Everybody can dance!
By Tim Casson professional dancer and choreographer of The Dance We Made.
As a kid I always danced around in front of the TV, eventually I was sent to my first dance class aged 11 (so my parents could watch TV in peace!). I didn’t start proper training until age 16, when I was lucky enough to get a place at the prestigious BRIT School. It was my sports teacher who told me about the school, I couldn’t throw, catch or kick a ball but I loved dancing so he told me to audition – I owe him one!
After BRIT I trained in Musical Theatre at Bird College and when I graduated, auditioned for different jobs but the thing that made me happiest was contemporary dance. I did a year apprenticeship with Jasmin Vardimon Company and then joined them as a full company dancer, going on to perform with them for the last six years. This year I have started to work as a freelance dancer which is really varied and you get to travel a lot. In the last few weeks I’ve been performing in Israel, teaching dance to lighting designers and choreographing on students; It’s never boring!
The Dance WE Made is the product of two clear elements. The first was meeting an amazing musician who had challenged himself to compose a piece of music every day for a year. I listened to his tracks and the development was amazing. I started looking for a way to do the same with dance – I liked the idea of developing myself through forced creativity. The second element was working more with adult non-dancers. I found working with them really refreshing as they weren’t limited to creating certain movements like trained dancers can sometimes be; people often have creativity but no opportunity to use it. The two ideas combined together; to create a dance every day that was created by people who didn’t have to know anything about dance, in a way that would introduce them to the art form and also challenge myself as an artist.
Often people can be scared of contemporary dance, they either don’t understand it or don’t feel they have access to it; it can sometimes be a bit weird. I found that if you put people through the process of making a dance, they’re often surprised by their creativity. I love dance and am so lucky to work with it every day – I want the people take part in The Dance WE Made to gain a better understanding and appreciation of dance. If they watch a performance, take a class or even just enjoy the experience then my job is done. I suppose I sound like a hippy but I don’t really mind!
The process is fairly quick and painless (for them) and most importantly ‘not scary’ as I always tell them. We have a conversation about who they are, how they’re feeling, what kind of dance they like to see or do. I take this information and search for things that I think can inspire dance moves that reflect elements of this person. I come up with some movement, show them and we work together to make something they’re completely happy with – It’s very quick, about ten minutes. We do this four times per hour, working with four to eight people in total and then stick all the dances together to make a performance. Approaching people in the street can be tough, they often think I’m selling something and in London people are so busy! I’m curious to take the project to other cities to find out how other cultures would react.
There is a quote by Shakespeare that says ‘What is the city, but the people?’ and I think it would be really interesting to see how different cities and cultures react to it. Every country has a different relationship to dance. As an example: in Britain, people don’t really get involved with folk dance, whereas in Greece, whole families get together to do traditional dances. I’m curious to see these cultural differences in action and know that it would really develop me as an artist, so I really hope to travel both in the UK and internationally with it.
I love that Camper also works with artists to really challenge the perception of the brand. Similarly, I want to collaborate with members of the public to challenge people’s perception of dance. I love Camper’s collaborations with the designer Bernhard Willhelm and know that they encourage artists and film makers to create new and exciting work. I chose the Water Runner and ACS shoes to dance in as they’re flexible and light – which helps me jump a little higher!