Centre Stage with BCP Dance Student Kelsey Connell
“Just do it. I pondered for a month whether to give it a go and it’s proved to be very worthwhile.”
This month we’re bringing devoted BCP Online Dance Student Kelsey Connell centre stage and into the spotlight!
Sharing her dance journey with us, Kelsey reminisces on her childhood dance classes, how the love she had for dance as a child is still burning strong and why BCP Online Dance Classes are part of Kelsey’s weekly life.
Q. How were you inspired or drawn to start dancing?
My desire to dance started at 2 years old. My father is a local sound and cameraman and would often cover event production for many dance schools in the region. I would attend with him and watch from the audience in the filming area. I have no recollection of it, but I used to tell my parents that “I want to dance on the city hall stage” (which is where all the concerts were held). I’m not sure what drew me to dance initially, but I loved to watch “the big girls” dance across the stage. I must have been persistent over a few years, because, at 4.5 years old (preschool age), when I was old enough to partake, they finally enrolled me in Jazz Ballet in a local dance school with Miss Toni.
In grade 5, at 10, I decided I wanted “to give dance a break” and try something else. My brother had been enrolled in gymnastics and trampoline for a few years, so I thought it looked pretty easy and wanted to give it a go. (For those who don’t know, women’s artistic gymnastics uses dance principles on the floor and beam exercises). In the mean time, I had been showing a quick ability to learn at swimming and soon become an upcoming high-performance swimmer in town through to my teenage years. Looking back at it now, I attribute success I had in other sports because of learning to dance at a young age. Dance had taught me coordination, balance, rhythm and spatial awareness.
Throughout later high school, dance had come back to memory and a group of my friends and I performed at our high school’s MADD (Music, Arts, Dance and Drama) concert. One of my best friends, Sarah, always asked me “when are you going to come back to dancing?”. However, it was on the back burner as I pursued swimming at a high level. Even in the pool, I’d stand en pointe in flippers during swim training (probably because I couldn’t touch in the deep end) and thought how fun it’d be to do ballet on my toes one day…
I returned to jazz ballet dance in 2014. That same year, Ed Sheeran had also released a music video to ‘Thinking Out Loud’. So, on the side of dance classes, one of my best mates, Hayden and I, thought it’d be cool to try the lifts and turns from the clip. This eventually lead to us learning the whole dance. This opened me to a new style of dance to push the limits as I had to learn how to dance with a partner and do acrobatics (I even went and got a basic, school teacher ballroom dance certification after this). That successful year sparked my interest to return to more dance classes, so 2015 I enrolled in jazz, classical ballet, pointe and contemporary as well. I wished to peruse, however persistent, prior injuries (due to my genetics) put me out (doctor’s orders) and I had to wait for surgery. This put dance on hold for a long time while I recovered. Since then I had dabbled in dance by myself – no one tells you how long it really takes to recovery after surgery to feel ‘normal’ again.
Since graduating university, I had been looking to get back into dancing , however my work timetable always clashes with dance classes in my area/limits my regular availability. I really wanted to get back en pointe, but there are no beginner adult classes around my region for this style of dance and I didn’t want to be put back in with teenagers. Many dance studios offer adult tap, jazz or strength and flex, but are either during my work hours and/or are for the social aspect only, which didn’t align with what I wanted to work on ( which was technique). So during lockdown, I was searching for things to do, as many sports were offering online sessions. BCP’s events kept popping up, I thought I’d give it a chance, and now here I am.
Q. What BCP Dance Classes do you attend?
I attend online dance conditioning and ballet basics along with face-to-face contemporary, beginner tap and tap extension classes.
During the lockdown, I attended these classes online too.
I go along to weekend workshops as well.
Q. How do you feel when you are dancing?
Dance has always been enjoyable. I’ve always been a big believer that dance should tell a story.
As I’ve grown up, how I feel and what I love when I dance has changed. I was a very shy, quiet child, so dance allowed me to express one’s natural desire to dance to music, without talking. I was very passionate about it and that’d show in my big, energetic dance moves, completed with lip synching (I guess that’s where the talent started as my friends are often subject to random funny videos of me to this today). In fact, when adults asked the question of “what do you want to be when you grow up” and I answered ” a dancer”. Now I guess I’m living one of my childhood dreams. 7 Year old Kelsey would be in awe!
As a late teen/early twenty something, trying to find out who you are in life, I was able to use dance to express my emotions during the setbacks and heartbreaks of growing up. It taught me many lessons about dancing: to convey an emotion when words just don’t cut it. It was a bit like therapy. The therapy of improvisation allowed for the music to take over and go with the flow and allowed me to feel care-free and unstructured. On the other hand, partner dancing was great. I loved the feeling of connection, being thrown around, working together to achieve a common goal and watching back all of the video “fails” when trying to learn a new lift or sequence.
