Joanne Thwaite, Associate Graduate
“When you watch a good dancer on stage, you always notice how easy it all looks. I always looked at their ‘decoration’ and when I moved, I never thought about the effort behind how it all looks easy. But spending a few weeks working on Yoko’s technique has improved how I work, the thoughts behind a movement, and how to improve the quality of my work.
The work of the supporting side has been the biggest change for me and how important it actually is in every movement- thinking about how much it has made me stronger in a few short weeks and how much more confident it made me to be able to do the movements. I understand my muscles but as I went through my training, I always thought I was using them correctly, and it would always frustrate me when I couldn’t always do a particular movement. However, having that understanding and being told, using visualisation and physically being moved into the correct positions, gives me the feeling and makes me understand how to use my muscles to make me stronger. That instead of just being told to get stronger by doing ‘more,’ has helped me as I thought more meant doing more classes. I would exhaust myself instead of going about it the right way. The main thing for me is ‘sitting into the supporting hip’ and ‘no transference of weight.’ I found this very difficult at first but I think that not transferring your weight gives you a better sense of the inside thighs, glutes and core. The ‘hole’ in your glute was hard at first but it was just habit and everyone can break them if they set their minds to it. I changed this and my balance improved a lot. Because I was working so hard focussing on this, I held tension in my neck and arms but as I get stronger I can make it look easy, just like all the good ballerinas you see on stage that are technically secure.
It’s very strange to think that my main correction throughout a lot of my training was ‘don’t lean back’ and ‘keep your weight forward,’ yet throughout the training with Yoko, I wasn’t told that once. It was supporting side causing other problems with my weight placement and it’s interesting in how it can be fixed without actually knowing it. I haven’t been told since starting with Northern Ballet.
Body conditioning and knowing new exercises and how valuable it is has made me more aware of my muscles. I always did pilates everyday but now I’m doing more and a lot more abs, as it is the core of all your strength.
I always used to look in the mirror to fix myself, but I’d always look at my decoration leg. But having no mirror at NBT has been beneficial because you have to feel your muscles rather than see them. On stage, all you have is your body to help you and your muscle memory. Centre barre has made me a lot stronger- not having that luxury of a bit of wood to hang on to and only using your muscles. By the end of the week you barely needed it. Of course I was extremely wobbly at the start- It was hard for me to do many things but I felt much stronger as I went on. I could feel things improving because I wasn’t staring at them, and had only my muscles to rely on.
Everything I have learnt is written down in my notebook so I won’t forget the feeling of movements and what I should be thinking about with my body. By knowing all this, this technique is going to keep improving my body and make me into a strong, confident ballet dancer, and I couldn’t thank Yoko enough for the opportunity to improve myself and make me also believe in myself that I can make it as a professional dancer.”
Dale Rhodes, Professional Division Graduate
Now Training at Ballettschule Hamburg
“My interest in dance started at a very young age and began dance classes locally in Hull. I was lucky enough to became an associate with Northern Ballet in 2001 when I was 10 years old, attending 2 classes a week. In 2004 I was invited to join the Yorkshire Young Dancers ballet strand. I found the experience challenging, enjoyable and rewarding. The intensive training scheme stretched me physically and mentally and has helped me be the dancer I am today. I have been inspired by Yoko Ichino’s teaching and methods, which work with the dancer’s body. The scheme’s emphasis on preparing dancers for a career in the profession strips away unrealistic fantasies and rewards the hard work that is essential to making dreams come true. A highlight for me was the experience of appearing with the Company as a cavalry man in Northern Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker.
In 2008 I secured a funded place at English National Ballet School, where I continued my training for two years. Although I was offered the final year at ENB, I chose instead to complete my training at Hamburg Ballet School. I am now working with the internationally renowned teacher Kevin Haigen, whose approach and technique is very close to Yoko’s. I have recently been dancing with the Company of Hamburg Ballet in John Neumeier’s “SwanLake- Illusion” and in his “Yondering” with fellow students.”