This week I had the pleasure of attending BEAT RETREAT in Afton, VA and Charlottesville, VA. A group of percussive dancers got together for an intensive week of dancing: teaching, swapping steps, partying, and inspiring one another. There were tappers, flatfooters, cloggers, Cape Breton step dancers, Irish step dancers (that would be me!), and body percussionists. There was a serious amount of talent packed into that rehearsal room, and I was pretty blown away by everyone.
We rehearsed some choreographed pieces by each of our special guest choreographers and, at the end of the week, we had two performances to show off the fruits of our labor; the first was Friday night at the Hamner Theater in Afton, and the second was Saturday night at Live Arts in Charlottesville. It was a tiring and exhausting week, but totally exhilarating.
Matthew Olwell came up with the brilliant idea and hosted and organized the event. He envisioned the Beat Retreat as fulfilling three main goals:
1. Class for those who give class. Those of us who primarily teach these days don’t get much of an opportunity to be really challenged. The retreat enabled us to challenge each other and push ourselves, both in terms of technique and material.
2. Shared repertoire. By learning new choreography together, we could expand our repertoire to include original pieces that could be used in future performances, and would be a refreshing break from our usual formulaic performance steps.
3. A concentrated shot of creative juice. Inspiration for all involved!
I know I personally had an incredible time, and for me all those goals were fulfilled. I needed a little jolt after a year of not taking or even teaching an Irish dance class, and since we focused on tap, clogging, Cape Breton, and other percussive styles besides Irish dance, I was definitely challenged and very humbled.
I cannot wait for next year!