Rebecca Ashton

10 of The Best for 2015

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Stress Free Freelancer – Know Your Limits

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Stress Free FreelancerWe’ve all done it… We’ve said yes too many times and found ourselves swamped with work. I did it, took on a full time job in a shop because I needed to and then worked for dance companies in every spare hour because that was what I was interested in. I burnt out.

When I moved to Medway I made a pact with myself and set my rules (see my previous blog post). I also had a better idea about my limits. Here are some of the things you can do to stop yourself going over the top.

So here are my tips for avoiding the burnt out, over tired feelings…

Stick to the things you enjoy
It will make you happy and will help you keep your work load down. Plus, work is less tiring and you’re enthusiastic about it.

Leave time to plan
If you know when you’re going to do your planning you don’t have to worry about it and ideas might just spring into mind in the meantime. Plus, if you plan well you’ll be proud of your lessons and that will make you feel good.

Learn to say sorry, no
If it doesn’t fit, say no. It’s fine to do that. You can always recommend someone else. No one person can do everything!

Don’t under sell yourself
Dance teachers deserve an hourly rate they can live on. It sounds obvious, but we’re so often asked to work for so little. If you earn a good amount of money you can work less hours. The Right Step fights for this, it can be done!

Variety is important
Don’t teach all of the time, it requires a huge amount of energy. Admin is important too. Try teaching a few different types of classes to find the balance between planning lots and getting bored of teaching similar lessons all the time.

Saxons Vs. Vikings

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This term I worked with Year 4 at Miers Court Primary School and our theme was Saxons and Vikings! They were a fantastic group, but I knew that because I taught them last year as well.

We got stuck in straight away and in the first class the dancers choreographed motifs about Saxon job roles in small groups. They were surprised to learn that had they been growing up in a Saxon village they would have just a few years until they had to take on one of the jobs.

The second session focused on Saxons in the evenings… Story telling, the great fire for heat, cooking and light and the celebration.

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Then there was a battle. We used call a response to choreograph a motif across the hall.

In the final few lessons we focused on Viking Gods.Each group had a different God sheet and had to show that they were Gods by performing their movements in a strong, powerful way.

20151202_141436I knew these groups were great at choreography because I worked with them last year. They didn’t disappoint! I made things more difficult for them this year by giving them lots of contrasting themes and asking them to thing about how they performed each one. They also had to think about transitions and there were many fantastic ideas for this including giants from the stories, flying up to the Gods and walking through the mist (something they were also doing in drama).

20151202_141700 cropThe dances were a team effort, even the teachers got involved and, when I was filming, I noticed them doing the movements with the dancers out of the corner of my eye. Excellent work!

At the end of term parents, friends and siblings came to watch the dances and the performance was excellent. All I did was turn on the music and thank the parents for coming. The dancers knew exactly what they were doing and were fantastically professional about it all.

We did do some silly things in the lead up to Christmas though, you have to enjoy the end of term! We introduced the Saxons and Vikings to Christmas and the dancers wore silly hats to perform their dance for the cameras. The video made it into the Miers Court Primary School advent calendar (number 10) and here it is to view as well. If you like it, don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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Christmas Newsletter 2015!

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We’ve had a fantastic year and couldn’t fit it all in, but we’ve had a good go. So here’s our Christmas newsletter! Try Ctrl scroll to be able to read it better. If that doesn’t work we’re happy to email or post you a copy.

Christmas Newsletter 2015

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Medway Dance Network – Winter Meeting

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MDN9… A busy meeting to hear about national big events as well as the usual networking discussions and, because it’s Christmas, mince pies! There will be discussions about U.Dance Medway and Big Dance 2016 and how you can encourage others to get involved. So please join us to have your say, find out more and hear how you can be a part of dance opportunities in Medway.

Tuesday 15th December, 1 – 3pm
At The Tea Room in Sun Pier House, ME4 4HF

If you would like to know more please email Rebecca info@therightstepdc.co.uk

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How To Press Release

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Press Releases
We can all use all the tips we can get our hands on when it comes to press releases. It’s really important for small businesses to get the word out in local papers, but what’s the best way to do it and how can we stop our press releases going in the bin?

Last year I took part in some press release training run by NKTS (North Kent Training Services). I found it extremely valuable and once I knew the tricks of the trade my press releases started working. The Right Step ended up in the Medway Messenger at least every other week. It was fantastic until I ran out of time and stopped writing them.
Fast forward to this year and Medway Dance Network (MDN) hosted a meeting with a talk from Emma Dewhurst, editor of WOW Kent Magazine. She gave us insight into what she likes to receive in a press release. Some things were different to those mentioned in the NKTS training, just personal preference, but there were many useful things running through both.

Heres are the top tips that came from both. Useful and realistic things that I hope will help.

Basic Structure
Send your press release within your email and also attached to it. Then post a copy on colourful paper too. Different people like to receive press releases in different ways and this covers the lot!

