Today for our student spotlight, please welcome Rachel Burn…
1. Can you tell readers how you became involved with dance?My mother was a dance teacher and so my sister and I grew up going to ballet, acro and jazz when we were little. As a teenager, though, I began to love it for myself and a friend who had previously done a dance degree gently nudged me that way, which I’m always very grateful for!
2. What do you find you like best about dance class?
I’m not sure there’s a best thing! Class is simply the most amazing thing/place for a dancer… I prefer it to performing some times! It is a unique and significant experience to be amongst a group of like-minded ‘Body Thinkers’, all sharing the same space, music etc, and whilst sharing that space also being alone to work just for yourself. What other opportunity do we get to pay attention to the very internal state of our bodies? Humans have bodies, not just brains, and a huge majority of the world don’t ever connect themselves to their bodies in an intentional way, I think they don’t really know themselves as a result, to set that time aside daily is the same thing as a faith/spiritual practice. I could go on and on…!
Physically I like the opportunity that class gives to teach your body new things, work hard, get tired, get sweaty, to develop the fullness of your fitness – agility and clarity alongside stamina and strength etc – and that very primitive joy that comes from flailing everything around to loud music! J I don’t understand why more people don’t love that.
In terms of being a freelance professional dancer, my experience has been that class is where you meet your network. Most of my work and projects and the dancers who I am currently working with have come from just meeting people in class and getting chatting. Contemporary dance doesn’t have a simple and clear system put on us to develop ourselves professionally so making your own network is important – it then joins up to other networks, other dancers, other projects…
3. What is the hardest part about dance for you?
This is a very difficult question… the answer is rather more about my insecurities than about dance itself. I personally at times can find it hard to be working in an industry that many of my peers and family don’t understand. They support it, endlessly in fact, but maybe also think I’m a bit odd or missing the point. But that might just be my paranoia! I don’t mind that I also have to waitress, or that I am usually broke or that a lot of my friends are married with mortgages and children – some people let those things push them out of dance.
4. What advice would you give to other dancers?
I would say to just keep going… there is absolutely not a direct and straight career ladder to climb. If you get a great project for a while and everyone thinks that this is it for you, you’ll always earn money now and travel the world on huge stages, you need to know that that is absolutely not necessarily the truth and a week after that contract ends you might be dancing at a kids party, but THAT’S OK. You need to do what you need to do to keep going. Be wise in your choices and look after yourself physically and spiritually, it really is a tough world to be in and you need to be in a good state to deal with it. Keep doing class.
5. How has dance changed your life?
I took a three-year break from dance and if I hadn’t gone back to it I would be a secondary school teaching assistant in my home town living a comfortable and timetabled life… Gary Clarke was a Butlins Red Coat and Natasha Kahn (Bat for Lashes) was a teacher in a primary school – so I feel in good company – we all need some thinking time, but at some point you have to answer the niggle in you to do what you need to do. My prompt came from watching Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake for the millionth time one Christmas and thinking ‘What am I doing?? Why aren’t I dancing? I need to re-train’ and it’s been forwards from there. I have less money and less stability than ever before but far more assurance in myself, understanding of and energy for life, and I know that I’m doing the thing that I need to do. I think that’s important.
BIO: Rachel trained at Middlesex University, graduating with a BA Honours in Dance Studies with a particular focus on choreography, followed by completing a year of further training at the Merce Cunningham Studios in New York and performing with the Repertory Understudy Group. She has choreographed for Cloud Dance, Actual Size, Middlesex University students, Switchback Productions and currently a variety of her own projects, including Pullover, Pull Through, Flick, performed at Woking Dance Festival and for the Surrey Dance Collective. She has also worked with H2 Dance, Laila Diallo, Douglas Dunn, Shobana Jeyasingh and Gary Clarke.