When did you study at The Place? Why did you decide to study contemporary dance?
I started studying at The Place when I was around 14. My new friend (who I thought was really cool and wanted to impress) convinced me to take some Saturday classes and after the first class I knew I had found something that would always be important in my life. Shout out to my friend for unwittingly leading me to my passion! After a year or so I auditioned for Shift and stayed in that company for around 5 years. The combination of technical teaching, creative space, mentoring and the feeling of community was so inspiring and really cemented contemporary dance in my life for ever. Since then, I spent one year in the adult company Scatter, as well as taking regular dance classes.
Tells us a little bit about what happened since! Was there a moment you realised there was something else you wanted to pursue instead of dance?
After finishing my A levels, I did a dance diploma at Lewisham college which covered technique and choreography. This was the first time that I realised how incredibly physically, emotionally and creatively demanding it is to be dancing full time. I auditioned for the BA at The Place, Northern, and LABAN, amongst others, but I didn't have strong enough ballet technique and they told me to re-audition the following year. However, I had also applied to university to study Anthropology and it was the last year that the tuition fees were £3000. I decided to start the course at university and re-audition the following year - if I got in, I would leave university for dance school. However, when the time came to apply for auditions again, I just couldn't imagine leaving the anthropological environment I was in, and also couldn't face going through the scary and mentally exhausting audition process again. I decided to pursue dance as a compliment rather than my main job. However, it's something I always think about! What would have happened if I re-auditioned?
What is it you do now? Tell us about your business/career/role!
I am currently studying a masters in Medical Anthropology in Amsterdam, focusing on gendered experiences of chronic pain conditions, with the aim to improve doctor-patient relationships within that area. I also work part-time in a sustainable fashion museum that focuses on empowering ethical consumers. Before that however, I was working with young people who had a variety of issues including homelessness, immigration, social services involvement and criminal justice issues. I was an advocate - helping them to communicate their feelings effectively in meetings and providing emotional support. In the future I hope to go into the area of women's and girls’ health.
What did you take away from your creative education? What stuck? Is there something you still find useful?
My creative education taught me the importance of not being afraid to try new things. In Shift and Scatter we were constantly challenged to create choreographies, add lifts and rhythms. I always found it really scary, but it was really empowering when you had been pushed out of your comfort zone and it always ended positively! That's another thing that my creative education has taught me- the absolute necessity and power of having good relationships and trust with your team-mates/colleagues/fellow dancers. It is super important within dance to feel comfortable in receiving constructive criticism and praise from your teachers and peers. This is something that I have taken with me and I always try to build solid relationships with my colleagues and classmates so that we can rely on one another for support and creative energy. Most importantly, my creative education has taught me the liberating, fun and empowering aspect of dance that is so crucial to supporting good physical and mental health!
What kind of skills were you able to transfer into your current career? How do you use your creativity today?
The attention to embodied experiences and knowledge of my body that I learnt through dance has been essential in my work with young people. I have often used dance and breathing exercises to calm them down in a stressful situation, as well as using embodied awareness to help them tune in to particular emotions and thoughts. In my masters programme, I have been exploring how to 'do' anthropology creatively including creating sound pieces to go with my research, and exploring the potential of visual ethnography. The ability to think beyond the written word into sensorial experiences has been key for my anthropological research. And finally, I try to dance every day! I am currently a member of Amsterdam Dance School where I am dancing contemporary, as well as exploring other forms including house, afro, dancehall and hip hop.