Sunday, 23 February 2014

The Travelling Dancer: Photos from Melbourne Laneways

Today I'm going to share some photos taken by my wonderful friend who I met studying dance at uni, when our paths crossed in Melbourne.  She's only just emailed them to me and it's brought memories of my trip flooding back.

Then I thought I need to write a post about what it's like being a dancer on the road, taking time out or a gap year to explore the world.  Because it's really tough; being constantly on the move it's sometimes difficult to find time for any sort of exercise, never mind searching an unknown place for a good dance class.  But that didn't stop me dancing on my travels...

Of course, the internet always helps! But it also depends which part of the world you're travelling in - I was lucky to be living and working in a Westernized country where everyone spoke my native language, which is a great start.  Even if you know you're going to be sticking around in one place for a few months, few backpackers can afford a gym membership or regular classes at a studio (especially at Aussie prices).
Nevertheless, I think I did rather well sticking to my passion whilst I was travelling, and managed to do a wide range of physical activities.  I also tried out a few new classes too! 

For those people who followed my journey from the very start, you'll know I took part in yoga classes right from the beginning of my trip in Thailand.  Most days we were lazing around on the beach or enduring long coach or train journeys, so I was desperate to stay fit and lots of resorts on the islands offered cheap yoga classes. Winner!

When we arrived in Australia, we were broke and had to start work straight away, and I certainly didn't have cash to be spending on anything fun in our first month living in Brisbane.  But as soon as I did, I found myself a yoga studio in the city and bought an unlimited pass - as I worked mostly night shifts, I loved going to yoga class during the day. It's not a substitute for a professional dance class, but at least I was attempting to keep up my flexibility (which is pathetic for a dancer at the best of times!)

I also couldn't leave Brisbane without hunting down Jasmin Meakin's Mega Jam Hip Hop class.  Her choreography is famous all over the world, so this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to learn from the master herself.  I managed to make it to her class twice, and it was absolutely incredible; in the flesh she's even more inspirational. Although I was slightly intimidated by her hardcore hip hop regulars, I cracked the routine and think I did really well - it's just a shame she didn't do a class video the days I was there!

From here we travelled for a month or so, and I have to admit I was having far too much fun to even think about my fitness levels.  But a few dips in the pool and the sea every day count, right? Maybe not, but once we were settled again in Melbourne I found an offer on some Body Barre classes.  I'd never heard of Barre Body before, but their classes are a fusion of yoga, pilates and ballet barre conditioning which sounded perfect.  They offer a range of different class styles with a certain emphasis on toning with weights or more ballet moves, and even I found it tough! I really enjoyed the sessions, and most of the teachers were professional ballet or contemporary dancers themselves which gave me confidence in the class technique.

But I was desperate for some real dancing in my life! Melbourne is such a vibrant, creative city so I thought there must be some artistic schools offering quality dance lessons somewhere in the creative hub.  I found a dance studio close to my flat in the Chapel Street area which was one of my favourite places in Melbourne.  I finally got to a contemporary class - which was good, but very lyrical and Americanized - and tried out some other dance styles too.  The studio had a great variety, from jazz and tap to strength and stretch, and one day I even had a go at Reggaeton.  Which I love from my Zumba training, but full on Reggaeton was very different!

Not only did I long for the physical form of dance to move my body, I also craved theatre trips where I could admire professionals and be emotionally connected with live dance theatre.  So I splashed out on a ticket to The Australian Ballet and had one of my most memorable nights immersed in Melbourne's renowned culture, all on my lonesome.  Check out my review of the performance here

As the time to leave Melbourne drew closer, it dawned on me that I was wasting the city's amazing art landscapes.  Not in the way that I hadn't appreciated them; I'd took plenty of photographs to cherish forever, take a look at some of my favourites.  But I wasn't making the most of the cityscapes because I hadn't danced in front of them.  I hadn't chosen an amazing piece of graffiti, danced in front of it in public and photographed the process. So I decided to do just that.   

And that's the end of my story about what it's like to be a travelling dancer.  No, it wasn't part of my life every single day, and consequently I probably lost technique, flexibility, strength and many other skills.  But I'd much rather be a travelling dancer than an ordinary traveller, or a normal dancer who doesn't travel.