Dancers, no matter where they come from, have many things in common. They’re passionate, hard workers and, however their dance journey has developed, with dedication they can achieve great things. Dance Informa spoke with three dancers from around the world about their training and aspirations. Here, they share their challenges, successes and everything in between.
How did you get started in dance? What are some of the major steps you’ve taken along your dance journey and how have they led you to where you are today?
Charlie Kingston (London)
“When I was little, I was absolutely obsessed with Janet Jackson. I’d spend hours in my living room figuring out the dance steps I saw in her music videos. I was around eight years old when my parents took me to see her live in concert, and from then on, I knew I had to be on the stage. I trained at a local studio, and then went on to pursue a university dance degree in Cardiff, Wales. Upon graduating, I made the big move to London, and my career started to take off. I danced with artists on stage, in music videos, for big brands and more. When I first traveled to Los Angeles in 2015, I fell in love with the city. In L.A., I made friends who later became the people giving me opportunities I never knew were possible for a girl from the UK.”
Amina Konaté (U.S.)
“I started dancing at a very young age with my sister and cousins in our living room in France. Moving abroad to attend various dance schools shaped my dance journey and influenced the dancer I’ve become. The teachers and fellow students I’ve encountered along the way, as well as exposure to different cultures, have collectively molded my movement, which is filled with a spectrum of colors, nuances and influences, making it simultaneously more vibrant and accessible.”
Katie Rudd (New Zealand)
“As a child, I begged my mum to let me start dance lessons, which came out of nowhere considering my family had no dance or arts background. I was very shy, and dance got me out of my shell and made me feel confident. I started with classical ballet and jazz, adding in contemporary in my teenage years. I moved to Wellington to study at The New Zealand School of Dance, graduating in 2013 with a Diploma in Contemporary Dance Performance. I was very fortunate to make industry connections during my training and seconded with companies across New Zealand and Australia. During my third year at NZSD and on my 21st birthday, I got a surprise phone call from Shona McCullagh, the founding artistic director of The New Zealand Dance Company, offering me a contract to join the company. Two months later, we were touring a full-length show throughout Europe. It was a dream come true. I recently celebrated my 10-year anniversary at NZDC and still have to pinch myself that I get to call dance my full-time job! This job is such a gift; being on stage makes me feel my most vulnerable and most powerful at the same time, and the physical pursuit of dance is a never-ending discovery of the extremes and subtleties that I can express.”
What are some of your proudest achievements in dance thus far?
“Working closely with the creatives for Ariana Grande has been a huge achievement. I was hired as a soloist by creative director and choreographer Brian Nicholson to create content for her tour screens using motion capture. It was incredible to be the only dancer in the room in such an important setting. Dancing on stage for artists is my biggest passion, and some of my favorite jobs include dancing for Bebe Rexha, Jax Jones and Christian Millian. I recently signed with MSA (McDonald Selznick Associates) for dance representation, and I’m so excited and proud to be a part of that family.”
“I’ve had the privilege of exploring incredible places and performing on remarkable stages, all thanks to dance. From The Roman Theatre in Vaison-La-Romaine (a French National Heritage Site dating back 2,000 years and capable of hosting up to 7,000 audience members) to the legendary Carnegie Hall in New York, I am grateful and proud to be working amongst artists of international caliber. What’s most fulfilling, however, is knowing I’ve made an impact on people. Whether on a grand stage or in a more intimate setting, I believe that dance is about sharing emotions. My proudest moments come from hearing people’s feelings after witnessing my performance.”
“Stepping out on stage at the Holland Dance Festival during my first-ever European tour is a moment I will never forget. My eyes were opened up to the world of contemporary dance on a whole new level, and I was invigorated. In 2017, NZDC performed at WOMAD Festival in New Plymouth, which is my hometown. Dancing for a crowd of 5,000 people with my parents, sister, friends and old school teachers watching was such a special experience.”
What are the greatest challenges you’ve worked to overcome?
“I’ve been so blessed with the career I have in London, but now I’m making the big move to L.A. I’ve traveled back and forth for about nine years now, but I’m moving there for good this March, and already have a lot of work lined up. It’s been a long process to make this happen, but I know it’s going to be so worth it, and I can’t wait to get to work out there.”
“Standing out among people with great talent in a field where positions are extremely limited has been and continues to be a great challenge. Even though New York City is an amazing place with a lot of opportunities, getting noticed can be hard. The uncertainties and constant hustle are not always easy to overcome! Thankfully, the gratification that comes from working with outstanding choreographers and performing alongside a diverse group of fellow dancers is a constant source of motivation.”
“Just as it felt like everything was getting back to ‘normal’ post COVID, I suffered a serious injury during rehearsal in 2022, which resulted in me needing shoulder reconstruction surgery and a subsequent 10 months off to rehab it. In my first appointment with the surgeon, I was told to ‘have a think about what you might want to do after dancing, because I’m not sure if I’ll be able to fix your shoulder enough to get you back on stage…’ It was a very confronting time for me, but it reinforced my love for this artform, and I was determined to do everything I could to return to dance. A full year later – and a rollercoaster of frustration, sweat and tears – saw me back on stage. Never have I felt more grateful for my body and its capabilities. My favorite saying is ‘motion is lotion.’ Moving my body in its full capacity again was such a healing feeling, physically, mentally and emotionally.”
What’s on your dance bucket list?
“My biggest career goal is to tour with Chris Brown, working with choreographer Josh Smith. Other choreographers that I would most love to work with are Rhapsody James and Luther Brown. Other artists on my bucket list are Janet Jackson, Usher and Ciara.”
“The exchange of cultures is really important to me, and I’m lucky to experience ample cultural exchange in NYC, a true melting pot. I’ve already had the opportunity to collaborate with exceptional individuals who’ve provided me with space to evolve as both an artist and a person. Now, my dream is to dance and tour in a company setting where I feel safe to practice and share my art.”
“1.) To participate in an international residency in which I collaborate with a local dance company to make work together. 2.) To share the stage with my sister Georgia, who is also a professional dancer. 3.) To perform on stage when I’m 80 years old – here’s hoping my hips will last that long!”
If you were to share one piece of advice for fellow dancers, what would it be?
“Work on self love and your mindset just as much as you work on yourself physically. When I started therapy and learned to love myself, everything in my life clicked, and my career started to take off. You need to believe and trust in yourself before anyone else will be able to.”
“I constantly remind myself to return to the reason why I’m dancing and surrender to that passion. Focus less on what people think and care more about what they feel.”
“Stay true to yourself and what you enjoy doing. Try not to follow the trends. I encourage you to try lots of styles and movement practices until you land in a physicality that best connects with you. The greatest skill as a performer is to know your personal style as best you can, and to showcase your intrinsic movement power as truly as possible. That’s when you’ll be most able to captivate the audience with a visceral experience. Also, as you get older, it’s a good idea to supplement your training with other forms of movement (e.g. running, yoga, meditation, strength training, etc.) to maintain and evolve your dance practice.”
By Charly Santagado of Dance Informa.