If you’re not sure what to write, this basic structure should help.

Press Release Number: Just in case you need a reference

First Sentence: This is NOT a headline, but do write it in bold. This should be a descriptive sentence that includes key words about things readers will want to read about. Some of the buzz words we use are community, school, older adults, arts.

Main story: Keep it factual and concise. Remember, they may copy it word for word so be careful about how you are writing.

Quotes: Always include something, even if it’s you saying it.

Photographs: At least one landscape and one portrait, don’t crop because they can do that and they have to be good quality (very few mobile phone cameras are good enough). Put them into your word document and attach them to your email.

Further Information: Say if theirs an opportunity for one of their photographers to visit and mention who they can contact for more information.

Facts: Provide some extra facts about your company such as started in… Or proudest moment. These might be printed next to your article or they might use them for something else at a later date.

The Personal Touch
Know who you are sending your press release to and name them in your email. If they recently printed an article from your press release thank them. They will be pleased you have read it and appreciate what they’ve done.

Timing
The Right Step usually has what some people might call fluff stories. Things the paper uses to fill the gaps between exclusive and big news. There’s nothing wrong with that, sometimes the community news is much nicer to read! It does give us a hint on when to send our press releases though. Our local paper, The Medway Messenger goes out on a Friday. This means I send press releases on a Friday. They’ve already finished the paper for that week and they are probably looking for fluff stories to full the paper before the big news comes in.

What shall I write?
I can’t tell you that exactly, but I do have a few dos and don’ts!

Don’t write the headline, that’s their job
Do be clear and concise
Try not to be biased, do be factual
Do give your press release a focus and try to think about what people are interested in.
Do check your press release for spelling and grammar mistakes

Most importantly though, you have to send something! If you don’t then, like me, your stories will stop being in the paper at all!

 

See some of the articles about us here…
http://www.therightstepdc.co.uk/category/office-news/press/

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Medieval Castles, 2015!

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This term I’ve been working with Year 2 at Miers Court Primary Schools. The theme was Medieval Castles and I’m so proud of how hard both groups have worked, it’s been fantastic.

20151014_150020We began learning castle parts using our warm up and cool down. Each castle part (battlements, buttresses, ramparts, drawbridges, the moat and the great hall) had its own movement, stretch or shape and we even had a Jester dance move and bowed when The King arrived. We played a game to make freeze frames about different parts of the castle and used the countdown music to make it more exciting.

Soon we had plenty of movement material all about castles!

20151014_140701We did more than that though. Each lesson I taught the dancers a little section of Tudor themed dances. In the end we had The Pavanne, The Chain and The Circle. I showed them pictures of the clothes the Very Important People (VIPs) might wear to dance in the castle and they learnt how the clothes would affect their movements.

Towards the end of term we put everything together to create a dance. They’d worked so hard that it was a lot longer than I’d expected. We had a practice show which was filmed (the video is below!) and some school staff watched too. Miss Bulldock nearly cried because she was so proud of her class!

The last week was show week! We had a short rehearsal and then performed to adults and some younger brothers and sisters. Some school staff even crept in to watch. The performance was made extra special because the children had dressed up in Medieval costumes for the day. They’d had a banquet in the morning, made castles and then came to dance. A busy day!

I’m really proud of both classes. They worked really hard to choreograph and perform their dances brilliantly then they sat and  watched each other as though they were a perfect, grown up audience.

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Here’s the video of one of the rehearsals. It was automatically created using some of the photographs and footage from that day!

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Why Franchise?

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TRS Franchise LogoLast week I was told what my two passions were and this got me thinking about why I’m franchising The Right Step. It’s a big undertaking and a huge investment of time and money so what are my motivations? It soon became apparent that I have lots and lots of reasons and they all get me very excited!

So here, in no particular order, are the first ten.

  • It’s not as difficult as some people think so I want to teach people how they can run a business too.
  • I’m a workaholic and this is the next natural step.
  • I’m proud of what I’ve achieved so far and I want more people to know about it.
  • I’d like to give other people the opportunity to progress their career. I’m lucky to not have to work every hour of every day if I don’t want to. The business model allows me to do that so I’m going to share it with other dance practitioners.
  • Someone said “I wish I could do what you do” three years ago and ever since then I’ve been formulating my plans!
  • I believe dance should be available for all. We’ve achieved this locally, it’s time to roll it our everywhere!
  • I’ve done a lot of work and I want more people to benefit from that.
  • I want to expand my company.
  • I’d like to make more work for more dance teachers.
  • I spent five years with the current team at The Right Step working hard through trial and error. It’s time to put our experience to better use and help out some others.

And the two passions in my life?
1. Everybody should have the opportunity to try dance because it makes people happy.
2. I want to give other dance artists the chance to progress their career as I have.

I think they were quite right!

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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. 

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