Yami ‘Rowdy’ Lofvenberg

Her school teachers called her stupid, but the hip-hop choreographer and teacher has found a defiant voice through dance. She explains the importance of being rowdy.

Dance Gazette | Why Dance Matters | Issue 2 – Oct 2021

Where did the name Rowdy come from?

When I moved to England, I started going into the underground hip-hop scene, but there weren’t a lot of girls. I felt I had a lot to prove, to show I wasn’t scared of no boys. I would be overly confident, very cocky and self-assured. It was all a façade, but the rumour started spreading about this girl that was rowdy and over the top, thinking she’s all that. I started to get self-conscious – but then I thought, I haven’t come all the way to another country to feel small, so I decided to take on the name as a badge of honour. You think I’m too rowdy? Yeah, I am rowdy, and you can’t tell me nothing!

You were born in Colombia but grew up in Sweden. What was your experience of school?

I went to a strict, elitist Swedish school. It was very old-fashioned – they were still beating kids, we had to curtsey to the teacher. Me and my brother were the only black kids in the whole school. This was not an era when neurodiversity was noticed. From an early age I struggled when it came to anything mathematic or science-based. I was told: you’re not working hard enough, make much more of an effort. I tried, I really tried. I excelled in anything creative. I couldn’t work out why I was struggling in maths.

Photo: Robert Alleyne

How did you discover dyscalculia?

When I was 17, I happened to come across a news article about this girl who couldn’t see numbers the same way as normal people could. I thought, this girl is describing how I see the world. I’d never heard of ‘dyscalculia’ – but it was like a stone dropping from my chest. It took a while to convince my parents and school, but it completely changed my world.

When did dance come into your life?

Dance was always there. When I was three years old I was moving around the house. I loved watching dance videos and would practice by myself. It was natural to me. I’d been to a dance class where the teacher said, ‘You’re really terrible – you shouldn’t come back.’ He said that in front of all the students. Then I went to another dance class – and there was this tall Black man, in baggy clothing, playing music I’d heard on the radio, with the biggest smile. It was such a change. How could I not go back?

Artwork: Bex Glendining

You’ve taught a lot, including on the RAD’s Step into Dance programme. Do you ever recognise your younger self among the young people you teach?

I would recognise myself in kids that would struggle, or were shy, or maybe aggressive because they felt embarrassed. And I would find a way to reach those kids on a level that they would find a safe space. You don’t know about their life at home – dance might be the only relief or safe space for them. So don’t ever turn away a kid or make them feel unwanted in the space. That is my main goal in teaching.

Why does dance matter to you?

Dance was the one guiding light through everything for me. If I didn’t have that, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I wouldn’t have found my voice. I wouldn’t have found a place where I can call myself a trailblazer for young kids. I would have just been a scared little kid, believing she was stupid. Dance really saved my life.

Why Dance Matters

Why Dance Matters is a new podcast from the RAD – a series of conversations with extraordinary people from the world of dance and beyond. We hope these insightful personal conversations – hosted by David Jays, editor of Dance Gazette – will delight and inspire you.

Other guests in our new season include the star dancers James Whiteside and Leanne Benjamin, choreographer Ashley Page, the Paralympian athlete Libby Clegg, Hannah Martin who won a bronze medal in The Fonteyn this year and RAD Artistic Director Gerald Charles. Please listen and subscribe to Why Dance Matters.

Inside RAD post

Fonteyn 2021

Dance Gazette

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REST OF Issue 2 – Oct 2021


Paint job

From chalk and lard to gold leaf and mascara: Vera Rule reveals the hidden history of ballet make-up.

Inside RAD post

Fonteyn 2021

We report from the Margot Fonteyn International Ballet Competition, held entirely online for the very first time.

RAD Q&A post

Mia Zanardo

A gold medallist at the last in-person Genée competition recalls the evening, and describes staying motivated through the pandemic in Sydney.

Advice Bureau post

Didy Veldman

The Dutch choreographer shares her best advice: chase your dreams!

Playlist post

Drew McOnie

The choreographer and director is creating a new ballet about the young Merlin. Is his playlist magical too?

Big Picture post

Feel it

The international winning entries from this year’s RAD members’ photo competition. The theme? ‘Dance makes me feel…’


Picture this

As the RAD launches a portrait competition for its new London headquarters, Sarah Crompton asks leading portrait artists how they capture a personality in paint.


Living doll

The RAD’s new portrait competition celebrates its first President, Adeline Genée. But who was she – and how did she rise from the music hall to the peak of British ballet? Carol Martin reveals the woman behind the porcelain princess.


Founding father

The French painter Poussin is often called the father of classicism. He was also fascinated by dance – so Rosemary Waugh asks a choreographer and a curator to delve into his paintings.


Shake it up

As calls for racial equity in dance teaching grow, Isaac Ouro-Gnao asks what tangible action looks like and explores how to bring about change.


Walk tall

A migrant child crossed Europe this summer. What makes Amal unusual is that she is an 11-foot puppet who draws crowds wherever she goes. She began her journey in Turkey, where Altuğ Akin sees her welcomed by Izmir’s folk dancers.