An introduction to Dance Society: lessons learned from Joan Clevillé

Photo: DanceSoc
Photo: DanceSoc
Photo: DanceSoc

DanceSoc is one of the largest sports clubs in St Andrews, and last year it boasted over 250 members. The society features over 21 different styles of dance, and students are free to show up to as many or as few classes as they desire. Sessions include styles such as tap, jazz, ballet, hip-hop, and much more. On 20 September, The Saint was invited by DanceSoc President Alison Thomas to attend a special workshop. Ms Thomas had spoken with choreographer Joan Clevillé and persuaded him to host a two-hour contemporary dance workshop for 25 people.

This was a big coup for Thomas and DanceSoc since Mr Clevillé is regarded as one of Scotland’s leading independent dance artists. Based in Dundee, Barcelona-born Mr Clevillé has been dancing since he was 15 years old and dancing professionally since the age of 22. He has toured all around Europe and in 2014 was made an associate artist of the Scottish School of Contemporary Dance. Mr Clevillé leads his eponymously named Joan Clevillé Dance group and endeavours to combine contemporary dance with theatre. Basically, he is a big name in the dance scene. The session was split into two sections. The first hour consisted of inventive warm up exercises and a short contemporary dance class, whilst the second hour focused on a routine from Mr Clevillé’s Dreamt for Light Years. One usually associates warm-ups with mundane stretches and a boring jog, but this was not the case here. Mr Clevillé instilled a sense of creativity from the get-go, letting laughter fill the room. With the class suitably warmed up, he proceeded to teach a short contemporary dance class.

At this point, Ms Thomas asked if I would like to join the class. The only dancing I’d done previously was at half-past one in the morning after six pints of lager, so with a degree of hesitance, I took her up on the offer. Ms Thomas’ invitation was proof that DanceSoc truly is open to all. So, embracing my inner Billy Elliot, I took to the dance floor with the others and eagerly awaited Mr Clevillé’s instructions. Mr Clevillé taught us staple contemporary dance manoeuvres that we eventually put to music. I won’t lie; I struggled to keep up with the rest of the class. My inner Billy Elliot turned out to be more akin to Anne Widdecombe. This didn’t affect my enjoyment of the class, however; I had an absolute ball.

I took my leave of the dance floor after the first hour, as I wanted to observe the class performing a routine from Dreamt for Light Years more closely. This piece, written by Mr Clevillé, was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and was a huge success. It was, therefore, a great honour for the class to practice with the very man who wrote the routine. The piece was a paired dance that symbolised the breakdown of a relationship. Ms Thomas aptly commented that although every pair was given the same routine, each grouping performed it in their own unique way. She further stated that one can get swept away by the ethereal background music and not even have to think about which parts of their body to move. The routine was a powerful way to end an extremely enjoyable couple of hours. Upon speaking to students at the start of the session, one interviewee stated that DanceSoc sessions were a great way to lose yourself for a few hours each week and destress from all the worries of the modern world. After spending two hours in the company of the class and Mr Clevillé, I can wholly understand what this student meant.

The session was a lot of fun and, at the same time, very insightful and spiritual. I would recommend DanceSoc to all, newcomers and experienced alike. If you want to get involved, email


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