Jo Rowan, Movement Studios

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Each year Hastings Dance for Cancer showcases some of our region’s most dedicated dance teachers and not so talented contenders. Jo Rowan from Movement Studios is in her fourth year of supporting the event and stopped by to share her story with us …

Hi Jo. Give us a little background about yourself. How long have you called Greater Port Macquarie home, and what do you love most about this beautiful part of Australia?

I was born, schooled and grew up in Sydney. Ryde, specifically, was my old stomping ground! At the age of 25 I headed off to Warrnambool, VIC with my husband. We lived down there for three years while Phill finished his uni degree and I worked in the dance industry. Although we both loved it down there, the call of the warmer weather, which we were accustomed to, was calling to us. I didn’t want to return to Sydney, so after some research and travelling, we decided that the Port Macquarie region was where we wanted to settle. Ten years later, I’m still here.

I always feel blessed to live in the Greater Port Macquarie area and love where I have based my life in Bonny Hills; the contrasting areas and natural beauty is what I love the most. Bits of sea, country, small pockets of metro seem to be the perfect combination. And let’s not forget the amazing weather!

You’ve been the proud owner/operator of Movement Studios for six years now. What is your background with dance?

I started dance from a very young age.Like most who enter the field of dance, I trained in syllabus work, took part in exams and eisteddfods. I have always been a choreographer/show producer, creating works and shows with my sister and cousins, staging, costuming and theming them – all of course for the pleasure (or maybe torture!) of parents and relatives.

At the age of 21 I entered uni and completed a degree in contemporary dance at UWS. This degree had very strong focus on contemporary dance, choreography and production. Following that, I have gone on to work in private institutions and dance studios throughout NSW and VIC, producing shows, choreographing and teaching.

Through various jobs, I saw a continuing pattern of what I would call “gaps” in what dancers were being taught and the lack of anatomy training/knowledge. This promoted me to continue my training, to become a personal trainer and Pilates instructor. It’s so very important to know the mechanics of a body and how it works to get the most out of it.

The services you offer at Movement Studios are second to none and quite vast. Tell us more …

Movement Studios is always an evolving centre, where artistry and the expression, development and the identity of our students as artists are at the forefront of our courses and classes. Our major focus is on performance, staging and choreography. We have chosen to pull away from the traditional format of eisteddfods and focus more on artist development. We offer classes in urban techniques and styles, contemporary dance, acrobatics cheer and supplementary techniques for all dancers.

Our urban classes are geared towards those wishing to break into the professional circuit in the commercial jazz/hip hop scene – which is where a lot of dancers end up. Fitness and anatomy knowledge are a major part of our classes.

Adult classes are for those keen to explore the world of dance with no pressure. And our very popular over 60s hip hop classes are geared towards delaying the onset of dementia and creating a place for physical fitness that is fun, safe and challenging.

For injured dancers, the thought of getting back on the floor can be quite daunting. How do you assist them in finding recovery and getting back on their feet?

Every dancer’s body is different. Assessing and developing a programme for dancers to safely move back into classes and performance is essential. Unfortunately, a vast majority of dancers do not treat injuries or the recovering from injury as important as they should. The thought of not being active in class or having time off is by far the end of the world through a dancer’s eyes. This starts a vicious circle of reoccurring injury and more time lost on the floor than it would have been, if worked through earlier.

I am now offering programmes, classes and assessments for dancers who may be having problems with certain exercises, injury recovery programmes (once clearance is given) and tracking and alignment issues. Conference with teachers about alternate exercises for these students is essential for full recovery; it’s so important to have everybody on the same page for the students’ improvement and recovery.

2016 has seen the launch of Port Macquarie’s first Dance Festival, LINKED. Share with us the inspiration and process behind the launch and how it was received?

LINKED was inspired by a desire to create a dance community – a place where all dancers of our region can come together, dance, learn and grow. All too often we are divided through  many mediums, yet we all speak the language of dance. Being regional, we have to travel to workshops and the like to grow our skills and learn. As a teacher, we often don’t have the chance to do classes for ourselves!

LINKED was born, and we had a great turnout; dancers and teachers from all over our region came to take part in classes, support new learning and celebrate dance and our dance community. I can share with you now that we will be running another LINKED Festival in March 2017! I am so excited and can’t wait to make this next one bigger and better than the last.

This year marks your fourth year teaching our sometimes not so coordinated dancers to dance for our Annual Dance for Cancer event. What is it you love about being a part of this great cause and working with our local celebrities?

Giving back is always hands down why I love being involved. I have to say though, I get great joy out of sharing my craft and watching each celebrity develop as individuals and dancers. It’s challenging, hysterical at times (in my studio) and humbling to see that type of transformation happens in front of you, and it’s for people other than ourselves.

What style are you working on this year, and whom are you working with?

If I told you that, I’d have to kill you! Just joking; I’m working with the talented Gavin Rippon this year from Camden Haven Vet Clinic. As for style, it’s a fusion work of urban and commercial dance. I can’t tell you much, but what I can tell you is that that crowd will be screaming for more!

Thanks Jo.

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