The HDI Easter Camp weekend left me truly speechless although there is just so much more I need to say…

Obviously I had heard of HDI before, ran by the legendary Josh Ricketts and his small SOAR UK team as I had been lucky enough to work with these incredible beings previously for World of Dance UK back in 2014. As I said, I had heard of HDI but I had absolutely no idea just how amazing HDI Easter Camp would be.

Just the journey to Reaseheath College (just past Stoke-On-Trent) was an experience. Within one tiny car we had five dancers, five suitcases, 5 rucksacks as well as DJ and filming equipment-MENTAL! I learnt so much from travelling for 5 hours with a small group of people. We had a DJ/dancer, a videographer, a dancer currently in vocational training, one of the HDI faculty members and myself; a person who loves the buzz from the backstage management of a dance event. The conversations were endless and included the most intense game of eye spy I think I have ever played. I cannot explain what happened during this car journey but we all just immediately jelled. I found we were all fascinated by each others ideas and feelings towards dancing as our backgrounds were all so diverse. The conversations became interesting as we heard each others thoughts and opinions on topics such as a dancers concept video or a production. Our conversations lead to mass debated and we learnt so much from one another. Debates need to happen more often in dance as I could have listened to Dre, Frankie, Lottie and Ben for hours on end, but once we finally arrived our conversations had to be left until dinner time.

When you work on dance events you find you have very little time to yourself as there is so much to consider. Even just registering dancers and escorting them to their rooms you discover things from someone that you may not have done if you were there to just take class. Within the space of 3-4 hours I understood who had dietary needs, who had travelled from abroad, who had been to HDI before or who was experiencing this 4-day intensive for the very first time. This allowed me to converse with people I had seen around, in class or at an event that I maybe hadn’t been introduced to before. Events for me are about networking, socialising and ensuring the participants have the best experience possible by the best team.

I have never come across a dance event/camp that included breakfast, lunch and dinner until now. I cannot express just how lovely it was to see dinner tables filled with people from all walks in life coming together and sharing their dance past or passions with one another over a meal. For me personally, two characters who particularly stuck out for me were two American guys. Turns out they are only in the UK until September as they work for the U.S. Air Force and fix fighter jets. They had taken time off serving their country so they could come along and train. It wasn’t until I then saw them in class that I discovered they had never learnt taught choreography before as they were self-taught freestylers. I seriously hold my hands up to these guys as they threw themselves right into the deep end! I even saw them standing right at the front of the room during classes- they were not afraid to come out of their comfort zone and you could really see that were desperate to learn and take something home with them that weekend, utterly incredible.

Sometimes you find that being late to check in cannot be helped, you could be held up in traffic, get stuck on with a train delay or like one guy- over turn your car on route to class and rock up in a police car. Now, I’m not saying all dancers do it, but if I ever hear the excuse ‘sorry in late, I got held up’ this story will forever be told as an example. I cannot express how bad car accidents can be, especially when it results in over turning your vehicle and can cause a possible write-off. Although this one guy arrived hours late carrying only what he could fish out of an over turned car, placed his university books to one side of the room as he had clearly intended to study during his spare time in between classes and just starts warming up. His mind must have been completely elsewhere but he went for it, brushed himself off and danced his heart out for 3 solid hours. So, to anyone who is one of those late comers to classes, please take note, you seriously have no excuses but to be on time, ready, in the zone and present for class.

I have to also say that I am always surprised in the lack of professional dancers who attend dance conventions/camps/events. I appreciate the majority will be booked in for jobs but surely when choreographers travel from the U.S. to teach, you would want to attend and train? This only suprises me as we see the majority of professionals take a month or two out to travel to LA and so on to further their training. Why pay for the flight when top choreographers are brought directly to you?

HDI had only two professionals over the weekend, admittedly they arrived a day late however this was due to work purposes. After taking them to their rooms and briefly learning why they were late, they apologised for name dropping whilst they revealed which music artist they had been working for that day. Now, if I was on the street surrounded by non-dancers, I would understand why a professional dancer may apologise for a name drop or two as this is not a usual job for the average Joe to obtain.

What I don’t understand is why when you are in a room surrounded by aspiring dancers to be, who look up to professionals who are working with top artists and so on, that the professional should feel they aren’t able to name drop as this is their job? Why should they apologise, this is someone’s livelihood! Put it this way, if I was my 12 year old self and I recognised a dancer from my favourite music video, TV show or tour, I would have loved to approach the professional and quiz them on their background or how they got into the industry. It would have been direct knowledge and would have inspired me to pursue my 12 year old dreams to become a backing dancer or whatever. I guess what I am saying is, it would be lovely to see more professionals training in class as they do inspire dancers who are up and coming just as much as the booked choreographer or teacher for that particular event.

Talking of choreographers, can I just take a moment to share just how incredible the HDI Easter Camp line up was this year- Chris Martin, Kyle Hanagami, Denzel Chisolm and UK’s very own Frankie Johnson. It is unfortunate that when working on events you cannot always participate but when I did it was a journey!

In the past, I have seen Frankie J killing a freestyle battle, judging or working on a Boy Blue Entertainment production. I finally got to take my first ever. House class and I am so grateful it was taken by Frankie. Frankie drills foundation and allows you to be free in class with your own personal touch His warming energy to the intricate footwork made you feel really comfortable and we discovered there were quite a few who had never done a House class either. I was lucky enough to travel with Frankie to HDI so I had the opportunity to discuss House in much further depth. It wasn’t until Frankie explained his background of dance training during the Q&A session that he truly blew me away. Over the years, I have seen Frankie around, grasping the one dance style he has truly made his own. After explaining his dance training to the room, he truly deserved to represent the UK on HDI’s faculty line up and I hope to attend one of his classes in London very soon. I even noticed we were joined by Chris Martin in Frankie’s class as it turned out he too had trained in house.

