancers to help them along the way.

Be stress free…

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care, it means you will put systems in place to allow you to get on with things, safe in the knowledge that you will be happy, on schedule and within your limits.

Set your boundaries…

If you consistently follow the boundaries you’ve set yourself you will be focused when you’re working and able to relax when you aren’t. It’s important to set boundaries that work for you. Everyone is different and has different needs.

Let’s start with three…

1. Know your work hours – If you’re a morning person, but useless in the evening set your work hours accordingly. If you like to have a siesta, plan it in. No one can work all of the time, we get tired and then we’re unproductive. It is important to be available though. Note when people need you most and try and work around it.

2. To email or not to email? – Nowadays we can receive our emails on our phones as well as computers, but it can be tempting to work all hours of the day or to just quickly do things here and there.  Set a boundary to make sure emails don’t get in the way. Maybe use the phone to read emails, then you can work on a reply for when you’re back at your desk. If you like to reply on the run make your phone the main thing you use so you don’t get in a muddle over who you’ve replied to and who you haven’t.

3. Admin Vs. Teaching – Teaching is the fun bit for most TRS Teachers and that’s why The Right Step does the admin, but to be stress free it needs to be under control. Set a boundary so you know you’re keeping on top if it. Perhaps an hour every morning or a couple of scheduled hours a week?

So they’re boundary related tips to becoming a stress free freelancer!

Good luck

Touch Your Toes!

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Touching your toesIn our last Lunchtime Pilates Class we were asked to reach forward and touch our toes during warm up. The class was a mix of complete beginners to intermediates and then those who have been touching their toes all their lives so, as you can imagine, there were various responses. It got me thinking about the health benefits of being just a little bit flexible and able to touch your toes. So many people can’t, but with a little bit of stretching they could benefit a lot!

Touching your toes is about flexibility in the back, hips and thighs, calves and feet so stretching these out goes a long way to helping you touch your toes and, if these four areas continue to stay flexible, the benefits as one gets older are great. Think of how breathing is affected if your back is hunched, or how your stride would be reduced if the calf muscles are short.

The most simple, but quite slow way to get closer to touching your toes is to just try it everyday. Perhaps each time you get out of and into bed reach down and touch your toes, hold it for ten seconds, breath and get a little closer. Repeat this twice everyday and it’s possible you’ll notice a small difference.

Standing TouchIf you want to speed up the process and feel the other health benefits more quickly there are some other stretches I would recommend as well. Standing stretches for this are well documented and I have mentioned them below, but as we work with a lot of people who are unable to balance and stretch standing up I’ve decided to outline some seated stretches and adaptations. As always, only moving how you feel like moving. Don’t stretch to hurt yourself, you shouldn’t feel pain, just a gentle pulling. Also, if you already have a physiotherapist, it’s best to check with them before doing this. You wouldn’t want to mess up the things they’ve already helped you achieve!

The Back
The most obvious way to stretch your back out is to curl it, also known as the cat stretch. On a chair you should begin sitting upright, spine stacked and legs uncrossed out front and hip width apart. Place your palms on your knees and curve and lift the back to stretch.

The Hips and Thighs
There are many standing stretches for this including lunges, reaching forward and down, twists and lifts. The best stretch to do whilst seated to help you with toe touching is the thigh stretch. Walk yourself to the front third of your chair. Straighten one leg and place the heel on the floor. Keeping the back straight and putting both hands on the still bent leg lean forward slightly. Only go as far as you can without curving your back. Repeat on the other leg!

Calves
Very similar to the thigh stretch above, but with subtle differences to work a different muscle. You still move to the front third of the chair, put one leg forward and sit up straight, but this time your hands hold each side of the chair and your feet flex so your toe points to the ceiling. Repeat with the other leg!

FeetTennis Ball
There are more than 100 muscles in the feet and many of them, the ones in your soles, get involved when touching your toes. Grab a tennis ball and put it under one foot. Roll it around for up to a minute to warm up, loosen and stretch the muscles. It will feel like quite a a massage. Don’t forget the other foot.  If you don’t have a tennis ball try lifting the heel, keeping the toes on the floor. Repeat, slowly padding through the feet.

Seated touchOnce you’ve done these stretches try touching your toes again, I’m sure you will be closer whether your trying to touch them whilst seated or standing. Don’t stop there though, repeat the stretches at least once a day and you’ll get there eventually.

At the end of the Pilates class I mentioned above, we did cool down and had to touch our toes again. Grunts of surprise came from everyone when they realised they were all that little bit closer! it just shows how much of a difference a few stretches can make!

Good luck and please let us know if you reach your toes!

This is meant to be more of a factual post, but if you want to come to Pilates and you live near Sun Pier House in Chatham, we do it every Tuesday, 12.15 – 1pm and it’s wonderfully relaxing! Click HERE for more information. 

Pilates Is...

