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One Of The Groupies

Body Politic is a professional dance company that produces amazing individual shows with a whole mixture of themes. They're addressing a lot of important current issues – important to Generation Z and younger people, but also to people my age.  

My kids got involved with their classes. My son started at Pegasus Theatre pretty much in the first classes that they ran, for 11- to 15-year-olds. My son was 11, so starting right at the beginning! My daughter was only eight and she was a bit disappointed because she really fancied doing it as well. And then they started some eight- to 11-year-old classes in St. Albans Hall. So, she managed to start as well. And it just was great.  

They loved the style of dance. They'd both danced before: my son had done some ballet when he was really small, then decided it wasn't really his thing. And my daughter did tap, and she loved that. When Zach came home doing street dance, she was like "I want to do that! I want to do that!" It gave them something in common. They'd practice the dances. And they can be a bit prickly with each other sometimes, so it was really nice for them to have this common interest, and just practice together and show each other stuff. It was really good for their confidence, having to perform on stage, good for them physically, and for their mental health as well.  

So yeah, so they did it for a few years and then when Zach got to 15, Jay asked him if he'd like to be a dance assistant, so he started being a dance assistant and going and helping with the classes. 

I've loved coming along to see the shows. It's incredibly high-quality dance. I used to work for a theatre, so I have quite a few things to compare them with. It's really professional, the lighting and everything. The music production values are really high. There's a massive positive energy, huge inclusivity and encouragement. And also, it's really fun. The classes are really, really fun.  

Anyone who's producing, they want to have those two qualities, they want to have that kind of fresh joy in it, but also, they want to have it rooted in proper values and, you know, rigorous ideas. It’s really innovative, how they workshop it and all that kind of stuff. They share a lot of that on socials, so you can see the process, which is really rigorous. It’s an unusual combination. Usually, you get either the laid-back, fun thing, or a very professional thing. But somehow, they've managed to get both things and make them mesh really well! 

It’s very inclusive. There’s no: “this is what a street dance person looks like”. With street dance you have diversity in every sense. There's no limit to who can be good at it. You know, with ballet, there's a body type. Whereas with street dance, you can be quite large and be absolutely amazing. You can be really tall or any short or anything. So that's really positive as a parent. It's positive for your kids' body images. It’s also very emotional, very expressive. There can be all sorts of emotions expressed. It can be joy, or anger or whatever. It's a really good platform to let go.  

My kids have met lots of friends who dance, and that's nice as well. Different people from different backgrounds. I just think that there's been so many opportunities for them to build their confidence and explore who they are. Not feel stereotyped in any way. Which is so important, especially with social media, and the kind of mental health issues that a lot of young people have, where they feel they have to conform. Yeah, this is just the complete opposite. It's really healthy. You can look how you want. You don't have to look like anyone else. 

My son and I were having a conversation about it the other day. And he was just saying to me "oh, mum you know, it's amazing. The role models that I've had.” He said that it was really great having Cedi and another one of the male dance teachers. He said, "because they showed me different ways to be a man and different kinds of masculinity, because they were dancing, and it was really beautiful how they were dancing, and I suddenly realised that to be masculine, you don't have to be like the stereotypical blokey sort of thing, you can be someone completely different. It really changed my ideas about how I could be as a boy and a man”. I think that's really good. 

One thing that Zach was encouraged to do, which I thought was brilliant for his confidence, was an event they do where they invite really good artists, street dance artists from America and other places. It's called Kinja. I think he was about 16 when he went. They went to London, and he'd never gone up to London before. Well, he had, but not travelling across on the Underground. And, yeah, he loved it. He absolutely loved it. 

My daughter had some back issues, so she stopped doing it for a while. But she's been studying photography at school. And EmJ invited her to do a paid photography session when COVID was on, and they were doing some outdoor workshops. So, she got her first paid photography gig! And Zach was getting paid for being a dance assistant, which was really important to him. From a parental perspective, it’s so great when your kids get involved in something really positive. It was really cool! I just think it’s been a really positive influence on our family life. 

Bringing them to the classes and seeing other parents is really nice. You feel like you're all part of the Body Politic support group. And then going to the shows, meeting other people's parents that I didn't know at all, just chatting to them and stuff. You do feel like okay, it's not just about the classes or the performance, there is a wider thing. A really positive thing running through our lives, when times were quite difficult. Because being a single parent and working was exhausting. I don't have any local family or anything. I was a very lone parent. Because we are a single parent family, it's much more important for them to have mentors. 

The teachers have all been brilliant. They're just great. And they're all local, you know? Oxford-bred. Went to school round here. It's a really unusual thing that you get something that's very community based, but it has such high professional standards. They're really aware of developments in street dance. They're constantly learning new things, and then bringing that back. They really push themselves when they're developing their professional work, you can see it's really cutting edge. 

That spirit has gone through, right from the beginning. The same energy, same professionalism, and still really cool. But they've developed loads of projects, like working in partnership with Mind, working in the community. I think their scope has broadened massively. They're doing more projects, often with people who need that kind of thing in their lives. 

And I love the fact that I've seen it right from the beginning. And I feel like I’m part of it. I’m just one of the groupies! It's just a really important part of Oxford life. Yeah, Body Politic are a really positive force in the city. Can't imagine if they weren't here.


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