Admittedly, I hadn’t seen much of Denzel Chisolm’s work or choreographic style and I am glad I didn’t as he brought some rachet combo’s to the camp and everyone went in. When you assist choreographers at events you learn what they want out of classes, Denzel had a very calming presence and seemed pretty cool as his teaching style seemed to be very chilled because he consistently wanted to encourage dancers to bring out the best in themselves.You could tell he wanted all the dancers to stay true to their personal style as this reflected in the performance element to his movements. Denzel had a great eye for spotting the guys who really grasped his style too and his selective dancers were all outstanding when they performed in smaller groups. When having a one on one with Denzel over dinner and a bowling trip, I discovered he is really new to teaching and you could see in his eyes he had really loved the energy everyone had in his classes as he wanted to teach more and more.

The wonderful Kyle Hanagami brought true honesty and beauty to the table at HDI. Kyle’s way of teaching is literally like no other as he makes you question your ways of moving and gives you theories or methods into how you perform. He gave us Jazz Funk, Hip Hop and Contemporay and told stories in his movement especially during his last class of the weekend where he blew the room away. Intricate movements were presented so beautifully by each individual you could clearly see the room were brought to tears as the performances were all presented with such truth and honesty. When it came to group performances we switched the lights off so everyone performing could grasp the moment and dance for themselves. You could feel the energy in the room and everyone’s mind set was very much in the zone, the dancers were ready to push themselves to a new limit.

Speaking of Kyle outside of class, I played against him on an arcade dance mat during our bowling trip. I have to say I will remember that moment forever as we were both rubbish and it was absolutely hilarious! Kyle also mentioned over dinner that he is mentored by the choreographers Nappytabs, I instantly asked if he could read my previous dance blog on Ed Sheeran’s ‘Thinking out Loud’ music video to hear his thoughts on what I had written. It turned out he had actually worked on the video himself and proceeded to tell me more stories on Ed’s training and so on which was utterly incredible as this continued my research further. It wasn’t until the Q&A session that Kyle then revealed he had learnt Ballroom dancing very quickly for a job. It suddenly clicked- Kyle had learnt Ballroom to then assist teaching Ed ballroom for his latest video.

I purposley did not YouTube any of Chris Martin’s work, all I knew was that he choreographs for Choreo Cookies and is Mariel from Keone and Mariel Madrid’s brother, and that was all I needed to know. I probably should have done my homework on him a little bit more and understood his background before I met him but there honestly was no need too, he blew me away. Chris gave depth into his work, created stories, whilst relating to personal emotions and I am positive that was not even the effect he was after during his classes. Even Chris’s warm up was like no other teachers I had experienced before, he either created an instant battle or brought everyone close together to form strong bonds with another, unfortunately for anyone who didn’t attend HDI- you kind of had to be there to understand. With innovative, intricate movements Chris really challenged every dancer, you could see everyone’s minds processing his teaching techniques will full focus.

I had a moment with Chris’s class, I stepped outside for what felt like forever to discuss some personal matters with family leading me to miss the entire process to this particular class. I am glad I missed that process as the choreography and end result hit me and it hit me fast. All I could feel when I stepped back in the room was intention and emotion, I just got it and you could feel the shift in atmosphere as all the dancers got it too. Dancers were living, living in the moment for this class. The choreography itself had beautiful connections by its story and the lyrics. Just like the 30 other people in the room broke down into tears, it felt as though everyone has an instant appreciation for one another’s journey in life and it was mesmerising and beautiful to watch. If Chris had choreographed what he shared with the HDI camp and placed the piece onto a stage like Sadlers Well’s, he hands down would have received a well deserved standing ovation.

It is funny how sometimes, classes need to be just watched and appreciated rather than filmed and posted all over social media. I went to record Chris’s solo on the class where everyone blubbered like a baby, I remember pressing record and seeing the timer on my iPad go up in numbers as I placed it on my lap. After he finished performing I must have walked approximately twenty steps to then look back on my iPad and his solo had completely gone, disappeared. One dancer turned around to me and said it was a sign, and it must have been. Someone clearly wanted me to be in the moment rather than capture the moment forever.

Speaking of moments, moments or time outs are absolutely needed during dance intensives, camps or events to have a minute or two to reflect on your personal journey. It seemed as though from everyone’s beautifully worded feedback on HDI that they too needed a moment for looking back on what had inspired them or how they had pushed themselves out of their comfort zones since day one. For me, my moment was shared with three beautiful beings whom I formed an amazing bone with over a short period of time. We took a few minutes by a lake on campus and shared with one another what we had learnt from four incredible teachers. I discovered the weekend had clearly been about sharing, figuring out people’s passions for dancing and forming methods behind movements. Kyle Hanagami summed up the weekend when he talked of ‘being honest’. After conversing with many dancers, I learned it is healthy to be curious and to question why choices in dance are made, to explore my thoughts and discuss dance methods further.

After an incredible 4-day dance experience I, like many others feel refreshed, driven and have found a new mind set to process my thoughts and feelings towards the dance industry.

I found my footing on this spectacular journey and I am hungry to take the next step..

Thank you to everyone who shared one incredible life changing weekend with me.

P.S if you want to check out more SOAR UK events check out their website-

T-Love x x