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Guest Blog: with Motionhouse Youth dancer Ollie

4th July 2016

I began dancing with Motionhouse nearly two years ago now and since then I’ve become truly passionate about performing contemporary dance. It’s genuinely one of the things I most look forward to during the week; I often find myself thinking the only problem with the weekend is that after Friday evening I have to wait a whole week to dance again.

Anyway, now that I’ve got that somewhat formal opening statement done I can speak as an actual teen! So, what got me into dancing? Well, around Year Nine I started performing in school plays. Not big roles, obviously, I wasn’t particularly good yet! But even just playing an extra in Hamlet I knew that performing was what I wanted to do, and I was going to do as much as I could.

Skip forwards about a year and my school was putting on West Side Story. Of course, I got involved and, even just playing an extra, I enjoyed it so much. This is when I first heard of Motionhouse – one of the dancers, Claire Benson, came in to choreograph the large dance scenes for the school production.

I hadn’t exactly danced before, (we are excluding my Year 3 endeavour in Hip-Hop Club!), and I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having doing it. Luckily for me the Head of Drama at my school had been wanting to put together some sort of dance group/club/other synonyms for a while and so got in touch with Motionhouse once again to try to set one up. This was the beginning of Altiora, our school dance group.

The idea of a dance group in an all-boys school wasn’t expected to be so well received, but to our delight and surprise quite a number of boys showed up for the taster session. To be honest though it could’ve been the promise of getting the opportunity to dance with the girls from our sister school! Either way, a fair number of people joined, either because they already did dance or wanted to try it.

At the moment we have about 7 people altogether in Altiora. Unfortunately as time went on people left to go to university. This means, however, that we’ve all grown to be quite close (which really helps with being comfortable with occasionally making a fool of yourself!), and we’ve performed for a number of assemblies and shows representing the school.

We’ve even had a small school trip to watch Motionhouse’s Broken which, in my opinion, is one of the best pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen; I was amazed how well so many different stories could be told with such detail, using only movement. I even used ideas from it as inspiration for my Drama GCSE devised piece, as my group wanted to tell its story through means other than dialogue. It was through Altiora that I became a member of Motionhouse Youth – Claire Benson leads this too.

Before I go into Motionhouse Youth I should talk about a small project I did with the company, which was essentially my ‘taster session’ for the real thing. In October 2015 Claire told me about a short dance film she and filmmaker Dan Tucker were making in correspondence with the Syrian refugee crisis that had become terrible enough to take up a fair majority of news coverage. It was a horrible issue and, although the film wasn’t to be a political statement, Claire wanted to create a piece congruent with her initial reaction to the images of the crisis that she’d seen. This meant costumes being quite dishevelled and the dancers having very ghostly appearances.

Ollie getting in character

Although a morbid topic, I had a lot of fun making the piece and was very grateful for everyone’s friendliness. As someone who tends to be quite nervous when meeting new people – as I can imagine a lot of people my age can relate to, and especially dancing in front of them – this really helped me in being comfortable in what I called my ‘Aladdin costume’. The piece is called Without Wings and is on YouTube if you want to watch it, (I’m pretty easy to spot, being the only guy in it).

Watch Without Wings – click here

After making this piece, I knew I had to join Motionhouse Youth, and I have to say: Definitely. Worth. It.

I hadn’t had so much fun performing since West Side Story, which had been a year ago. By this point I was also good friends with Claire, who’d of course played a massive part in my performing experiences over the past year, and joined her one Friday at Motionhouse Youth after Altiora at school.

The first thing I noticed was the lack of other boys, as there was only one other than me. Don’t worry we’ve increased in numbers now! I encouraged a friend of mine to join, and he’d actually been dancing a lot longer than me!

Now you might be thinking; ‘Ok, this guy’s been asked to write this for Motionhouse, he probably doesn’t even mean half of it.’

Yes, I have been asked to write this blog for Motionhouse as a Youth company member, but I do genuinely mean it when I say how much fun I’m having and how friendly everyone is. Agreed, it is somewhat intimidating at first – especially as a rugby player more than a ballerina! – to join a group of people some of whom have been dancing for a long time, but over the past six months the amount of support and encouragement I’ve had, not only from Claire, but also the other members, is phenomenal, and I’d seriously advise anyone and everyone who thinks it might be fun – or even doesn’t! – to join.