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Journeys

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In the Summer Term of 2015, Level Two TRS Teachers Alix and Shanice worked with the Reception classes at Miers Court Primary School. This was Alix’s first time working with a cross-curricular Approach, though she’s taught many many lessons working to a specified theme. Shanice came along to see what cross-curricular dance is all about and, by the end of the sessions, she decided it’s something she’d like to work on in the future.

Here is what Alix had to say about it.

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Warming up for the Journey

 

Shanice and I have just finished our cross-curricular classes at Miers Court Primary School and we have thoroughly enjoyed working with both the school and the children.

The classes focused on ‘Journeys’ so we took all of the Reception year on a fantastic journey to a hot dessert island so they could find treasure.

 

 

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The Rowing Boat

Firstly we had to go on a few other journeys before we could reach our destination. We visited the beach where we started our adventure. The children played in the sand, rubbed on their sun cream, enjoyed ice creams and even ensured our hats and sun glasses were on to protect us from the sun. Next we stepped into the sea to go on a number of boats. We went on a rowing boat, a canoe and on speed boats that were very fast. On our boat journey we saw many sea creatures. The children enjoyed pretending to be a shark, octopus, crab and fish.

 

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The Treasure!

At last, after our speed boat adventure, we stepped onto our very quiet, beautiful dessert island. The children searched behind palm trees and even used a map to find the treasure! We eventually found the golden treasure and the children were so excited they created a disco dance to celebrate!

 

 

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Having a Disco to Celebrate

The children worked very hard and were committed in all of their sessions. They were supported by their teachers which was lovely.

The lovely reception classes even created their own moves for the dance and performed the whole piece with lots of energy.

Shanice and I were very sad to leave, but we hope Miers Court enjoyed the dance. Well done Year R, it has been a pleasure!

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End of an Era Performance

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I’ve been working with Year 2 at Balfour Infants School for two years now and I’ve seen them transform from a timid Year 1 to fantastic dancers in Year 2.

I remember the first session in year 1. The girls all got their socks muddled up because the patterns were so similar. It didn’t take them long to get into the dance routine though and by the third week they were prancing about making up dances.

Over the two years we’ve used themes such as IMAG0284Ice, Magical Creatures, Aliens (a very popular Dr Who based theme!) and Carnival. The dancers have learnt choreography and choreographed so many of their own dances too.

In one of the very first classes we used a giant elastic for warm up and they were enjoying it so much that I took some photos. The photo to the right is one of the first photos I ever took of this group!

The end of year performance is a chance for Year 2 to show bits of their favourite dances. I let them choose and then mix the music together to create a very long piece. We then work together to remember the dances, because some were a very long time ago by this point, and create transitions to make sure the different themes flow together smoothly.

IMAG7309This year both Year 1 and 2 also worked with another TRS Teacher, Katie in term 6. They had learnt the chorus to the Frozen dance with me and then Katie helped them choreograph the verses. As Year 1 had worked so well they were invited to join in with the performance as well. The photo to the left is the ‘Let It Go’ bit of the chorus!

 

I’d like to congratulate all the dancers for their fantastic performance. They worked so hard and deserved the big round of applause they received at the end of the dance! Really well done to them all. I hope to see the Year 2s at Balfour Junior’s Dance Club when they move up. I like to go and visit, see how they’re getting on with Alix!

Below is a photo of me with the dancers after their first performance and below that is a video of the dance they did. Enjoy!

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Croquis Events – Goodbye

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Croquis EventsSo for now we’ve sadly had to put Croquis Events on hold and so the pages are going to be removed from the website. We didn’t want to loose everything that’s been uploaded though so you can now click HERE for the links to the old Croquis Pages.

I had a wonderful time working with both Richard Squarecube, the original inspiration behind Croquis Events, and Marissa Mardon, who continued Croquis Events with me when Richard was unable to. What a fantastic time we had and perhaps we’ll be back someday with a one off Croquis Event!???

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Wanted: School’s Dance Co-ordinator

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We need someone enthusiastic about providing dance for children and young people to join our office team!

The Right Step’s Schools’ Dance Coordinator will work with the Programme Director to coordinate an inclusive, diverse and artistic programme of both regular and one off events for dance in schools (EYFS upwards).

Please email Rebecca for further information: info@therightstepdc.co.uk

Deadline for applications is Monday 3rd August. Interview details will be announced by Friday 7th August and will be held from Monday 10th August. Start date will be as soon as is suitable following interviews.

In Rehearsal - The Bear Necessities

 

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In The Paper – Carnival Comparisons!

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In the Medway Messenger on Friday 12th June 2015

Press Control on your keyboard and scroll your mouse to make this bigger!

The blog post is here… http://www.therightstepdc.co.uk/2015/05/20/carnival-comparisons/
And the video is here… https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=27&v=Q7wTPDhzgjQ

06003 Miers Court Fri 12th Jun 2015

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Carnival Comparisons

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IMAG7055This term Alix and I worked with Year 1 at Miers Court Primary. The theme was Carnival Comparisons and we had a very colourful time.