These days, dance allows me to get into a different headspace and focus on dance only and not allow my thoughts to wander off. I enjoy not having to be the teacher for once and just focus on myself. When I returned to dance as a young adult, it was for my desire to learn technique, push and challenge myself. I love the satisfied feeling of seeing improvement or getting a new combo. As you get better, it almost becomes relaxing (probably because you’re running off of muscle memory). It allows me to feel put together, strong, and even show off some flexibility and my long lines(being tall has its perks).
Being en pointe is a totally different ball game. I’ve written on an Instagram post, “I think it’s so important to find a sport that keeps you humble, challenged and learning. You can’t blame anyone else for performance and your skills will call you out if you’re too cocky, not focused or strong enough. Attention to detail is a must!”
Q. Share with us some of the things you do outside BCP Online classes?
Outside of BCP Online classes, I wear many hats involved with being responsible for teaching children (aged 5 to young adults). You’ll usually find me at school being a teacher or at my town’s gymnastics club being a coach/judge and supervisor. I work in small, rural primary schools (10 – 35 kids in the whole school) so I drive a bit with my school being 33 – 53 km away from home. I am a trained HPE specialist, but I also do classroom work too. I’m a jack of all trades to teach multiple grades at once with a vast array of subject areas. In the afternoons/evenings, I teach many disciplines and levels of gymnastics including women’s artistic, acrobatics, trampoline sports, tumbling and rhythmic. These jobs mean I work super long hours and have many hours of extra work after dinner. It also entails travelling to competitions, hours away, on weekends, during competition season. I also do a bit of medical reading to improve my knowledge, as I have always loved anatomy and biomechanics.
My other hobbies (when I get the chance) include dirt bike riding, walking/running with the dogs, cycling, boxing and swimming. I have a huge art and craft collection, so I always have many little projects on the go. I also like to catch up and hang out with my friends and family.
Q. What BCP classes do you attend?
I regularly attend ballet basics on a Thursday evening and have made time for private lessons focusing on pointe. On school holidays I pop into the other classes that fit into my schedule like tap (something I’ve always wanted to do), contemporary and conditioning (Progressing Ballet Technique).
Q. What do you enjoy most about BCP Online classes?
Bonnie is relatable, supportive, patient, positive and is a very encouraging teacher.
The classes are small and is willing to have adult beginners/novice classes.
The classes at BCP online are interactive, I’ve found some online classes only expect you to follow along and don’t give corrections. Bonnie gives plenty of positive/constructive feedback to see/feel improvements and advance technique. Even though I’m only in beginner classes, there’s still the right blend of basics and challenging technique to master muscle memory and improve – which as all dancers know, a solid foundation is important for progress.
Q. We would love to know the best advice or tip your teacher has shared with you in class.
“Dont tuck your butt under and close your ribs” – coming from gymnastics where we tuck our butts under and flare our ribs for dance moves/presentation, it’s nice to have a sense of neutral when standing.
“Breathe” – often we forget breathing helps the flow during the lifts, highs, lows and landings.
“Push into your big toes” – this had made the lines and balance in my feet look a lot nicer.
“Don’t lean forward into the barre because you won’t have one in the center” – ’nuff said
“3/4 pointe” – well these burn after a bunch of releves, but are so required to build foot endurance and proper technique!
Q. What do you think are the benefits of online dance classes, being able to dance in your own home?
I am able to attend at a time that suits me as a full-time worker. I don’t have to drive to anywhere (it’d be a long drive to classes as I am from regional QLD, classes are in NSW). For morning classes, I can sleep in and roll out of bed and be online soon after. At the end, I can then can finish up a session and keep practicing off camera for a bit longer or go straight to dinner, unlike if I had to drive somewhere. Being at home online means you’re also in a comfortable environment. You control how bright the lights are and how loud the music is. You also control the temperature – too cold? Turn the heating on. Too hot, you can have the fan to yourself. Plus, there’s no need to worry about being sweaty or smelly at the end of a session either because no one else is beside you.
The sessions are recorded, unlike in person sessions. So no need to waste time finding songs or try to remember the combination – it’s all there for you to watch and practice to anytime and remember the corrections you’re given. (This might sound cringy to watch yourself, but it’s helpful to spot areas for improvement).
Being online also means that on holidays, I can pop into classes that I can’t normally make and I’m not too far behind a certain dance because we’re not learning routine pieces for a show.
Q. Who do you think BCP Online classes would benefit?
Classes would benefit anyone as long as you’re willing to learn. Plus you get 60 minutes physical activity, which meets the national recommendation.
Q. Do you have any encouraging words to share with someone who might want to try a BCP Online class?
Just do it. I pondered for a month whether to give it a go and it’s proved to be very worthwhile. It’s always nerve wracking to try something new, however being online allows less awkwardness the first few sessions.
Q. Last question. What is your all-time, favourite song or type of music you love to dance to?
I have too many songs I like to dance to – it usually depends on my mood. Many genres of music allow for different moves, moods and expression to be portrayed. However, I’m a big sucker for country music. Recently, I’ve found piano covers of John Mayer’s hits which I love doing ballet combinations to. Trapp or remixes of pop are good too!