Two weeks ago I was thrilled to take part in a workshop led by Russell Maliphant. I have enormous respect for his work and innovative approach to dance and was curious to meet him in person.

It was a treat in itself on such a cloudy and dull morning to be welcomed into the unusual space of Dance Limerick by Jenny Traynor (Dance Limerick’s director). I was the first of the participants to arrive and met Russell and his dancers shortly after.

I was immediately struck by his down-to-earth manner and humility despite his awesome reputation. This was the first valuable lesson I took from the day. Working with people and making a lasting impression requires you to leave vanity aside.

Successful people know how important it is to connect to their audience. If you are interested in making a difference or getting your art noticed you need to connect with individuals on a personal level. This is the second lesson. You must show genuine interest in people. А great way to exercise this is to ask questions. To be successful in any sphere it is essential to understand what drives people. Russell appeared to be quite comfortable having discussions with workshop participants not only about his work but about theirs as well.

The third lesson I learned at the beginning of the workshop. We approached movement from an anatomical perspective. For me it was a very different experience to work with muscles and body structure in contrast to my recent research involving imagination, textures and sensations. I found it deeply satisfying to return to investigating the human body and its parts. The understanding of my shoulder’s muscle and structure brought a new perspective in relation to my movements impulses and flow.

As the workshop unfolded I started understanding more about Russell’s work and his approach to teaching. Using martial arts, tai-chi and body work were just some of the tools he used. From this I took the fourth lesson. As dancers we should not restrict ourselves  to dance techniques exclusively. Increasingly dance is a meeting point between different body practices. Experimenting with different movement practices and developing what stays with you over time is how you will enrich your movement language and dance technique.

The fifth but not the least valuable lesson Russell reminded me of is that “a kind word goes a long way”. Encouraging dancers you work with is imperative, especially when they trust you with their most precious, their bodies. It develops mutual respect and stimulates progress exponentialy.

To summarise:

  1. Stay humble.
  2. Show your interest in people.
  3. Investigate your movement from an anatomical perspective.
  4. Experiment with different movement practices and develop what stays with you over time.
  5. A kind word goes a long way.

I’m very grateful to have met Russel. He is a kind and intuitive teacher. Not all of the most accomplished dancers have this skill. If you get a chance to take one of his workshops don’t miss it.

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