I can’t remember how old I was when I started dance, but it was pretty young. Some of my earliest memories are dancing in shows in my local village hall – ballet and tap. I clearly remember dancing to tracks such as ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ (complete with umbrellas obviously!) and ‘Let’s Go Fly A Kite’ in cutesy dresses and hair in a ballet bun. I remember standing extremely awkwardly at the front because I felt uncomfortable wearing lipstick and nail polish. It seems that my 16 year old self is not that much different to my 4 year old self.
Looking back, dance was always a love of mine that I never really stopped pursuing. Those ballet and tap classes stopped running and I unfortunately didn’t find an alternative class – my lack of ballet skills haunts me to this very day, especially in the past couple of years. However, I kept dancing, despite nothing being very permanent. I did a street dance class once a week in my local leisure centre, I went to a cheerleading summer school, just any chance I could find to dance. In the meantime, I also did gymnastics for quite a few years, swimming and even trampolining very briefly! I don’t think I recognised this at the time, but I was so desperate to find my thing. That hobby that became more than just a hobby, and turned into a passion. But a mere hobby was all anything ever was.
One thing I knew was that I loved performing, which was a puzzling thing because despite being desperately shy in my normal life, I was never really as scared of performing, as such, as any of my friends were – this is perhaps why I did some public speaking a couple of years ago. Performing excited me, yes it was scary, but the fear was converted into adrenaline and it made me happy. I discovered this when I joined a drama group when I was maybe about 7 or 8. It was a class on a Saturday morning that was a combination of drama, singing and dancing; we did an exam or something that involved me playing the dodo in a scene from Alice In Wonderland, reading a poem and singing ‘Be Our Guest’ from Beauty and the Beast. I loved it, but the class stopped running after only about a year or so of me joining – I cried my eyes out after the last class.
But then I joined another theatre group, and I loved it so much more. We did drama and singing there, and played lots of games and things like that, but we put on a show at the end of each year, and it was a play with an actual script and I truly loved that. Having a proper script seemed so professional to my younger self, and I remember taking my script to Guide camp and going over my lines in my spare time, feeling like a proper actor. The first year, I was only a very minor character, but the second year we did a modern day version of Cinderella and I was Cinderella! You have no idea how chuffed I was. I had ‘so many’ lines to learn, I had to hold hands with a boy (my 11 year old self thought it was the cringiest thing ever!) and I even had a quick change! I feel like it was then I got the acting bug, but after that, after two years with that group, I quit, in favour of Guides. That was one of the hardest decisions I ever made, and I think it may have even been the wrong one, because I don’t know where I would be right now if I’d kept doing drama.
At around the same time, however, when I was 10 or 11, I started at another dance studio. It was an open access class one day a week and I went with two of my friends from school. I really enjoyed it, but I felt a bit awkward and I don’t think I was very good. My personal turning point was at the summer show, when we were watching all the other groups in the dress rehearsal. I really looked up to the older groups and the youth company, but there was a ‘guest act’ in the show, that was a duet with my dance teacher and this foreign dancer who had been teaching at the studio on a placement. It was hip hop I think, and it was to Scream by Usher, and I was in awe. I still remember where I was sitting, what I felt when I watched it. I felt inspired.
So I worked hard. My two school friends quit but I kept going. I felt like such an outsider, but I was enjoying it. It was in my third year at the studio, and we did a contemporary/lyrical piece for the summer show to Lily Allen’s version of Somewhere Only We Know. It was my first real encounter with the dance style, except for trying to copy what I saw on Dance Moms, but I felt like I was actually doing well. I’d just done a Leadership in Dance qualification at my studio which was just so much fun, and so I really had gained a lot of confidence also. It was show day and in the afternoon, I was handed a letter by the director of the studio. In the dressing room, I opened it very discreetly, and again, I’ll never forget where I was when I read that I had been invited to join the youth company.
It’s been almost exactly three years since I received that letter, and it sounds incredibly cheesy but my life has changed so much. I’ve discovered a love for contemporary dance. I feel very lucky to be involved in a company where the dancers make the decisions. We audition, interview and choose the choreographers we want to work with. I’ve been attended five intensives in the past three years, which is five days spent creating a piece with a choreographer, and these have been some of my favourite ever experiences. The choreographers I have worked with have been incredible and have all taught me so, so much. In October, I’m going to work with one of my favourite ever choreographers, and it really is complete madness. I feel that my dancing has improved so much, particularly in the last few months, and with that, so has my confidence. I’ve had the opportunity to perform in my local theatre countless times, and have been able to perform on a stage in Cardif, which I could never have dreamed of. I’ve performed with a cast of thousands in a large scale show in Cardiff, which will always be one of the greatest experiences of my life (that’s me on the far right):
I’ve had the opportunity to work with a newly formed disability dance company and have helped and performed with them for the past year and a half. I can’t think of anything of anything more rewarding, and I’ve met the loveliest people because of it. I’ve gone through the intermediate group in the company and I’m now in the advanced group, and as of September, I’ll be the oldest person in the company, which is such a scary thought. But above everything else, I’ve become part of a company, a group, a dance team, and I truly believe I have made friends for life. It was so special to perform in my sixth summer show last week alongside my team, and my friends:
This has been the best three years of my life, and I think that, finally, I have found my thing. And I can’t imagine my life without it.