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Guest Article : The Life Of A Professional Dancer

Guest Article : The Life Of A Professional Dancer

kj lawsonI started dance with my mother who was a Ballroom dancer, I trained in both Ballroom and Latin but then soon found Contemporary and this is where I fell in love with dance. In wanting to progress with Contemporary I went from Lancashire to the University of Chichester, where I obtained a 1st Class Hons degree in dance. During my time at University I was lucky to be around some very inspiring artists such as Abi Mortimer, Carrie Whitaker (both of Lîla Dance), Cathy Childs, Dale Thompson, Detta Howe and Yael Flexer. All of whom had massive influence in my passion and development in dance.

Once I finished my degree I went on to perform as part of Transitions Dance Company and study for my MA in Performance at TrinityLaban. Whilst a part of Transitions I worked with Choreographers Lucy Guerin, Martin Nachbar and Melanie Teall, which produced some well received work on our international tour. Since graduating with my MA I have worked as a dancer for Jorge Crecis in “36” which was performed at the Royal Opera House as part of Exposure Dance. This work focuses on athleticism and game like qualities with which I strongly connected; the spontaneous environment allowed me to engage and create freely and gave me the opportunity of having to deal with consistent challenges. I have remained in great contact with Jorge and funding permitting the work will tour to national and international venues where I will also have the opportunity of being a part of the teaching team.

Soon after this I worked with Abi Mortimer, Lîla Dance ( . Abi created “Boy meets Girl” a duet between myself and Joe Darby, who was also a fellow graduate of the University of Chichester and Transitions. This was a process I will treasure; it was fantastic to work which such an inspiring choreographer and a duet partner whom I felt so comfortable and supported. However ‘comfortable’ I may have felt in this company the creative process and finished work certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone! The work leaned towards Physical Theatre in the way that we explored content and relationships within the theatrical framework. We worked a lot with our characters (that of a male/female romantic relationship) and pushed physical and personal boundaries to create a work that placed a lot of emphasis on the performative responsibility of the dancers. In this way it reflected the spontaneity I had experienced in “36”, both works utilising the choices the dancers must make on stage. Both “Boy meets Girl” and “36” helped me to develop my own performance and ownership of dancing roles on my entrance into the professional world.

This Brings me to my recent performance work with the Akram Khan company ( ) for the Olympic Opening Ceremony for London 2012. This was my most intense experience of my career so far both in terms of working hours and the consistent demands of the physicality over the entire project leading to the performance. The 5 week process often utilised a 6 day working week of days beginning at 8.30am and the level of concentration needed in order to achieve a precise movement quality on 50 dancers working as one (hopefully in perfect unison) was challenging for everyone involved. Throughout this process I connected thoroughly with the material (characteristic of Akram’s Kathak/contemporary fusion style) as I found my body responded to the physical and dynamic qualities inherent to the vocabulary. As a dancer that has a tendency toward a fast and dynamic movement quality this process provided me with a huge learning curve in the development of a style that I favour. I very much enjoyed the physical exertion that this experience gave me, not to mention the once in a lifetime opportunity to perform to over four million people. However nervous this made me, it was a moment I will treasure for the rest of my life. You can find the clip of “Abide with me” on YouTube.

Whilst performing I have also been teaching and have remained eager to develop my teaching skill. I had my first teaching experience whilst touring with 3fall 2010 (graduate company from the University of Chichester) and had a similar experience on tour with Transitions 2011. I began my teaching career by leading an advanced technique class for the MayaKara’s (the youth company of Lîla Dance) consisting of some very talented and focused young students of ages 12-18. Members from this company have a history of going on to study dance at university many of which now work as professional dancers, so I was keen to extend their professional practice with my classes.

Since then I have been lucky to meet Jackie Mortimer of Instep ( a youth dance company located in Hythe, Kent, which is 200 members strong. I am now a part of her well-equipped practitioner team, which consists of a small group of graduates now working and performing in the professional sector and teaching for Instep, the practices of which extends into the surrounding community. Soon after I went on to teach and assist in other areas of Instep and found an excitement for teaching which I’m sure will become my ‘bread and butter’ in dance.

Alongside my growing love for Instep I have been acting head of Dance at Whitstable Community College from January till June 2012, which was a challenging but much appreciated opportunity. Throughout this placement I taught the Key Stage 3 and BTEC curriculum to a range of students ranging from 11-18yrs. From teaching in a secondary school and college I have developed my teaching skills considerably and now feel more confident than ever walking into a classroom/studio.

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