Tips for Winter Joy from Mansion Yoga Teacher Mandy Meaden

Tips for Winter Joy from Mansion Yoga Teacher Mandy Meaden

Lost your mojo? It’s that time of year, says Mandy Meaden, who teaches yoga at the Mansion. Spring will begin to reveal itself soon, but until then…

We all have days when laziness overtakes us, it’s a part of the natural rhythm of life with peaks and troughs of energy and is to be expected and even welcomed. But, there can also be times when our sloth becomes inertia, and whilst the idea of feeling better is very appealing, anything we need to do to get there seems less so. The diminished light and the cold of winter means we are especially prone to this down time during the darker months.

What to do? Joy and pleasure in life is out there and within us - how do we find it? (Clue: it’s not available on Amazon or Netflix.)

Well, first of all, get out in nature, and ideally get some sun! If you see some, get yourself into it - pronto.

Secondly, get yourself amongst other humans. Spending time in the company of others has been shown in and of itself to increase health and wellbeing. We can help ourselves and one another by combining what little energy we have to the benefit of us all. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Thirdly, get moving. There are many wonderful regular classes on offer at the Mansion including yoga, Pilates and dance. What do you think might stoke your embers and help you feel you are moving towards goodness? Make yourself a cuppa and take a minute to look at the class schedule and peruse what is on offer. Some classes focus on energetic movement, some are more gentle, some focus more on the spiritual side, nearly all can accommodate beginners. More than likely you will find something that suits at a time that’s right for you - consider it a mini adventure. Maybe this simple step could lead to a fabulous change in your life for the better, or perhaps you just go the once and find it’s not for you - it’s still a story to tell. Nothing ventured nothing gained.

Here’s to the snowdrops and daffodils that are on their way - soon they will be sending up their green shoots. Metaphorically, you can do the same and come spring we will all be blooming.

Dance Educates

How has your lockdown been?
Full of highs and lows! I was home-schooling two young children which was a challenge as I think a lot of parents found. I was constantly Googling things like how do you do long division without a calculator? And what exactly happened in the Stone Age?

I was also very lucky as the Primary school I teach at wanted the continuity of dance lessons for their children during lockdown so I created and filmed three lessons a week in our attic! We were able to play these through our YouTube channel which reached many children at home.

What's your background and what was your journey to dance?
I grew up on a dairy farm and knew pretty quickly that this life was not going to be for me (sorry Dad). My school was one of the only ones in the county to run GCSE dance and this is when I knew that dance was going to play a big part in my life. I moved to London to study at Trinity Laban and gained my degree in Dance Theatre. From here I knew I preferred teaching to performing so studied for my PGCE in secondary dance in Brighton.

I worked in a few secondary schools but missed working with dance Artists so slightly changed my pathway and worked for Woking Dance and then The Place as an Educational Specialist, working with Artists and teachers. This was the perfect combination. I was still teaching but honing my skills in project management with amazing dancers.

Dance classes take place in the Old Library

I left The Place to work at the Royal Opera House which was a fantastic experience working with some of the most passionate people you will ever meet. The Royal Ballet and The Royal Opera are incredible and I got to know the building well by creating films and digital content about behind the scenes of this organisation.

I knew my heart was always in contemporary dance and when the opportunity came to work with choreographer Richard Alston I jumped at the chance. I became the Learning Manager for the Richard Alston Dance Company and had the dream job of linking schools (through workshops) with the dance company.  Unfortunately the company closed earlier this year and so I decided to focus on Dance Educates...

When did you found your business, Dance Educates?
My business partner Alison Swann and I founded Dance Educates in 2014. We had previously worked together at The Place for many years and both feel very strongly about the positivity of dance in education. Our work many focuses on embodied learning (learning by doing) and we deliver cross-curricular dance in schools teaching subjects such as maths, literacy and science through movement. We are now branching out into further classes outside the curriculum.

Baby and Young Children Creative Dance Classes is on Mondays at 10.30am

What can participants expect from the classes?
We want dance to be accessible to everyone and this is at the forefront of our minds. We create relaxed but energetic classes focusing on building confidence (whatever age you are), creativity and technique (depending on the class). Children are amazing at creating dance and that’s our focus for the younger ones with help of music and stories. For the adults it’s a chance to use dance to move with others (COVID safe of course!), develop fitness and contemporary technique in a beautiful space.

How did you discover the Mansion? Do you live locally?
I discovered the mansion as I live locally and have been many times with my children to play in the sandpit, run around the open spaces and we even swam in the lake over summer! It’s beautiful and I was thrilled when you agreed to host our dance classes.

Adult Contemporary Dance is on Mondays at 7.45pm

What does the rest of 2020 and next year hold for you?
2020-2021 is going to be an interesting year because who knows?! We would like to carry on developing our classes in South London (Crystal Palace and East Dulwich) but we also know that our classes work well online (Zoom) which is a good back-up in these uncertain times.

We are also working closely with Greenwich Dance as they are interested in our embodied learning work in education and we also run a regular adult contemporary classes for them.

We also have a long-standing relationship with the Open University who are very interested in how dance/movement at a young age can help express feelings and emotions in a safe space and reduce mental health issues later on in life. This is a new research project that we hope to develop and eventually use as evidence to show the importance of dance in education.

Class profile: Life Drawing

Jonathan Long holds a friendly, accessible Life Drawing class with us each Wednesday evening, for all levels, using a wide range of historical methods. We find out more.

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by the drawings of the Renaissance and how they represent an enquiry into the human form and the character of morals. Through the tradition of life-drawing, we can connect to the culture and values of the Renaissance.

To draw is a means to express our personality through art. In this way, drawing from life is deeply meaningful and a way of self-affirmation and discovery. This was my inspiration to start drawing and to set up my project: I want to promote historical drawing methods and revive the use of traditional materials, so that today we have a connection to the roots of our culture and civilisation.

Tell us about the class

The class takes place in the Drawing Room.

We draw directly from the nude model. I provide charcoal and paper, while people are more than welcome to bring the materials they prefer to draw with.

We always have the best professional models and their poses range from short five-minutes to hour-long poses for closer study and rendering.

My teaching is informed by my background as a student of History. My degree at King’s College centred on the history of philosophy and the history of art. I use primary sources from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries to understand the approaches and modes of learning implemented during the Renaissance. I wish to share with people, and make accessible, the authentic methods of the Renaissance masters.

Why hold your classes here?

The opportunity we have to do life-drawing at the Mansion is phenomenal. The natural light, the neo-classical aesthetic, and the natural beauty of the grounds seen from the Drawing Room contributes to the timelessness and beauty of the craft.

Coming to the Mansion every Wednesday to teach and draw is like a panacea to any negativity. The combination of life-drawing and the historical approaches I inculcate, and the Mansion itself, is conducive to genuine, liberated creativity. It allows people to really express their true vision, and in doing so, come to a deeper self-understanding.

This is why life-Drawing at Beckenham Place Mansion is so rewarding for those who come to draw. I hope to populate the Drawing Room full of people who will benefit from it every Wednesday, as the Mansion is best suited as a place to learn, share, and champion the arts.

What are your hopes for the future?

The potential of the Mansion is enormous and I feel very lucky to be able to hold my class here. The accessibility for the public to enrich their time within the beauty and serenity here is extremely important - I hope the Mansion continues to promote the practice of the arts and becomes a place of tradition, culture and learning.

I bring to the Mansion my passion for the history of Western art and culture. I hope to teach at the Mansion long-term as I struggle to think of a more appropriate setting – it is suited to receiving the learning I bring from studying antiquity and from nature.

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