We took inspiration from three carnivals, Rio Carnival, a carnival that has non stop dancing for a whole day, Nice Carnival,  possibly the oldest carnival in the world, and Notting Hill Carnival, the biggest carnival in Europe. The dancers choreographed most of the movements and used colourful feathers as props.

Miers Court Puppets

 

Nice Carnival uses lots of giant puppets called Grosse Tetes (French for big heads). I taught the dancers a short motif that they danced in partners, one as the puppet and one the puppeteer. I was really impressed with how they understood the concept. They even choreographed their own dance moves.

 

In the fourth lesson we took all of the carnival dances (motifs) and squashed them together to make a long dance. We only have four lessons per class, but the dances were over five minutes long. They remembered them though!

IMAG7107Today was the show and the dancers were amazing. They did three performances in total, one for the camera, one for the reception classes and one for the adults, for them that was the most exciting!

Alix filmed and took photos and here’s the result! I had a fantastic time working with Year One, I’m sure you can see why!

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MDN Dates Released!

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Medway Dance Network is a group of dance minded individuals who come together to make dance happen. Now that a few meetings have taken place a few more dates have been announced and, as an added bonus, short talks will be included. Each short talk will last up to 15 minutes and will take place at the beginning of the meeting.

 

No need to book, but if you would like to join our mailing list please email Heather, info@sunpierhouse.co.uk, so that you hear about future events! For more information about MDN please click HERE.

MDN5 Tuesday 12th May, 5 – 7pm at Sun Pier House
A talk about DASP (Dance Artist Support Programme) with Georgia Smith. An opportunity to find out more about the programme that aims to be a stepping stone from University into the world of work. The DASP audition day is Thursday 4th June and you can find out more by emailing info@loopdancecompany.co.uk

MDN6 Wednesday 17th June, 10am – 12pm, place TBC
Katie Rees talks about Voluntary Arts and collaboration. An excellent opportunity to find out more and maybe get involved!

MDN7 Monday 13th July, 1 – 3pm at Sun Pier House
Best Practice for a Freelancer – A short presentation and question time with Rebecca Ashton (Founder and Programme Director at The Right Step Dance Company) followed by the normal meeting. This presentation is perfect for the new or emerging freelance dance practitioner as well as those who are thinking about it as a career or who are already in the role and have further questions.

MDN8 Monday 7th September, 1 – 3pm
WOW Magazine, a talk from the editor, Emma Dewhurst. What is WOW and why as well has a chance to discuss the needs of an editor, what do they like to see when you send a press release?

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Running Round The Room

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Today was our final lesson of the term and we ran around the school hall 6 times.

This might sound like a strange thing to do in a dance lesson, but running around the room has become a regular occurrence at Balfour Infants School and Greenvale Infants School recently. I’ve been adding extra cardio into my classes in a bid to explore the participants’ views on exercise. I have been surprised by how excited they’ve been by it all!

Our theme this term was Doctor Who and I based our warm up around the idea of a clock…

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The Cybermen (Alien of the Week, Week 2)

 

I laid numbers out on the floor (in the shape of a gigantic clock, or as close as I could get it!). We then did a circle warm up in the middle of the clock (everyone took turns to lead a movement that looked like the Alien of the Week and would help warm us up). Then we walked, marched, galloped, skipped and ran our way to each number in turn (clockwise, was one of our key words).

 

Once we reached number 12 we started the main section of cardio and ran around the entire clock. On the first week we only ran around it once, the second week twice, the third week three times and so on until this week we ran around the clock 6 times in a row and then the children each ran to pick up a number and bring it to me as well.

They are only Year 1 and 2 so that is quite a feat!

This week I asked the dancers what they thought about running around the hall so many times and these are some of their comments…

“I want to do it 20 times!”

“It’s exercise.”

“I ran around the playground 12 times once!”

“It pumps your bones… I mean it pumps your blood. It’s good for you.”

One girl said, before the warm up this week…

“I can only run around the hall 5 times. It makes me worn out.”

And then, after the warm up…

“I did it 6 times! I’m getting better”

She was surprised and I wondered why?

I think giving the dancers the opportunity to do this has allowed them to see that they can run around the hall this many times. They know it’s good to exercise, they’re taught that in school, but we now need to find ways to make exercise fun, to make it a habit and to make it something they want to do.

As I’ve seen in this class and as we’ve read in many articles and studies, it’s really important to start healthy habits early and I adding extra cardio to class has been a really good start. It’s not only good for the children, but as I’ve been doing this three times a week I was surprised to discover that it got a little easier for me too.

I’m now thinking up my next exciting plan to increase the amount of cardio for next term’s Creative Dance Clubs.

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