The best advice I ever received I am continually inspired by Peter Brook’s seminal book about theatre, The Empty Space. It really made an impact on how I approach a new creation and whenever I start a new work, I tell myself ‘don’t be afraid of silence and emptiness’. For a choreographer like me who works with movement it is tempting to fill the space with lots of movement and hugely challenging to strip away and leave the essentials and find silence and emptiness.
I try and don’t always succeed, which is another bit of advice I was given by Brendan Keaney, Artistic Director and CEO of Ipswich DanceEast. During a Future Leadership course Brendan was running, he said ‘feed your hinterland,’ and those words often ring in my ears and make me smile. They remind me to make sure I find time to feed and nourish my own curiosity, which is essential for someone who creates work.
The advice I would pass on While creating The Happiness Project, the first production for my company Humanoove, I delved into what happiness means and learned an enormous amount about it through discussions with my dancers and collaborators. I believe you are indeed in control of your own happiness, that it is a state of mind. I’m not saying it is easy to achieve but wonderful when you can recognise those moments of bliss!
Dream and chase your dreams; it’s vital to do the things you believe in. It will give you energy for life! People often ask: didn’t you have to give up a lot of things when you were young to become a professional dancer? When I was training it never crossed my mind. I woke up at 6am, travelled 100 minutes to school on public transport, trained, got back home around 8.30pm, had dinner and went to bed – and I thoroughly enjoyed it and never felt I missed out on anything. I felt privileged, to be honest.
When your body tells you it is in pain, listen to it and rest. As a young dancer you believe you are invincible and can push through pains and fatigue to become the best you can be. As time goes by you realise there are limitations to how much you can take. So be careful with your body and mind – there is life after your career as a dancer, and you want to enjoy all of it.
Stay down to earth, be open, honest and generous towards yourself and others, respect your fellow dancers, choreographers, directors and teachers. Never say never, hold on to dear friends, love to the fullest, cry when you need to, be curious. Laugh, share, inspire yourself and others, go camping and be at one with nature – even if you hate camping. Stand up for what you believe in, allow yourself to be wrong, don’t try to be perfect, work hard, learn and never forget to enjoy the journey.