To celebrate National Sporting Heritage Day, we caught up with Hilary and Barbara at Medau Movement, to learn more about one of our Founder Members’ long history
How and when did Medau Movement start?
Medau started in Germany in 1929 when Hinrich Medau opened his own college in Berlin after working with Rudolf Bode at his college in Munich.
It began in England in the 1930s after Molly Braithwaite, having experienced Medau while she was studying in Cambridge. trained with Hinrich Medau in Berlin.
At that time and immediately after the War, a large part of the attraction was the social aspect – classes would include coffee or tea and a good chat, and many participants were young mothers. The only competition came from yoga which was just starting out here as a form of class exercise, and rarer specialities such as International and English Folk Dance who had their own followers. The social aspect continues to this day and many classes continue the tea and chat tradition.
How did it evolve?
Hinrich realised that physical exercise for girls had until then been a watered down version of men’s exercises and he knew that girls’ and women’s bodies would benefit from a more holistic and rhythmic form of whole body movement. His college eventually offered training for movement and sports teachers and today the family are training physiotherapists, speech and occupational therapists as well as movement teachers.
What is Medau Movement and your method of exercise?
Medau Movement is a teaching method which aims to work to the ability of the individuals within a group. Our teachers, who originally trained for three years part-time to improvise music on the piano or with percussion, were able to change rhythm, mood, style and pace throughout as appropriate, are now using recorded music of all genres. Observation is the key to the method, and the teachers’ knowledge and understanding of how the body works to be able to realise what is needed next.
What makes Medau Movement unique?
As well as the early emphasis on improvisation, our specific use of the individual qualities of hand apparatus – balls, clubs and hoops – were originally identified by Hinrich himself as useful tools to encourage a broader scope and range of movement. For instance, while the student is concentrating on throwing the ball higher, and following its flight, the teacher is observing the result in the body and deciding how she can improve it with her next choice of movement.
Barbara, what are you particularly proud of?
I’m really proud that our Medau Movement display teams have performed many times at events in the Royal Albert Hall, twice filling it with our 25th Anniversary Festival in 1978. They have also performed at the Royal Festival Hall, Birmingham Symphony Hall and Royal Albert Hall Nottingham among others.
The teams were guests of British Gymnastics at their GymFusionl launch in Essex and a subsequent event in Nottingham and were also invited to perform at the 50th Anniversary of Carnegie College, Leeds
As part of the British Gymnastics GB team they have attended several International Gymnaestradae, and represented TeamGB at the Golden Age Festivals (GA) organised by the EUG (European Gymnastics Federation).
Although our team is always the only one representing the UK, on the parades through the streets we more than hold our own and have been selected three times to perform at the Gala evening which is a huge accolade.
The teams have visited many European cities and are totally self-financing – so if that is not dedication to a cause, I don’t know what is!
Hilary, what are your own proudest moments?
The fact that many of our teachers, members and participants have been with us for so many years. I started in a class over 60 years ago, it has been a major part of my life ever since.
I was proud to teach Medau work in Brussels and later Leuven University for a number of years in the 1970s, and to work my way up in the Society from participant and member to teacher, trainer, and chairing several regional and national Committees as well as being the Society’s first Chairman after our founder, Molly Braithwaite died.
Do you have any favourite memories?
My first visit to Coburg in the 1960s was pretty special as I experienced Hinrich himself on the piano and his wife Senta teaching.
I returned regularly and formed good relationships with our German colleagues and friends. Our trainers were invited to teach there, and our Display Team performed at several milestone celebrations – including the 50th Jubilee in Coburg and the Medauschule’s 90th celebrations in 2019!
I was also .at the 75th Anniversary and spoke about the Society on Bavarian radio.
Barbara, can you tell us about some key fundraising moments?
We have supported a number of charities over the years, including the National Osteoporosis Society, Demelza House Children’s Hospice, Macmillan Nurses and Cancer Research and many of our teachers hold events to support their own favourite charities during the year.
Hilary remembers handing over a cheque to the British Heart Foundation for £180,000 on behalf of the CCPR’s Movement and Dance Division; raised by teachers and class members of all the member exercise, movement and dance organisations.
What does the future look like for Medau Movement?
Medau Movement remains a highly respected form of exercise and movement Anyone at any skill level can take part and because there are no set routines to learn, participants can join a class at any time and feel at home.
We are really pleased that Sport England accepted our project to send a chair-based Medau exercise DVD to all care homes in England. We were awarded £24,000 from the Sport England Tackling Inequalities Fund and filming has already taken place.
We are proud to be featured on the This Girl Can website and we plan on continuing to spread our all-inclusive fun exercise to others and especially those that may have doubts about whether or not they can or are allowed to take part in physical activity.
Times have changed in the group exercise world and our teacher training has had to be tailored accordingly but we jealously guard our principles and the Medau Movement ethos.