Collaborative Forum – discussion from hip hop artists

20 Dec 2016

Olivia Daniell and ExceptionElle

By Chloe Blackmur and Erin Sanchez

On 25 November, One Dance UK’s Healthier Dancer Programme and partners Stratford Circus Arts Centre and East London Dance welcomed artists from hip hop and circus to a Collaborative Forum to discuss injury, performance, health and the resources and support they need to achieve their performance goals. Artists from circus are feeding via more one to one interviews through December and January, but we wanted to share some of the discussions from hip hop artists this month.

Conversations between freelance and company artists, educators and One Dance UK staff from across health and professional support and development focused on traditions and history, training, injury, health and lifestyle. Issues with safe training environments for hip-hop/breaking artists was an issue which arose multiple times, often in regards to flooring. Many studio floors are too sticky and therefore not appropriate for breaking, leading to injury. An idea of portable floor surfaces for breaking was brought up, so dancers could take this with them to perform in any space.  One Dance UK’s principal sponsor, Harlequin Floors, was at the event and has been working with companies such as Boy Blue to test floors and develop the best possible surfaces for training and performance.  Appropriate flooring and safe spaces are a key part of One Dance UK’s across the dance sector. In 2016, we began a partnership with Equity to launch the Fit to Dance Space Charter, a standard for safe dance spaces for audition, rehearsals and classes.

Another common theme was the issue in the cost of rehab for injuries for hip-hop dancers, perhaps incorporating them more efficiently into the NHS clinic and understanding the importance of rehab after an injury as for many it is viewed as a luxury rather than essential for preventing re-injury which is common in hip-hop dancers. As a founding partner in the National Institute for Dance Medicine and Science (NIDMS), One Dance UK actively provides support for all dancers to receive injury care via our three NHS Dance Injury clinics in London, Birmingham and Bath. These clinics are available through a referral from dancers’ GPs and provide physiotherapy support, scans and surgery. NIDMS also works with BHSF to provide a health cash plan for dancers offering up to £575 reimbursement for consultations and therapies as well as a health MOT or screening to support healthy training. You can find out more about all of NIDMS work to support dancers’ health.

Perhaps the main issue that was discussed was that hip-hop is typically self-taught and learnt out of a studio, and by experimenting with moves. Artists talked about the fact that this may mean that young dancers who are inexperienced lack some understanding of safe technique. Education to dancers seemed most essential in regards to – supplemental/transferable training, more anatomical knowledge, importance of rest, nutrition and lifestyle choices. Training in the foundations of the style, through the people they respect and admire was suggested as an important way to accomplish this. There is a great deal to be done in this area, but artists and educators alike who attended the Forum are committed to further developing this work in training across hip hop forms. For example, Project Breakalign’s team of artists, researchers and healthcare practitioners are developing the Breakalign Method to help integrate safe practice into breaking.

Based on conversations with artists across hip hop and circus, One Dance UK will be planning a series of partnership events, including a rescheduled conference on 11 May, 2017 at Stratford Circus Arts Centre in London, to share further expertise and support for hip hop and circus artists in the places they work, perform, train and share communities.

Feedback from artists is still ongoing, so if you want to have your say, contact the Healthier Dancer Programme on 0207 713 0730 or