When I am dancing, I am in full flow
Dancing lights me up, it nourishes my soul and it frees me
When I was a little girl, something happened to separate myself from that “me” who was always in rhythm with life.
I was at a family party dancing to soca music and completely absorbed by the beat and dancing my little socks off. I heard someone clapping and opened my eyes to see everyone looking at me and applauding my dancing. Rather than keep dancing, I freaked out.
For some reason, I felt being the centre of attention wasn’t a good thing or a safe place to be, so from that moment on I avoided any form of limelight and was careful to make sure I didn’t shine too brightly and attract that level of attention again.
We all have stories like this. Stories and experiences from our past that end up defining us and limiting what we allow ourselves to do in the world, and who we allow ourselves to be. Until that is, we begin to see that that story is not the truth of who we are.
Luckily for me, that fear of the limelight started to get worn down at the edges when a wonderful dance teacher named Jenny arrived at my school and ignited in me a love of dance.
By the age of 14, I was helping her run an after-school dance club, teaching groups of 90-plus young people. By 17, I was running classes by myself within I.L.E.A. (Inner London Education Authority) and gaining a wealth of performing arts experience under the leadership of Celia Greenwood, Weekend Arts College (WAC) London.
Later, after getting a B.A. Honours in Performing Arts, I co-founded, (together with Jeanefer Jean-Charles, MBE), my own professional jazz dance company. We toured the world and were recognised by the likes of Sadler’s Wells, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre and the British Council.
As a professional dancer, choreographer and dance company co-director, I was obviously in the spotlight on a regular basis. But still, that story from my childhood about it being an unsafe place continued to stay with me – and it held my career back. Opportunities would come to take myself, my work, and my company onto an even bigger stage and I would step forward, but then shy back. Step forward, shy back.
Eventually, someone helped me to see not only this pattern in my life but a far deeper driver.
It is fair to say that I had quite a suppressed and strict Caribbean upbringing. Very much a voiceless experience, and this lack of voice was seriously impacting how I showed up (or not) as my learned behaviours clearly demonstrated.
However, the good news is that I came to realise that each realisation was an opportunity, a choice. In those moments was I going to choose to be the young, voiceless girl caught up in fear and false stories about myself, or the strong woman in touch with her unique rhythm and brave enough to take a twirl with destiny when she offered me her hand?
I haven’t always made the choice that honours that real “me”, but when I do, I feel such a lightness of spirit and joy for my life and all the opportunities big and small that present themselves.
When I’m in that flow, truly dancing to my unique rhythm, incredible and magical things happen!