A teachers’ workshop with Hofesh Shechter Company

Charlotte Conroy Legge teaches GCSE dance at Bohunt School in Liphook, Hampshire. She recently took part in a teachers’ workshop we delivered with the company of our Associate Artist Hofesh Shechter, who returned to our stage this month with his latest work Grand Finale. Here, Charlotte shares her thoughts about the experience.

“As a dance teacher in a secondary school, I was excited and intrigued to participate in the Hofesh Shechter dance teachers’ workshop at Sadler’s Wells in July. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was hoping to at least learn some repertoire from Hofesh’s latest piece Grand Finale. I have been teaching in schools for three years now and try and take any opportunity to improve my practice. This in turn helps me to inspire my students and have an impact on the future generation in dance – something I’m always aspiring to do. I looked upon this workshop as a chance to expand my knowledge and gain a better insight into Hofesh Shechter Company.

The workshop was run by Bruno Guilore, the company’s Associate Artistic Director, and Merel Lammers, a long-time dancer in the company. “The spine is a b****!” said Bruno as the class were improvising, attempting to move every muscle they could on all fours. The day started with a session based around how Hofesh Shechter Company dancers usually start their rehearsal. Hofesh works a lot with improvisation and this was what our first session was based around. As we went back to basics and really worked through the body, it reminded me of my training at university, back to a time when you really had to know your body. Reminiscent as it was, it prompted me to think about why I had chosen to pursue dance in the first place. As teachers, we often run out of time in our busy week to take classes for ourselves.

After our improvisation workshop, we were able to watch some of the company’s rehearsal. To our pleasant surprise, they were doing the exercise we had just finished in our first session. This was a nice touch and solidified the feeling we were really getting the full experience. Of course, the dancers were ‘nailing it’. I almost wished we could have watched them before our task, so I could have cheated – although I feel like Bruno was canny and would have known!

Back down to the studio, we got ready to learn some repertoire from Grand Finale. I’ve always enjoyed Hofesh’s style and embodying this was challenging but different. You could see the fatigue and sweat of the fellow teachers around you, but continued to push through. With its high energy and quick, dynamic changes, it was exhausting, but I felt like I was getting my money’s worth! Merel pushed us and really wanted us to keep the integrity of the movement – meaning that, although we were sweating buckets, we were still striving to improve. It wasn’t “here you go, here’s the repertoire, get on with it”; it was “if you’re leaving with this repertoire, it will be in your body and it will be performed how it should be”.

Having two company members take the sessions was fascinating, especially when they talked about the origin of the movement content and the way in which Hofesh works. Going back to primal ways of moving and creating organic, authentic movement came across vividly. Finding the groove and allowing the body to move instinctually was very much encouraged. At the end of the practical session, we took a much-needed breather and sat down. We were then shown the costumes from the show and had a Q&A session with the dancers. This was an opportunity for us all to listen to the first-hand experiences and interpretations from the company members. In another valuable part of the day, nothing was left unaddressed and we had plenty of time to get as much out of the session as what we had come for.

And it wasn’t over. After what seemed like a long but engaging day of moving and improvising, we took a break before arriving at the theatre. We were greeted by welcome drinks, when we were able to network and chat about what we had experienced so far. To top off what had already been an incredible day of learning, we got to enjoy a performance of Grand Finale. I couldn’t help but pick out the repertoire I had just learnt as I watched. What a wonderful way to bring the whole day together and come back around full circle. A truly immersive experience, which not only benefited me but will benefit my students.

The event was advertised as a teacher workshop in support of the new A-Level specification, but what I got out of the day was far greater.”