Words spoken by Gene Kelly

The words spoken by Gene Kelly at the beginning of the film, That’s Dancing, are a real favourite of mine. I have quoted them many times in my work. For me, these few words say so much about dance, its roots, its present and its future. They are inspiring and spoken by a man whose life was dance, dance, dance.

Read or spoken mindfully these words remind us of the dance that is within us. I was delighted to discover the video below, on YouTube, of the opening credits to the film That’s Dancing and if you listen to the very beginning you will hear the dulcet tones of Gene Kelly saying these wonderful words:

Long before the dawn of history, long before he could sing or even speak, man danced. Moving to his own internal rhythms, the pounding of his heart, the beating of his pulse, primitive man discovered dance. It is within us always.


I hope you enjoy these words too.



Dance imagery

Dancing jumpingImagery was part of my dance training although I did not think of it as movement or dance imagery at the time. It was just something we incorporated into our training and performance. When I first took part in a movement/dance imagery workshop with Eric Franklin at an IADMS (International Association for Dance Medicine & Science) conference many years ago I was reminded of how important imagery is in dance learning and teaching.

Articles and books

In recent years there has been an increasing amount of articles and books promoting the positive use of imagery in training, rehearsal and performance. Although imagery has been around for a very long time it is still relatively new to some. We can learn a lot from the study and use of imagery in our teaching.

Mabel Todd’s wonderful book The Thinking Body, first published in 1937 (and still available today), tells us on page 295:  Continue reading

Mindfulness in dance teaching

Dancer inclined headIn a busy world it is easy to miss things that are around us or even within us. How much time do we spend noticing what is around us, noticing our breath, noticing how we are teaching?

Creating some space within our teaching to notice things about our teaching. To be mindful of our teaching and the people we teach is what I want to explore very briefly here.  Continue reading

Physics of the hardest move in ballet

Creative people over at TED-Ed Original have produced a great educative, animation video about The physics of the ‘hardest move’ in ballet – the fouetté. If you have ever struggled with performing or teaching fouettés then this short video will interest you.



Did you enjoy the video? What did you learn from it? If you have found it useful for your performing or teaching then please leave a comment below that others might find helpful.



Past posts for dance teachers

Holding Daisies

In this post I am flagging up some previous posts that cover a variety of topics so you should find something that is useful for your dance teaching practice.

You can download a free performance booklet and read about why CPD is so much more than syllabus.

You can engage with articles published on the site by leaving comments or asking questions via the comment facility at the bottom of each post. Continue reading

Lectures from the champion dancer or the champion dancer’s coach?

LeapingIt interests me that in dance it is often the case that a current champion or successful competitor is booked to give a lecture to dance teachers or their students. And why is this? Do current champions know how to help others become champions or is it more likely that they just know their own experience of how they became champions? Continue reading

Dancing in my head again

jazz silhouette

Dancing in my head was the topic of a post I wrote back in 2012 and I thought it is time to say something more about this exciting topic.

What I refer to as, dancing in my head, is often called mental practise or mental rehearsal. In dance this mental practise involves imagining that one is in the dance environment performing the desired dance task or tasks. One aspect that I find works really well for me when dancing in my head, is rhythm. Going through the step or movement in rhythm in my head helps me to get the right feel of the dance, step or movement. Feeling the rhythm in my head is the same as feeling it in my feet or body when I dance it or teach it.

Mental rehearsal is a good way to get steps, movements or a dance clear in your head before you physically perform them.. Take Highland dancing for example, dancing a new step or a new link from one movement to another, in your head reduces the amount of energy needed and hopping that needs to be done. In fact, Highland is a dance genre where teaching your students about mental rehearsal or dancing in their head can really benefit their performance. Competitive Highland dancers and other competitive dancers of course, can gain from ‘dancing in their head’ as part of their training regime for competitions.

I like to explore using a variety of ways to achieve the end goal and mental rehearsal is one that you might find helps your dancers to focus on how to practise and get the most from that practise.

