Ever wondered if there is a difference between attending an intensive dance course and attending open classes? Gwendolyn digs in deep to find out what are the differences, and you will be surprised by the results!
In our local hip-hop dance scene – daresay even global – there is an endless variety of open classes for dancers to choose from. From basic Hip-Hop to Funk, open classes offer dancers a chance to experience a wide array of styles without commitment to a certain genre or instructor.
While agreeing that open classes allow for socialising with different dancers and the freedom of exchanging knowledge, Cheryl Tan, a degree holder in dance and freelance instructor, noted: “Open Classes are not as holistic and in-depth. It is really just more of just trial classes.”
Indeed, based on a survey we’ve done on 50 local dancers, a majority of 74% said they prefer to choose either the teacher or the genre they are dancing to, rendering the experimental nature of the open classes ineffective to the majority of the dancers.
According to Kimberly Tan, Dance Coordinator at Dance While It’s Day, foundation-based courses might just be the way to go.
Having attended The Legacy Experience (TLE), an intensive foundation-based course designed to ensure progress for the dancer, Kimberly had the opportunity to experience the best of both worlds. “Picking some (key areas to work on) would have been very difficult in open class because I can’t identify it for myself and instructors who don’t know me or watch me over a period of time may not be able to identify and communicate this over to me,” she mentioned, noting that the instructors were attentive in identifying key areas she needed to work on in her dancing.
One may argue that if they want to get the focused training, they should stick to one instructor every week. However, with the changing roster of students all the time, it’s harder for the teacher to focus on the individual’s development and push their potential to the limit because they are consistently trying to ensure whatever they are teaching is applicable to all students that attend.
To give perspective to the above, a ready-made example comes in the form of Ballet.
Ballet is notorious for having various levels catered to dancers, and unless approved by the teacher or the global standard of ballet, impossible for the dancer to progress to the next level. It is very difficult to find a well-trained ballet dancer who thrives solely on open classes – or rather, classes taught by different people at different times.
Why? With the lack of supervision, the chances of injuries caused by poor foundation increases. The teacher is unable to pinpoint issues that occur over time and more often than not, there are too many students for the teacher to focus on the student’s well-being.
It can be debated that ballet is too technical to be compared with the freeing vibe of hip-hop. But there might be a leaf or two to take out of Ballet’s book in motivating the dancer to improve.
Aside from just classes, TLE provide students with the opportunity to perform, through assessments and most importantly the mentorship to be a better dancer. Kimberly stated: “It really helped me to open up in terms of my dancing because it gave me the techniques I needed, the space for growth and the embrace of a community to let my guard down and finally be honest in my dancing (and my weaknesses therein) and also just let loose and have fun.”
Syairah Goh is another example of the benefits foundation-based courses can provide. “Under Legacy, I always feel encouraged to step out of my comfort zone to learn and explore more. I’ve also learned to persevere and be more determined in what I do through dance.” Currently, Syairah is actively choreographing and teaching outside of the course itself.
What about the commitment that comes with intensive foundation-based courses? Clearly open classes have the upper hand as you can choose as and when to attend. The founder and creator of TLE, Chan Jia Jun acknowledged: “What happens after the dance course will rely mostly on how motivated or passionate they are to continue training.”
Kimberly agreed: “The commitment and discipline it required was a personal challenge, and yet it was not overly taxing to the point of me compromising on my other responsibilities in life.” Evidently, it is through this that they learn the value of discipline and active improvement.
WATCH THE VALUE OF PERFORMING HERE
Indeed, many students who were unable to commit due to personal reasons had to stop their training for a period of time. But despite that, countless do return to complete and graduate from the course as they felt it is somewhere where they feel they belong. In Syairah’s own words: “I decided to come back because I missed everyone in Legacy. I missed the feeling of dancing with them.”
Undoubtedly, foundation-based courses and open classes possess vastly different characteristics. Whether you want the freedom of dancing or a focused journey of improvement, it is clear that with the introduction of courses such as TLE, the dancers in Singapore would have more opportunities for progression in the local Hip-hop scene. Justin Joel Tan, a hiphop dancer at Cornell University agrees: “If you don’t have your foundations down, you can never improve past a certain point and will always struggle in open classes. Use what you learned in foundation-based courses to push yourself in open classes (and have fun of course!)”
If you are keen to try out The Legacy Experience for yourself, there is still time! Grab your friends and head down to Legacy Dance Co. at Sime Darby on the 30th June for their try-outs! Don’t hesitate, as it will be your last chance to join the Experience for the semester (six months).
Click here to find out more information about The Legacy Experience!