I consider my journey to dance to be fairly late. I started dancing in secondary school when I was 16 years old and I choose to study dance as an option for my GCSEs. I always had an interest in performing arts and movement, but had never attended a dance class or seen any live dance performances. I was encouraged to study dance by my amazing dance teachers at Poynton High School who could see that I had potential and a talent for movement and dance. I then went on to join Cheshire Youth Dance Company (now Homegrown Youth Dance Company) and I was hooked!
I think this is why I enjoy working with children and young people, as I like to inspire them as my dance teachers inspired me to dance. From a young age I was told that I could have a future and a career working in dance, and I have carried that advice and belief with throughout my career today. I think this is very important as in the current climate many young people are not encouraged or inspired to pursue dance as a career option, and I hope that I can change this perspective and follow in the footsteps of my dance teachers.
2. Tell us one thing that has stayed with your from your dance training?
I had a varied dance training studying for my BA (Hons) Dance Studies at the University of Roehampton, MA Dance Performance at Trinity Laban and was a member of Transitions Dance Company. The thing that stayed with me the most from all of these places is that studying dance is one of the hardest, yet the most rewarding things I have ever done. I learnt how to work hard whilst managing many different things at once – very much like I still do today. Working in dance isn’t your typical nine to five job; you have to be an expert in multi-tasking, working lots of hours with limited days off. But I do all of this because I love my job, the people and the art form. Dance is hard work; that is what one of my lectures once told me!
3. What are you currently doing?
I currently have many strings to my bow! I am based in Manchester but work in Leeds and Blackpool. I spend the majority of my time travelling around the North of England by train!
I currently work at Northern School of Contemporary Dance as their Learning & Participation Coordinator, a tutor on their Centre for Advanced Training and am the NSCD Youth Dance Company Leader. This mainly involves coordinating dance activity for children, young people and adults of all ages and abilities, including classes, projects, performances and workshops. I also deliver technique, choreography/creative lessons, workshops and choreograph dance works across the provision. I love how varied my work with NSCD is and how each day is always different!
I am the newly appointed Director of Fylde Coast Youth Dance Company. It is very exciting to be starting a new project in a location I have never worked before, and I can’t wait to get started. I am looking forward to contributing towards the ever growing dance ecology in Blackpool and continuing the excellent work of FCYDC. The company is extremely fortunate to be funded by Blackpool Council’s Arts Service and supported by the Blackpool Grand Theatre. The company members will be working with James Wilton Dance who will be creating this cohorts first company work.
In any spare time I have left, I make work and deliver educational programmes under the title of Tom Bowes Dance (www.tombowesdance.com). I am currently working on a duet with Jenny Reeves that was performed at Manchester’s Contact theatre as part of Turn; a micro festival of Northern dance.
4. What motivates you?
Working with people! It is the thing I enjoy the most about working in Dance. Dance is a social art form and it allows people to interact regardless of their age, ability or background. On a daily basis I get to interact with a variety of people who all share the common interest of dance. I enjoy working with children and young people the most; they always challenge my ideas and never fail to surprise me with how creative and inventive they can be. I am motivated when I see a young person excelling in dance and I am able to inspire them to do something that they love - this is the most rewarding part of my job.
5. What has been the most memorable moment in your career to date?
One of the first projects I was involved in when graduating from university was a performance choreographed by Lea Anderson for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee River Pageant. I danced on the roof of London’s South Bank Centre whilst waving giant red and yellow flags and making semaphore signals! I think it was one of the most memorable moments because it was one of the most bizarre (and I was also slightly star struck by Lea Anderson)! I have had so many memorable moments performing, choreographing and working with young people, but waving massive flags at the Queen always stands out!
6. What advice would you give to young people considering a career in dance?
You CAN have a career in dance, go for it! I won’t lie, it’s not easy, but like I have said it is very rewarding. You have to be the kind of person that will get involved with everything, always give 100% and enjoy doing multiple projects at once!
During your training you have to be like a sponge and absorb everything. You have to get involved with as many projects and opportunities as possible and get yourself out there. You have to work hard, very hard, and be prepared to be mentally and physically tired at the end of each day.
Dance isn’t your average job, you have to be able to take a lot of rejection and learn from everything and everyone. You have to love dance and enjoy what you do.
7. What are the challenges for dance artists working in the north?
I think the main challenges are lack of funding for the arts outside of London and how big the north is as a region. Artists have to be avid travellers to access work around the north as opportunities are rarely on your doorstep (or from my experiences). I think there is a lack of professional development opportunities and networks to support artists, although some good work is starting to emerge in this area. Often I think we overlook the quality and diversity of our artists in the north and it is easy to employ artists from outside of our region. I think artist should be encouraged to take risks and develop their practice to ultimately strengthen the dance provision in the north.
8. What are the rewards?
There are so many rewards working in dance, working in the north and working with children and young people; this is why I do what I do. There is a massive sense of community and collaboration in the north. We have some fantastic organisations, venues and artists all working together to strengthen and advocate the work we all do. I think the most rewarding thing is the knowledge that dance is happening every day, despite the current challenging political landscape. People are still making work, people are still watching work and people are still participating.
9. What's next?
I am looking forward to working with Fylde Coast Youth Dance Company as it is exciting to begin working in a new area with new people. The young people in the company have some amazing opportunities coming up, so keep your eyes peeled.
We have some great projects and opportunities coming up at NSCD, and I can’t wait to launch this academic year’s programme. We are also taking our Centre for Advanced Training students on ‘Audition Toolkit’ where they spend a day at NSCD, Trinity Laban and London Contemporary Dance School with other students from across the other nine national Centres for Advanced Training in Dance (CATs), they are very lucky!
10. Who would you like to be stuck on a desert island with?
I’m really into James Blake at the moment and love Glastonbury music festival. It would be fun to see what would happen if I was stuck on an island with Michael Evis, James Blake and a couple of dancers (and obviously Bear Grylls so I would survive!)