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Diane’s dance, choreographic and theatre life
I’ve always moved to the inspiration of music for as long as I can remember. I had an ability on hearing music to immediately visualise what it would be shaped like with movement and dance in its many forms.
Being a gymnast as a child I used this and choreographed my routines and those of my friends from around the age of 7, for competitions across the NE. What’s great is that most little ones’ boys and girls love, with little comprehension of what they’re doing, dancing around the living room. Even making up routines with their friends either inspired by something they’ve seen or some piece of music they just have to create to in all its quirky, giddy, jerky or grand sweeping ways.
Sad most loose this as they grow more ‘conscious’, older yet there are a few of us who never loose this link to be in body. For many years to come some remain unashamedly free to shimmy, shake, spin, leap, glide and slide despite limitations of the body or places to indulge! Count me in in this later category and yes, I’ll dance where I know I can and still love encouraging others to feel safe and free for such a great way to uplift and be healthy.
How I started my professional life in Dance Choreography
I quit my gymnastic career at 14 following an accident and a number of years as NE junior Champion and GB squad member. An accident also happened years later on Gladiators – but I’ve since learned that accidents are often ‘stop’ signs along the way to renegotiate direction. I couldn’t stop moving around with my then highly tuned young body and acute ear for music. I played the violin and flute. The flute I still do… I wasn’t a violins best friend only the cat thought otherwise. Music especially classical was a passion and I just couldn’t stop moving.
From this I was drawn to the strength and honesty of contemporary dance. In particular, the beautiful story telling medium of the Martha Graham technique. I attended my local youth dance company in Cleveland NE England and also did some great local Amateur Dramatic shows as my favourite local choreographers who were directors of the Youth Dance Company had me included in many shows to hone my growing skills in performance and further understanding of how shows and productions come together. Even though I was asked and awarded many fabulous roles and solos, my heart was in becoming a choreographer and not a performer. Having done so helped me understand the mechanisms even more and so continued until I gained a place to train as a professional.
Fell in love with Ghost Dancers
During this time, I had also fallen in love with a British choreographer’s work. That of Christopher Bruce. In particular, his work Ghost Dancers.
Stunning. I remember watching transfixed, stood in the middle of my parents living room stuck solid, afraid to move and held my breath in case it broke the spell of this amazing piece on Channel 4’s first dance season. I knew what I had to do. I had to train hard and gain much in terms of learning Ballet in two years to get to a good enough level technically to audition for professional training. Ballet is a good stem technique to learn for all dance and it creates discipline and a solid foundation. I still love to watch what I call earths natural dancers in full flow… its very special though when I can see someone has a good technical training in there without it having taken over and squeezed natural flow, rhythm and connectedness out of the body. The very clay to describe the art of dance.
The body has to have condition and be fit, stable and capable of what its demands are especially if you have a choreographer with a style that is super demanding. I used to love this and ballet and excellent conditioning classes like Pilates are vital to maintain the dancers career.
On moving to London at 16 and I studied at London Contemporary Dance School. I had also been asked to become a member of the National Youth Theatre, NYT. That year the director Ed Wilson had used some of us from the North in another production, ‘Behold the Man’ for TV and invited us down to be with National Youth. I was fortunate to be in the company that went on to stage Trisha Ward’s Nightshreik at the Shaw Theatre with a cast including Mark Benton, Elizabeth Carling and Daniel Craig to name a few. I enjoyed drama but my passion was always dance. The very next year while I’d started my training I auditioned for the very new sister company to NYT, the National Youth Dance Company. It was its first year. I was awarded a place and then toured the UK the following summer. We had a wonderful set of choreographers and some great pieces. A fab mix of dancers who were all in their early stages of professional training mostly from London Contemporary, Rambert and Northern Contemporary.
I was off. Soon producing pieces as part of my training while all the while being asked to be a body for other choreographer’s pieces. I moved on to train at The London Studio Centre half way through my training being encouraged that I would do very well ‘commercially’. I never looked back while discovering Jazz, funk etc. and worked even before graduating on a number of TVs, film and theatre as performer and chorographer.
Funnily and pleasurably I was often put along side another dancer called Louie Spence as we had similar skills and who has now become a ‘celebrated’ personality in his own right. He was also a flatmate too and what you see is what you get. He still holds dance and the discipline of the art true. Still got it, never lost it Louie!
Here we are in the Green Room once he had been ‘evicted’ from the Big Brother house but not after being a really good amusing house mate with plenty of theatrics and dance.
TV and the game changer
TV started to take off more and more for me and in more obtuse forms i.e. Gladiators which was a game changer.
During this time, I’d also trained as a teacher in Health, Fitness and dance setting up classes on moving out of London to Surrey. I loved every minute of my early teaching years and was one of the first Personal Trainers in the UK, when it was only talked about as something the Americans did.
I did home visits too and small group PT sessions, usually outdoors. Its nice to see that its become a ‘thing’. I held down a post of Director of Ladies Recreation in a Sports centre at this time and had the best fun developing group exercise and fitness for hundreds of eager fun ladies of all ages and stages.
As my TV career increased especially once Gladiators had hit I continued my love of dance though not consistently teaching as much due to other work taking me far afield.
In recent years I’ve had the privilege of working with young brilliant talent. I’ve had the good fortune of working with an International production company choreographing and co creating shows on Musicals and on the incredible life and achievements of Tina Turner. The young triple threat talent out there as clay is a pleasure and truly inspiring to work alongside.
Its great to see young professionals emerging in this notoriously hard industry just shining through and bringing pleasure of the highest calibre to many.
I still teach, set and choreograph material for events, shows and classes.
My areas of focus when I do though are corrective exercise, conditioning and Pilates (as part of my Core Philosophy Programme) and small remedial studio in Wales.
I adore the Zumba model and how it has touched many lives to lift the spirits (including mine when I was trying to pull myself out of a particularly bad run of years).
It allows non complicated but musically driven, easy to follow routines for all to share to the best culturally diverse rhythms from around the world.
Its universality and accessibility is now common place. I love it as a participant and to also to contribute a track here and there, when I’m invited. There are some truly gifted teachers with dance and non dance back grounds I’ve discovered on my travels. These souls bring so much joy, health and fitness to those who otherwise probably would struggle to be regularly active.
The Zin network of Instructors world wide is well maintained by Beto Perez the founder and creator of Zumba with his super creative and motivated world wide network.
Do check out and try a class if you haven’t already and know you love to dance… you won’t regret it. In the North West of England, I thoroughly recommend any of the many www.FreestyleFitness.co.uk classes which are superbly managed.
Fancy one of my guest classes/workshops or bespoke choreography for your show?I love delivering one off teaching/coaching classes for groups in any of the above styles and even in elite fusion dance conditioning for those with more experience.
Contact me or my team with details.
Any chance to stick in a spin… this time its up on a beach one Autumn in the Highlands of Scotland… Why not.
Some pics from the Tina Turner tour 2015 ‘Tina, Break Every Rule’