Hi Jennifer, what is your occupation?
I run a street-dancing school for people aged 4yrs-18yrs, although we occasionally do adult classes too.
When did you learn to dance?
I got into dancing when I was two after my Mum took me to a local dance school called Robinson Read (I think it was called Sharman Robinson at the time). My sister was a keen dancer so I just followed suit!
What was it about street dance in particular that you loved?
I attended a dance college in Preston and strangely, they didn’t offer street dance as part of the curriculum! It was through meeting people in and outside the college that I started to learn street dance. People were popping and locking and I felt really inspired. I had always loved RnB and Hip-hop music from a really young age so it was a natural progression.
Can you tell us a bit about your dance school?
At Jennifer’s Dancers we offer fun, weekly classes which help to build confidence and elevate your street dancing skills. Alongside this, we have a competition team for people who want to take their dancing a little more seriously. Throughout year we compete in numerous dance competitions and we have competed in the United Dance Organisation (UDO) twice now and come away with a few placings. In fact, my son placed 4th in the world in 2018 and 2nd in the world in 2019! We also do exams through the UDO which cover the different styles of street dance in depth i.e. popping, locking and breaking. As well as this, we perform an annual showcase at the Lancaster Grand Theatre which we work towards all year. We do different styles and themes and the kids really love it.
How can a complete beginner learn to street dance?
Firstly, you can be any age so if you’re over 18, don’t worry about it! Make sure you search your local area for a good dancing school and if they are offering street dance, ensure they know their styles. I believe a good dancing school will be showcasing raw, dance footage online. Also, if you are feeling slightly conscious, know that most classes have mixed ability levels. There will usually be someone there who is also a beginner to help you feel a little more comfortable. YouTube is great too! It wasn’t around when I was growing up but there are so many tutorials on there. However, there is nothing like the class environment.
You choreograph too. Is there a specific route into choreography?
I know some professional dancers who are fantastic dancers but they aren’t necessarily brilliant teachers. Likewise, I know great choreographers who aren’t the best dancers. It is entirely possible to be one without the other. I always think that choreography is such a creative process. Sometimes I can’t go to bed because an idea will strike at midnight and I have to write everything down immediately. Sometimes the song inspires my creativity, or a good walk can do the trick. The most important thing is to possess a creative mind and give it a go. I look back at some of my previous work and realise how much I have learned and grown over time.
What are your personal highlights?
We are currently celebrating our 15th year of running Jennifer’s Dancers. I actually started the school with my last £10! I had my little boy (who’s now nearly 16) and I knew that I needed to do something with my dance, although performing wasn’t so much of an option at that time. I wanted to make a fun, street dancing school because there was a lack of that around. I put out some flyers and 30 children signed up and now we have 300 kids in the school so I’m really proud of that. We have also been to Diversity’s studios in Essex to dance with them and we had Ashley Banjo join us to teach the kids. We have good links with Ashley’s mum who is so lovely. In fact, the whole crew are so kind and they spread really great messages. They are fantastic role models for our dancers to look up to. My son winning the 2nd place in the world was also a huge highlight and we had two crews make it into the finals which was incredible because the competition is international! I feel very proud every single time we do a show and we can’t wait to perform again after the coronavirus pandemic has passed.
Are there many women teaching street dance?
In the North-west there are a handful of females who solely focus on street dance but most female dancers do a wide variety of styles. There are lots of guys who do street dance but hip-hop culture is very inclusive and you are not made to feel different if you are a female street dancer. It almost doesn’t matter! It’s a strong dance style so it’s important to have that power behind you. If anything, many of the women performing this style are very strong and they don’t get intimidated easily. They hold their own!
How can someone follow in your footsteps?
My advice would be to attend a dance college. There are many commercial dance colleges now like Shock out and Rare. Similarly, if you want to take dance further, look into doing some ballet lessons as knowledge of ballet provides a solid foundation and many dance colleges expect this. Street dance is a dance style which is really popular for music videos, and the more training you have, the better. When it comes to teaching, I think if you know you want to do that from a young age, maybe try and shadow another teacher. Lots of people finish college at 21 and try to get into teaching but without the experience of dealing with parents and children, it’s very difficult. I have two teachers who currently work for me who used to be my students. They shadowed me for a year to really grasp the in-and-outs of the job. Don’t expect to just be able to teach immediately, it takes time. Once you’ve mastered it though, it’s so rewarding.
Thank you for speaking with Making Miss Mogul.
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