Sarah Woods – Instructor and Riverdance Dancer on the inspirational and rewarding 3 weeks at Riverdance’s first Summer School in Dublin
As the The Riverdance Summer School draws to a close for this year I look back on what has been a crazy but extremely rewarding and inspiring time! As an instructor I really was blown away by every single person’s attitude, hard work, positivity and willingness to learn! Literally this list could go on forever! It really could!
The mornings started off with an intense warm up with Lead Dancer and personal trainer Chloey Turner. Although it was challenging, Chloey is excellent at what she does and it was made very enjoyable. Everyone experienced a different type of warm up to what they would normally be used to… as dancers we do tend to get stuck doing the same warm up but these were different each day. The students were challenged with varying exercises and stretches each morning. Chloey also popped in for strength and conditioning sessions throughout the day. Everyone loved these and she was bombarded with questions from students asking about all sorts of things. This was great as it showed peoples drive for learning new things as everything Chloey was telling them was to improve their entire body and of course lead to better dance performance! I also learnt a lot myself from these classes! As students warmed up, instructors used this time to have a little meeting to discuss the day ahead or to sort out any issues or questions from the day before. This meant that when the warm up was finished each instructor knew exactly what was to be accomplished each day.
Aside from dancing (and there was plenty of it) the students got a real insight into every aspect of the show… from the history of the show, (a lot of people attending the academy may not have even been born when Riverdance exploded into the stage at the 1994 Eurovision) to set and costume design, composer Bill Whelan held an inspirational talk on the roots of the Riverdance music. The students came to watch the show each Wednesday night and watched us in rotations before warm up and the show started. ( everyone got a picture too!) In the evenings they also had activities planned be it watching extracts of Riverdance DVD with the dancers that actually starred in the DVD. A tour of Trinity college or a sports night with Yoga and foam rolling and meditation to name but a few.
The students and the instructors worked so incredibly hard throughout the week. By the time Saturday came it was time for each group’s showcase. This was the really exciting part! The instructors had the hard task of putting people into positions and also making sure the rotations where done out accordingly… just like the actual show. Although on the morning itself all the work was done and it was a case of just putting the final touches on things and everyone was ready to go. Before the showcases started Julian, our Executive Producer, made an announcement about who would be joining us on stage in the Gaiety Theatre. A very limited amount of people could dance on stage with us… time constraints just didn’t allow for more. But everyone was extremely excited for the lucky students. Although it wasn’t possible to have everyone’s parents and friends in to support them as they travelled from overseas, for each showcase the audience was full and everyone cheered everyone on. The showcases ran so smoothly and everyone did a fantastic job! They really and truly did!
Before the Summer School started we had a number of meetings with Associate Director Padraic Moyles. We agreed a list of goals that we wanted each student to achieve by completion of the course. Our aim was to ensure that the dancers felt inspired, motivated, encouraged – we wanted everyone to feel part of the whole production. To feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement, and of what is needed to be a professional dancer. And of course the real aim was to have FUN, meet people from all over the world and make lots of new friends. I really hope that everyone did leave feeling some, if not all of these things!
Instructors Callum and Emma plan the showcase performances
On a personal note I just want to say that although we may have had goals we wanted the students to reach on leaving the Summer School, I myself have been inspired, motivated, encouraged by every single student that attended. Everyone should be extremely proud of themselves.
Well done everyone! The planning has begun already for next year so I’m sure we will see plenty of familiar faces back again and of course looking forward to meeting the new faces too!