The beginners guide to contemporary dance

How many men in their thirties would want to try contemporary dance classes? Hannah Waldram talks to Patrick Robinson about football, sweat, and dance.

If you are a thirty-something male, chances are youre not exactly thrilled at the idea of starting dance classes. Even more less enthused by dance classes in an abstract arts form, which you generally associate with prancing and pansies.

But that very same thought didnt put off Patrick Robinson, 31, who started beginner contemporary dance classes four years ago. He was lured in after watching an impressive half-hour performance at Birminghams Artsfest and later learned the dance style was called contemporary. Being struck by the athleticism of the dancers, when he saw a flyer for contemporary beginners classes at DanceXchange he decided to give it a go.

One reason why I joined was to broaden who I meet in Birmingham a little bit. Ive always been sporty as well and I thought it might help me get a bit flexible.

After seeing the physical gains dancing has made on his body making his muscles more flexible for footballs which helped get rid of cramps Patrick hasnt looked back. Hi first teacher, now choreographer Kate Mason, has been replaced a few times, but once thing which has kept him going was the high quality of teaching. Here is the current teacher, Maria Blundell-Palethorpe, taking about what goes on in a beginners contemporary class at DanceXchange:

Patrick said: The standard is high even for a beginners class theyre not letting you slack.

But getting his footballing mates to come round to the idea of his new found hobbie was a different problem.

Ive only told a certain number of mates that I go, he says. If Im in a situation where Im off to town to go to the class, I say its a keep fit class so its a bit of a cop out. For the friends that I have mentioned it to you get a bit of light-hearted teasing.

But Patrick has persuaded some friends that its not all about girly movements and men in tights inviting them to performances to break their preconceptions. When he was in a show himself last year, they couldnt fail to be impressed by some gallant lifts.

Its not until you see it done professionally that you realise its not a poncy thing, he says.

He does think, however, classes could be improved with discount priced tickets to DanceXchange shows, and giving students more choice over what music they dance to.

Because contemporary is abstract the meaning quite a lot of the time comes from the music.

Patrick has tried Brazilian martial art, capoeira, salsa-based Ceroc dancing and karate. But he enjoys the mental challenge provided by contemporary, as well as the physical benefits for the pitch.

It gives you spring in your jumps for headers its certainly more interesting than doing thirty crunches at home. Plus it gives you an awareness of posture. You meet interesting people. You get to move because in my job, youre sat down. To think about coordination makes a change.

All in all, Patrick seems to have mastered the impossible balance of becoming hooked on contemporary dance, while maintaining the normal lifestlye of the thirty-year-old man. In his day job hes a teacher in Sociology at Cadbury Sixth Form College, he drinks beers and plays football. But every Tuesday evening he enjoys the mental and physical challenge of movement and dance. If the government want to get people dancing, they need to find the little bit of Patrick in everyone.

Here Patrick lists three reasons why people who are thinking of starting a new dance class should pick contemporary:

Beginners contemporary dance classes run at Birminghams DanceXchange every Tuesday 6-7.15pm for free for the whole of October, and 6 (5 concessions) afterwards. For more information see the DanceXchange website.

Hannah Waldram speaks to Patrick Robinson about beginners contemporary dance by hrwaldram