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I Like What I Do

I've known EmJ 10 years now. I knew her when she started Body Politic and I was involved right from the beginning. At the time, it was literally just her teaching classes, which I took part in. She gave me the opportunity to start teaching, and we sort of developed from there – I was one of her first few teachers. Then when she started doing workshops, showcases, teaching classes at primary schools, you know, we sort of done it all together. 

It was actually my friend who roped me into doing the class because, I don't know, we saw a few YouTube videos of people dancing. And then we were like, yeah that looks cool, let me give that a try. Then we found EmJ’s class, which happened to be at Pegasus. We took the class. We're like, whoa, okay. This is cool. Loads of girls. Only two boys right at the back – we were 17 at the time. But also, it was things that we could kind of do. Well, we were terrible. Rubbish! But it was fun. That was my first class, my first exposure to it. That's how I started dancing, how I got exposed to the whole scene, the industry, which then weirdly tumbled into what I do now for a living as a personal trainer, because of the teaching opportunities I got to do – they kind of go hand in hand. 

I think what I really enjoyed was learning. I really like learning, but also the skill of dance, picking up routines and understanding. And there's like, the different layers within dance, you know. First of all, you gotta get the movement down. Choreography, that's number one. And then there's understanding the musicality behind it. And then there's layering of textures. Once I got to a point where I could say ‘okay, I've got these moves’, I'm like, ‘Ah, but it would look cool if I did it with this feel or this attitude’, and you sort of progress. And that was really, really satisfying and really fulfilling. I think this is what makes dance fun. I guess for me anyway. 

I was hooked, so I just kept coming back. EmJ would teach every week, and it eventually got to a point where she needed cover one day or wanted to teach another class and she asked me if I wanted to teach. I started studying dance at college because of the classes I went to. I didn't really have much direction at the time. So yeah, it gave me working opportunity for one and exposed me to teaching and earning money. And yeah, that kind of thing. So super grateful for that.  

We used to run lots of workshops in the early days and we would bring in some really good choreographers from all over the place. London, America. As a dancer, you’d look up to these people and be excited to learn from them, but I'd also help with the behind-the-scenes stuff and get to hang out with them. You get to see what they're like as people, which gave me insight into really good teachers, which I took a lot of inspiration from into what I do now. The teaching of the classes sort of progressed naturally to teaching people on a one-to-one basis. 

I’m super, super lucky that I got to be a part of it all, because I got to pick the brains of the choreographers that I looked up to. It taught me that being a good teacher isn't just about learning your stuff, you know, it's also communication. Like learning who to speak to in a certain way. Not all dancers make good teachers. It goes back to the teachers I had, they were really good at what they did, but also they were very good at explaining what they do, how they do it, why they do it, which I really latched on to. 

I remember going into a class. I think it was Sean's class. Ask any working professional, they'd look up to Sean. He taught a class and everyone's like: mind blown. He sat everyone down, and he goes, ‘when you come to a class’, I'll never forget this, ‘you’ve got to think of your brain as this cup, empty that cup, walk into the class with an empty cup, and fill it up with whatever that teacher is teaching. And you then go to the next class, you empty it, and you fill it up again’. He was teaching us how to learn. The teaching, the helping people, and just being able to communicate and connect with people goes super hand in hand with what I do now. And yeah, I might have stumbled into it another way, but I did it through what I did, dance. 

Anyone can rock up and take part. If you learn from the right people, they make you feel at ease and included being there. That’s why what Body Politic have done has been really good because you know, they've brought in these kinds of people who are very good at teaching at every level, so they could teach you know, people who’ve been dancing for years and years, and someone could walk in, and they could have been dancing for like, a week, and still take a lot from it without feeling like they didn't belong there. 

That community vibe has always been there, which is quite a nice stamp to what EmJ's done. Even at her solo classes at Pegasus, that Monday night class that I initially took, it was still that community, you know, you'd see the same people every week, which she then pulled into a bigger workshop. And then every time the body politic workshop comes about you identify it with really good dancing, really good teaching but also a super cool vibe. It's not arrogant. There was always the thought of okay, we want to create this environment. How do we make that happen? Who are the people that can come in and teach? And that’s still the main driving force of it. There's still that core idea of a community atmosphere to it.  

We used to run this training programme, a six-week course where she would get really good choreographers in to teach on a weekend. And it was for anyone and everyone. But you turn up to those and you're guaranteed good teachers, teachers that give a shit. And like, they want you to learn rather than just ‘I'm here to teach you these steps’ and then see you later. Also, because it was a six-week course you get to see how everyone grows and struggles, because the style might be different the next week. It was a really cool vibe, because everyone got friendly. You get to know people, and from then those people might go and take classes together somewhere else. And yeah, that's how I met my other half. 

It's driven by EmJ, she's breathing life into it all herself, which is super, super cool to see. That's one of the biggest shifts since I've come away from BP, she used to fund everything herself and obviously, money would come from bums on seats, but now she gets funding from the Arts Council. She's pushing the envelope, instead of creating just a show, she's pitching an idea, she’s exploring themes, through collaboration and expression. And now she's gone down this route of like, hip-hop theatre, which is super cool, because it's still very EmJ and Body Politic, you know, still sticks to her essence of community and there's still her core values, it's not just like putting on like a random dance show. Which is super, super cool.  

I don’t dance at the moment, which I do miss. I enjoyed it for what it was, doing it for the fun of doing it rather than making a living out of it. But yeah, I miss taking classes, and I miss doing shows and things. But yeah, I like what I do now.

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