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Choreographer: Dance Courses, Choreograph for Companies, Choreograph for Schools
Teacher / Ballet master: Guesting for Companies, Guesting for Schools, Permanent job with Companies, Permanent job with Schools, Teach on Dance Courses
Photo from Vogue magazine shoot with Stomp.
I was only eight years old when I began dance classes. Inspired by a Fred Astaire movie, my mother found me tap dancing in the kitchen with pennies taped to my slippers. This was the beginning of a career that would take me performing in many different countries, using a variety if techniques and styles.
It was only by using the reflective thinking required by this that I realised it was my very unique upbringing that allowed me to venture into such an unusual pursuit as dance. Being from mixed descendants Afro/white, and raised in a predominantly white northern town, I soon became accustomed to standing out.
Classes started at the small local dance school, where I learned ballet, tap, and modern to which I dedicated some evenings and Saturdays. Whilst training at Karvonne I worked my way through grades one to six in ballet, modern, tap and jazz. The School also performed once a year for parents in a hall above the library. Then when I was twelve years old I moved on to the Northern Ballet School in Manchester where I received a more professional standard of training. There I progressed to the point where I passed my Senior grade ballet with honors. Up to this point my interest in dance was mainly technical as technical classes were the only aspect of dance that I had been exposed to.
I enjoyed the challenge of learning new movements from different disciplines, and learning more complex and challenging routines. It was only when my parents took me to see ‘Extemporary’, a Lloyd Newson Company, at the Royal Northern College of Music, that I began to see the potential of dance for self expression. I remember being intrigued by abstract nature of the performance, and whilst I'm not sure how much sense I made of the piece, the important at the time as the fact that I had been provoked into thought, and left questioning.
From that point onwards I would often find myself mentally transforming various thoughts, emotions or situations into movement. Finding new ways to portray my ideas through dance became a progressively more common occurrence.
At fifteen I was accepted into the Derbyshire Youth Dance company where I had the opportunity to work using contemporary dance technique for the first time. Working in a converted mansion house in Derbyshire myself and eight other dancers from across the county, stayed for a weekend of classes and choreography. Tutored and directed by two professional dancers and two students from the Laban School in London, we performed the resulting work at the Derby playhouse. I was becoming increasingly beguiled with the dance world and the possibility of a career as a dancer. As Martha Graham said “the body cannot lie”.
During my mid teen years I experienced problems both at home and at School. as a result of these I left School with only one GCSE’ in English. However at seventeen I successfully auditioned for the London School of Contemporary Dance. Using some of the work from the course with the Derbyshire youth dance company, I had choreographed a one minute solo to a piece of jazz as was require by the College. Unfortunately on arriving at my audition I realised that I had left my music at home, and had to improvise for an estimated minute to nothing except my rapidly beating heart. It must have gone better than it seemed as I was offered a place with full scholarship, with a view to working in the company.
Whilst at the London Contemporary I studied the following:
· Martha Graham technique Contemporary
· Merce Cunningham technique Contemporary Dance
· Body Conditioning
· Classical Ballet
Although the fees were paid, I could not meet the cost of living in London and after eight months left for Leeds and the Northern Contemporary Dance School where I stayed for six months training. I have included the letter from the College as evidence of this event.
I was then offered a place at the Rambert School back in London, where I studied for two years. At Rambert I learned a wider variety of dance and performance skills, although the main focus was Ballet and Contemporary. I choreographed, composed for, and performed two of my own pieces of my own and performed two by other students, showcased in the student performance.
After two years at the Rambert, I was offered a job working with the Wienna ballet Company. My role was to be lighting Director, responsible for all aspects of lighting for the company. I was also allowed to take class and rehearse with the company. The performance was of Swan lake and the show was to tour Germany extensively. I have enclosed a copy of the contract, one page of the tour schedule and the program cover as evidence, please see number 17, 18 and 19.
Working with the Wienna Dance company offered me the opportunity to learn a new skill in lighting, but it also acted as a valuable stepping stone from being a student, to working as a professional dancer. It gave me the opportunity to experience life on a professional tour and the responsibility of of being in charge of an important part of the show.
My professional dance career began1998 with an open audition for Stomp. Hundreds of hopefuls turned up to the audition in central London, which was not surprising as Stomp was one of the most popular shows at the time. The auditions ran over five days, with the numbers reducing each day until only twenty of us were left on the last day. We were then left to stew over the weekend and received a call on the Monday with a decision. I was offered a part in the show and have included the contract as evidence of this.
The rehearsal period for the performance was six weeks which was not a great deal of time to learn the show, Whilst I was experienced in learning choreography and performing, The Stomp performance was much more complex and longer than anything that I had been involved with before. The show combined both rhythm and dance which took the form of separate pieces which ran one after the other with no break or interval. We learned each piece one at a time and once I had grasped the require rhythmical skill required, each piece became easier to learn. We had to learn to use the following as instruments;
· Brooms – This piece opened the show and each cast member would play a different rhythm using their broom. As was the format for most of the pieces, we would switch between playing as an ensemble, in unison, in canon and we would each perform a solo.
· Pipes – Each cast member would use one pipe played in a certain order. Each pipe was cut to a different length, and played a different note over an octave. By playing the pipes at different time, we would create a piece of music. This piece was the only piece that was melodic.
· Hands an feet – We used hands and feet only, this became the signature piece for Stomp and was the basis for the workshops that I developed as Disdance.
· Poles and sticks.
· Zippo lighters – using the sounds made by opening, closing and lighting the Zippos we created a rhythmical piece using the same content as with brooms.
· Oil drums - We attached ski boots to the top of oil drums, and walked them on stage like boots, whilst playing them with three foot long drum sticks.
· Bins and bin lids
Learning to perform with these items took practice and imagination. Fortunately the tour began its run with a month in Bremen Germany. This was a smaller venue which had been purposefully booked in order for us to perfect the show before moving on to the more major cities.
The upcoming tour was going to take us around Europe, performing in Cities in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France and Spain. I have included a page of the tour schedule, some copied pages of the program as evidence, please see 18 and 19.
The show was physically very challenging, and I sustained several injuries whilst performing with Stomp. On my return home from the European tour I decided to perform something less taxing, and so devised with three other dancers a piece that incorporated both Classical ballet and body popping. This piece was performed for a one off performance at the Camden roundhouse theatre. We called the company Blue moves and although we did plan on performing again, the company split up as we all found other work.
I am currently undertaking a degree in proffessional practice at Middlesex University (part time)