This year I sat in Sadlers Wells and marvelled, open-mouthed at Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre’s Revelations. It had been a long journey from my first exposure to dance theatre in a random hall watching Theatre Royal Stratford East Youth Theatre in the late 90s.
Thinking back, there are very few times in my life where I wasn’t trying to master one dance move or another. I was that kid in primary school who could do the Hammer Man dance-- the Moonwalk in secondary and who tried to master everything from Breakin’ (to me the definitive dance movie).
As a pre-teen, dance was all around me, mainly in the form of music videos. Usher and Omarion's fluidity were the stuff of dreams. But way before Diversity made it mainstream on BGT, Boy Blue Entertainment were the pinnacle of hip-hop dance for me. They had 4 or 5 crews and lessons varying by age and ability. They provided a space to learn and improve. I never made any of their classes but had enough friends who did and we traded moves. I taught him the Harlem shake he taught me the basics of king tut style, Moonwalk for the Crip-walk etc.
It wasn’t until A Level that I was exposed to Martha Graham and the way I looked at dance changed forever. I understood that Michael Jackson was mainly a proponent of Fosse. I was in awe of the contemporary work of Shobana Jeyasingh and DV8 while learning different choreography techniques. This knowledge transformed how I moved, but also made me hungry to experience more.
Matthew Bourne's Car Man was a revelation, but nothing like seeing Alvin Ailey’s tribute to Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker. Dance to a soundscape actually blew away my preconceptions of what dance could be. I came to understand the origins of UK hip hop movement via dance and Jonzi D’s Aeroplane man.
I strive to continue to be exposed to as many different dance styles as I can and I consume them all, borrowing, melding unlearning and relearning the limits of the body, all the while trying to experience newness both on the dance-floor and in the audience. As a form of expression dance can be simultaneously a visual, aural, and physical delight. Whether you are a practitioner or observer, there’s nothing quite like a magical, musical meander through movement.
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