Whatever dance genre/s you teach why not consider encouraging ‘dancing in your head’ for your students and see what they make of doing regular, mental practise?

Remember to read my previous post on this topic for more information.



Dance moments from the past

I love to look back at great moments of dance, don’t you? I came across these videos from the 1940s and thought you would enjoy them too.

Jitterbug and Jive

We begin with a video showing first the Jitterbug and then the Jive which dance teacher presenter, Josephine Bradley, describes in the film as having evolved from the Jitterbug.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/45T2uX3BEC0“>Introduction of Jive to UK in the 1940s.

Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire

Now here’s a wonderful moment where two dance giants of motion pictures, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire perform a comedy song and dance number in the film Zeigfeld Follies. Apparently this was the only time that Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire appeared on screen together, in their prime.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/G3lAM_L3jR0“>The Babbitt and the Bromide

Eleanor Powell

Fascinatin’ Rhythm from the 1941 film, Lady Be Good, shows the tremendous tap dancing talents of Eleanor Powell. Her turns are pretty awesome too.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/veNXiv4kP-c“>Fascinatin’ Rhythm

I hope you enjoyed watching these video clips. I will look for some others to post from time to time.

Highland dancers – achieving steady raised arms

Highland dancing

I remember when I was a young Highland dancing competitor that we all worked hard to have steady arms. With so much elevation and jumping going on in Highland it is not surprising that achieving steady arms is, for some, a real challenge. But does it need to be?

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Anna Pavlova painting

I have just been visiting Scotland and Glasgow in particular. I like to visit the wonderful Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum when I am in town.

This time it was the Jack Vettriano Retrospective exhibition that drew me to visit – you know the artist who painted the wonderful Singing Butler with the characters dancing on the beach.

Kelvingrove entrance Jack Vettriano exhibition web

A fabulous exhibition and well worth going to see if you will be in Glasgow sometime between now and  23 February 2014. It is amazing to see his distinctive style in the original paintings. But I digress.

What I want to share with you is the amazing, very large, painting of Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova that took my breath away when I came face to face with it at the entrance to the Glasgow Boys 1880 – 1900 exhibition at Kelvingrove. The painting is oil on canvas 198.1 x 144.8 cm.

Anna Pavlova web

My images can’t do this vibrant, lively, painting justice but hopefully they will show you a little of the artist’s ability in capturing the moving Anna Pavlova. Artist and one of The Glasgow Boys, Sir John Lavery apparently painted Anna Pavlova several times. This painting is dated 1910 and is sometimes known as The Red Scarf.

Anna Pavlova painting

In gazing at the painting for some time I was drawn to the sheer joy of dance that we can experience from a painting or other image. I just love this painting.

The artist also captured Pavlova’s foot and ankle as if she was just about to step off into another glorious movement. Even this part of the painting grabs my attention and I see more and more in it every time I look at it. A painting I will want to visit again at the art gallery to enjoy the sheer size of the original work and the impact it has.

Anna Pavlova foot

I hope you enjoy these images and if you are able to visit the art gallery in Glasgow, I hope you take the opportunity to see and enjoy Anna Pavlova with her red scarf.

What is proprioception?

Dancers need a good sense of body awareness to feel or know where their body is in space so they can accurately place arm, foot, leg and whole body positions. They need to navigate around other dancers without bumping into them.

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In my competitive days, (a very long time ago), it took a long time to master the art of backstepping in Highland dancing.  The aim was to perform a very smooth backstepping action with all required positions reached at the right time.  Backstepping back then truly was a magnificent step to watch and a very demanding one to perform well.  But it was worth the effort it took to achieve some of the smoothest backsteps in town. When I see backsteps being danced today, I feel uncomfortable. Instead of a lovely smooth action, today’s backsteps are danced with such a staccato, jerky action that they no longer look like backsteps at all. And they do not have the aesthetic quality of the backsteps danced in my day.

Continue reading