When it comes to dancing outside, nobody knows the terrain better than the hip hop community - they've been doing it from the very start! We speak to Rachel Pedley of Avant Cymru about tips and ideas they can share with the wider dance community . . . .

The hip hop community started outdoors, and by its very nature the dance form is physically demanding. How have dancers been keeping themselves safe creating and performing on such hard surfaces? 

Rachel: "For basic affordable ideas, cardboard and duct tape is ideal. When that's not available, it's a case of looking for smooth concrete (tarmac is not good for any type of spinning). The tiled concrete floors found in many high streets often have the right type of grip.

The trouble with grass is that it can be unpredictable, the same goes for sand - however grass is good for reducing impact when practising landing (but you need to find a flat enough surface to safeguard joints).

If you have a local bandstand or somewhere similar to provide cover, and you can get lino (which fits in a car), tape this down and it offers an ideal surface. 

Shoes: trainers are important, ones that suit the dancer's foot. High tops are heavy and restrict ankle movement. Dance shoes damage quickly on outdoor surfaces and many are too thin for outdoor surfaces (including New Yorker heels). 

Clothing: it's advisable to have layers, to put on when watching to protect muscles and to have clothes which are modest for safeguarding. You do not know who is walking by and who can take photos, so clothing that covers the body will offer protection and comfort."

With Covid restrictions currently in place, the rest of the dance community - previously used to rehearsing in dance studios and on sprung floors etc - are now finding themselves using the outdoors much more. What kind of considerations come into play when you're no longer surrounded by walls/heat/comfort/access to electricity etc?

Rachel: "Be prepared to adapt. We have been moved on by the Police for dancing outside, so make arrangements with local councils, PCSOs, housing associations etc to ensure noise is not a problem. You'll need a rechargeable speaker (battery-run speakers are expensive and not environmentally friendly to run). 

Go where you're less likely to be distracted - members of the public passing like to ask questions or make comments. See if there's a park where you can be away from too much footfall but still be accessed by participants. 

Weather can be too hot, too wet, too cold. Shelter from the sun, wind and rain is important, so if there is an outdoor area such as a bandstand or shopping precinct entrance that can be used this will protect dancers and equipment. You need to risk assess each location and weigh up the surface, the cover and the public visibility to make sure the location is right and what needs to be put in place to make the location safe. 

It's important to create a traffic light system: when is it too dangerous to train? You need to be able to be confident to say that it cannot happen outside and have a digital or individual alternatives in place."

How has the hip hop community adapted in the light of Covid restrictions?

Rachel: "As a community we have to be highly adaptable. No venues in the UK are solely for Hip Hop dance, therefore with no organisation currently hosting a safeguarded space to provide Hip Hop regularly, dancers have learnt to adapt.

Many have online links with participants and audiences so they can inform them quickly of changes of location, time, dates, etc. Clear communication is key. Also key is collaboration, helping with other dancers and offering more opportunities to bring people together. 

Working with partners such as GroundZero, we've been able to host Zoom jams with other dance schools and open training sessions where parents can sit in and we can work together to offer feedback.