10 questions with.....Kim Oakely

1. What was your inspiration to start dancing?

I was a very timid child and would not be separated from my mother, not even to attend play school. Our next door neighbour owned a dance school and as I knew her as a family friend it was used as a way of getting me to be more independent. I believe that mum decided to take me to dance classes at two years old as a confidence building exercise and she never expected me to pursue this as a career.

2. Tell us one thing that has stayed with your from your dance training?

There is no substitute for hard work if you are to succeed!

3. What are you currently doing?

I own three companies: Street Beat Academy, Street Beat - Education and KO Productions. Street Beat Academy is a dance school providing training for all ages and abilities in a variety of dance styles from Urban Dance to more traditional styles such as Ballet and Tap. Street Beat - Education is a social enterprise running courses such as dance leadership through sports leader UK, we also work with the police, schools and local councils providing Diversionary Projects in the community/ Boys Dance Projects, Disability Projects, School CPD, Teacher Mentoring Courses plus Gifted and Talented Projects in Urban dance and Contemporary Dance. I am also the Creative Director of KO Productions which is production company providing professional dancers, singers and musicians with paid work though corporate shows, theatre productions, corporate marketing and product launches.

4. What motivates you?

My passion and love for the Art. The 'penny drop' moment when a student finally gets something that I have been teaching them. The feeling I get when I receive great feedback from an audience member who loves something that I have created.

5. What has been the most memorable moment in your career to date?

It is difficult to pick just one, as I have many but for very different reasons. I loved working as a performer so I remember my first successful London Audition. Whilst working as a dancer in Dubai where we were treated like royalty (we even had our own personal butler!). Another fantastic moment was when I created my first full theatre production; producing, directing and choreographing enabled me to bring every aspect of my vision to life, albeit extremely stressful!

On more of a personal note one pivotal moment in my career was working as choreographer on a professional theatre production where I met my fiancée, who subsequently proposed to me on stage in our 2015 pantomime, in which he played the pantomime dame. He now works alongside me bringing different skills and helping to grow the companies.

6. What advice would you give to young people considering a career in dance?

I trained as a solicitor whilst working as a professional dance performer. Following my legal training I worked in criminal defence before I realised that I couldn't live without dancing. I then set up my companies. My career as a dancer was much harder than that of my legal career path! So I would firstly advise every young person not to decide if this is what they WANT to do but if this is something that they NEED to do, as it is a tough industry!

If it is then:

  1. Be prepared to accept rejection, don’t see this as a bad thing - it makes you better, more humble, stronger and more appreciative when you are successful.

  2. Look after and listen to your body; you most likely will get injured at some point!

  3. Always train, once you stop training then you are on a downward spiral!

  4. Don't be a 'one trick pony'. Be prepared to up-skill yourself as a performer, teacher and choreographer as having all of these skills will be an asset to you even if your ambition is to focus on only aspect. Train in many different styles, this will open more doors.

  5. Networking is essential; seize every opportunity, get your name known (and for the right reasons).

  6. Your reputation is crucial. Ensure that you are accommodating and humble, that you are reliable and a hard worker. A bad reputation in this industry spreads like fire.

  7. Stand out at auditions. Get yourself on the front row, there is no point in being there if you are going to hide at the back.

  8. Good technique is important but it will only take you so far, work on your performance skills and stage presence; draw their attention, be the only person that they want to watch!

  9. Believe in yourself!

7. What are the challenges for dance artists working in the north?

Its the age old 'Big Fish Little Pond, Little Fish Big Pond' analogy. All dancers dream of going to London however you are one of thousands gravitating to the city for their dream job. The reality is that there may be more opportunities but there are also more people fighting for them. In February I attended Pineapple to watch an audition for a cruise line. There were only 3 jobs available and over 350 people attending the audition. Opportunities in the North are more limited than London or LA but it is growing and over the last 10 years I have seen more of a shift towards developing a quality dance structure in the North, which is fantastic. The problem is supply and demand, dance can only be developed to a high standard if we can keep high quality performers, teachers and choreographers in the region. However due to limited CPD for these artists, it becomes costly for Northern artists to up-skill in their art who often having to travel around the country to access workshops. I travel to London, LA and New York to train, to keep myself at a high standard as an artist.

8. What are the rewards?

Working in the dance industry is an honour, I wake up every morning grateful for the opportunity to do what I love as a career. I enjoy being self-employed and making my own work schedule, no two days are ever the same. Dancing has allowed me to travel around the world and see some wonderful places. Dance is rewarding on many levels. Its an expression and allows people to communicate feelings and emotions, it can be an outlet for people; both dancers and choreographers. It enables people to develop many transferable life skills including dedication, punctuality, team-work, confidence, communication, hard-work, trust etc. As a practitioner watching the development of a dancer is extremely rewarding, watching them come alive on stage and the reaction of the audience. As a choreographer you can see your vision come to life.

9. What's next?

I aim to work on producing more shows and building the production company. I am attending a Producers Course in London and hope in the near future to develop a professional dance theatre tour. We are opening our own studio premises this year enabling us to develop the Academy further.

10. Who would you like to be stuck on a desert island with?

My family and my dance colleagues (Ayisha Simpson and John Boyle). My family have supported me throughout my life, attending all of my performances both as an amateur dancer and as a professional. As a dancer, you often work unsocial hours and miss many important family occasions due to being on tour or being out of the country and they have always been extremely understanding when I have been away for months on end. They assisted me in establishing my first dance company and still help out backstage at many events. My colleagues Ayisha and John share my ambitious vision for the organisation and we spend many hours discussing creative ideas and developing work in the studio.

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CYP Dance Network North 

Northern School of Contemporary Dance

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© 2019 by Gail Ferrin on behalf of the CYP Dance Network North.