Six years ago I went to see a performance by the Philadelphia based dance company Rennie Harris' 'Puremovement', which was truly amazing. After the show we (I was with my sister and a friend) hung around the theatre, not something we normally did, and weirdly I can't say why we did that night, but it proved to be the hand of fate, as we ended up chatting to the dancers, particularly one, Keith Stallworth, which has hugely influenced where we (my sister and I) are today.
We were about to take a gap year before both going to study dance at Chester University. Keith was based in NYC and suggested that instead of going backpacking we go there and take class etc, which we did. It was the trip that concreted my feelings that I wanted to be a professional dancer, and train at a dance school rather than university, and for my sister that she didn't (this difference was a big deal, as twins we had up to this point pretty much done the same thing, it was the beginning of us becoming us).
Keith was, is, and incredibly skilled dancer and actor, and a very driven and focused person, which I looked up to, respected and gave me a hint of what was needed to be successful in the industry. My time knowing Keith (we sadly don't have contact anymore) was before I had ever trained 'properly', before I'd heard the terms 'centre' or 'tail' and looking back I realise how much I've learnt/how little I knew. When we traveled on the subway together he would never hold on to the rail and said that it was a good way of testing your balance. I just thought it was near impossible, and I rarely let go of the bar, except for a few token seconds.
A foundation and dance degree later I moved to London and noticed that I began to stop holding the handrail on the tube (I have to say, the tube is a whole lot harder than the subway!) as a way of testing my self. And it brought to my memory my experiences with Keith, made me reflect on where I was then and where I am now - able, and happy, standing on the tube no hands required. It may seem trivial but forming a habit of self awareness is important so you notice these changes, and then you can test and develop them.
As I blogged recently, I took class with Jeremy Nelson at the Siobhan Davies Studio a few weeks ago. One of the things that he said in class that really stuck in my mind was (not a word for word quote..but how I remember it) 'Class is an hour and a half to two hours, which is hardly anything. The majority of the time you are learning is spent outside of class. So when you are at the bus stop or on the tube keep being aware and keep testing, then you can bring what you have learnt to class'.
And thats why no hands on the tube is very important. (Handy tip; make sure your standing near an attractive man/woman, so if you do go flying there is something nice to fall in to).