Street dance

I have found myself running some children’s street dance classes and it is a real joy. However it is not really my genre so I need to keep updated to avoid slipping back into any Hot Gossip or Legs & Co choreography – and that will only mean anything to people who remember BBC’s Top of the Pops in the 70’s and 80’s.

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The internet is brimming with great dancers who have taken the time to film their expertise much to the appreciation of less than street types such as myself.

I do have a very strong background in dance and choreography and was educated at Elmhurst Ballet School. But as you can imagine that is a little way removed from the origins and execution of Street Dance!

So there I was trawling the internet  for the latest developments and moves in this burgeoning sphere of dance, and as we all know one click leads to another…

As a consequence, I’ve learnt a few more tricks to pass onto the children. And this is why ‘Parkours’ is now a 10 minute dash of fun and ‘fear’ in our classes!

Parkours dance at school

Parkours was originally developed in France and it is all about moving through  obstacles in their environment by vaulting, rolling, running, climbing and jumping.

As ever with these things the experts make it look slick, graceful and oh so easy; running up walls, clearing a 6ft gate post with seemingly minimum effort, long jumping cars with a flip in between and landing softly without drama and with great poise. Spectacular stuff.

Of course, none of this is in our repertoire yet but it doesn’t hurt to dream and we’re working on it!

For now we’re doing our best and leaving class rather jaded, with a few achy limbs and barely containing the energy and strength to put the equipment back in place. But we are also fired up and thrilled by it all!

Why learn parkour?

It isn’t until you look at the background of parkour practitioners that you appreciate how many light years away the rest of us are from being able to replicate even their most simple acrobatic disciplines. Many of them are martial artists or gymnasts of a very high level.

This means it is not something I will be conquering any time soon at my age!

But hopefully, my students still have enough time on their side to generate an interest and inclination to  develop some of these wonderful, exciting and extravagant skills.

We already can improve!

street dancing_2Yet just because we are ageing it doesn’t mean we can’t improve on lots of things and it is a reminder that we can achieve new goals and standards with a bit of focus, some regular practise along with a basic understanding of what we’re trying to do.

Inevitably it takes a few knocks and bruises in the case of parkour, but there are less risky and equally satisfying challenges we can set ourselves.

The Chin-up exercise

The chin up comes to mind. Probably because this morning I failed quite momentously at demonstrating a few decent chin ups to my client – probably because for the past three months I haven’t done any thanks to a dodgy shoulder. They felt really tough.

In my mind’s long and vivid memory I am good at these….because I really was!

But there has been some neuromuscular breakdown and my body isn’t in accordance with my past achievements. In short my mind was remembering something from the past that my body had serious issues within the present!

Practice makes perfect

So to avoid this embarrassment and save face for next time, rehearsals and repetitions are in order and I’m going to push through the pain barrier. And in doing so I know this mornings yawning gap between mind and body will narrow very rapidly.

To get more efficient at an exercise it has to be practised and replicated daily and increased accordingly as you go. It isn’t like body shaping or body building when we need growth time – we need practise time.

The chin up is the ultimate test of how strong each muscle is in the chain of moves.

If biceps are really strong, developed and sculpted, they will still not be enough to see you through a decent chin-up repertoire without a strong back. Everything needs to be ready and in good working order for this move to be performed correctly.

So a few tips for you and some reminders for me…

street dancing_3If you want to get more out of your chin ups, work on chin ups. Don’t assume that isolating and training muscle areas gets you there faster.

Place a stool beneath the chin up bar. This helps any ‘no hopers’ and aids the last few chins after fatigue. Lightly bouncing off the stool makes sure the muscles go through the motions but with less load.

The goal is to start from a straight hang position, so get those muscles used to that from the start. Pulling up from straight arms without a swing or wiggle is lovely to watch. Even if you’re using a stool, lengthen the arms and bend the knees.

Watch your grip. Over hand uses a little more back, underhand more biceps. Switching one hand for one and the other for the other is a good set to practise.

If, like myself, you have to up your game rather quickly, push out your best chin ups but leave the scraggly, messy, ‘not going to make it’ chin up out. Save the muscle fibres for tomorrow’s performance. That way fatigue won’t interfere with more reps throughout the week.

Go for two sets after a good 30 second break.

Once you’ve mastered this, take it to the next level and move around monkey style. So while holding the chin up, let go with one hand and place the hand the other direction, same with the other hand until you’ve turned round and face the other way.

Keep rotating until it is over. Who knows….maybe one day you won’t even need two hands for that chin up!

Conclusion about street dance

As for the street dancing and parkour – I will keep abreast of these things and how they develop. I am always on the lookout for elements and influences to build into training or use to engage others.

And who knows, maybe one of my little dancers will end up in Cirque du Soleil or performing amazing parkour feats in a future Bond film!

Let me know how you get on…and I’ll let you know if I’m running up walls and back flipping yet!

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