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Emma-Jane Grieg

Zoom, November 2021

After graduating with BSc (Hons) in Psychology from the University of Manchester, Emma-Jane founded professional hip hop theatre company, Body Politic. As Artistic Director, Emma-Jane Greig works collaboratively with creatives to approach taboo socio-politic subject matter with an authentic flair for integrating narrative with Hip Hop movement. In 2019, Body Politic’s first full-length Hip Hop theatre work ‘Father Figurine’ embarked on a National tour, touring to 10 venues across the UK. Emma-Jane was selected to become an associate artist at Swindon Dance (2020-2022), the only regional dance agency to house an Urban CAT scheme for aspiring young Hip Hop artists. Emma-Jane has a huge amount of experience at facilitating and workshops to engage vulnerable and ‘at risk’ groups in the arts, and directing youth platforms. Her work as a freelance dance practitioner has included work in Pupil Referral Units, Mental Health Care in-patient wards, disabled groups, early intervention hubs as well as schools and FE colleges.

IA: Could you introduce yourself and describe what it is that you do?

EJG: My name is EmJ and I'm the Artistic Director of the Hip Hop dance theatre company - Body Politic - which is based in Oxford.

IA: The idea of kinships and families you choose are really prevalent in Hip Hop. Could you talk a little bit about the idea of kinship and families that you choose within your context?

EJG: For me, this idea of support perhaps is one of our driving forces; it’s one of the underlying things that the organisation really values. This idea of kindness, this idea of support and with that comes family and kinship. Body Politic is an organisation that really centres young the heart of it we work with and we create work for young people. That's really important to me and a lot of our young people. I'm pushing it a little bit now, I started working with them when they were 11 and now they're in their 20s...nurturing those young voices and talent is really important and out of that comes kinship. Where we fit in the wider context of hip hop dance theatre makers...there's a community there and there's a sense of family there too. Being in Oxford we're slightly on the outside of that...maybe we're like the second cousin, if you put it in a family context. A large part of that is we're not able to be at all of those family events that are happening in London...but we come to the important birthdays. We have our own things that are happening and our own commitments to our own families in Oxford

IA: Generational hierarchy and choreographic lineage is really present in Hip Hop dance. Could you talk a little bit about your Hip Hop and dance lineages?

EJG: Yes. I danced from a young age, but it wasn't until I went to uni to study psychology in Manchester that I found Hip Hop. There was a studio in Manchester called Sunshine Studios and I spent a lot of my time there training...and I guess I sort of fell in love with the freedom, that feeling you get when you dance. It was different, it was a new experience and it made me feel alive. So my journey into hip hop started quite late, but after I graduated I spent a lot of time going to London and taking class with Ken and other Hip Hop artists that were there at the time. I guess one of the reasons that I started Body Politic...we were so close to London and it felt important that more people should experience different choreographers and different teachers who were amazing at what they were doing. I left class feeling inspired and I wanted to make sure that other young people had the opportunity to have that experience as well. So I started shipping people to Oxford and tried to grow the scene here. Aside from that, I spent a lot of my student loan on travelling to Sweden to do hip hop dance camps with international teachers and I was fortunate to go to LA a couple of times, to train with a lot of LA artists. There was an intense period of my life where I wanted to experience it all and I wanted to learn from everybody. The people that I still hold dearly in my heart are you...Tali, Robia and Jack McKenzie...these London artists who embodied everything that I wanted to learn. It was also how they taught and how much they cared about their students, that was something that was really inspiring for me as a dance artist. When I was 13 I joined a youth dance theatre group at Pegasus Theatre - which is interesting for me now because Body Politic have just been announced as company in residence at Pegasus Theatre in Oxford - it's where, for the first time in my life, I was doing contemporary jazz. My teacher saw something in me and said ‘I think you should go to dance school’ and it was a moment that, suddenly dance changed from being a hobby to something that I was really passionate about and wanted to immerse myself in long term...and then I went and did psychology at university. If you're trying to nail down the nuts and bolts of it, I didn't go to dance school and I don't have any sort of formal training, but a lot of my training came from from classes and attending community dance theatre groups, which I think shouldn't be underestimated. They hold a lot of power and have a big impact on young people. That’s one of the things that I've carried forwards into what the work that I do today.

IA: In terms of your network and those who are in your orbit, who are the three people who nourish, support and feed you?

EJG: The lovely Lee Griffiths. Lee was the producer for Body Politic for just over a year and she is an absolute powerhouse of a human being. I learned a lot from her, huge amounts from her, in terms of the way to run an organisation, the way to run a project and the way to approach creating work for touring. Creating work full stop. But more than that, she really believed in me and spent a large portion of her time trying to ensure that feeling was felt within me, because that feeling of self belief as an artist is really difficult. When the world is really busy and loads of people are creating really great work, it's really easy to fall into that self comparison rabbit hole. Lee was a real constant in making sure that...I am valid and validating me as an artist and that was really powerful at that time...when I was trying was almost finding my feet. Second person is Isaac Ouro-Gnao...because without Isaac being such a huge part of Body Politic we wouldn't have had toured our first show Father Figurine. Isaac was involved in marketing, he ran workshops and he is just an incredible artist. But as part of the Father Figurine process, he was scriptwriter, movement director, friend, all of those many hats and it was a really of collaborative approach. It was my first approach to creating work for the stage and Isaac elevated all of those ideas and threw himself in 110%. I know that he is passionate about the sector and the work and what he can do as an artist to support others and to elevate others...he's now a director on Body Politics’ board, so he's the gift that keeps on giving. My third person cliché is it to say your mum in this conversation? I'm saying my mum because, bless her she doesn't feed me artistically or creatively, but she is a constant. She will listen to moan and talk and as a parent now, I feel like there's an endless amount of time and support that you give your your children and my mum, 35 years later, is still that person. I guess I'm understanding her experience of what she went through as a single parent and how much of her life she has sacrificed it for me and my brother to work in the arts and follow our dreams and visions. She is very much nurturing me as an individual and I am very grateful to her.

IA: Paris 2024. Breaking, what are your thoughts on its inclusion?

EJG: I knew these would be good questions. I think it's really great in terms of profile for breaking. I think that already, as things...not spirals...cascade into public funding that is currently out there through Sport England and people are talking about projects for young people and for young girls specifically around breaking and how they can incorporate that within the Olympics. I think that that is really exciting and there's a real profile that needs to be raised. I worry about the Olympics in general, sort of happened last year in Tokyo, but it didn't in 2020 because of COVID, but by 2024 hopefully we'll be all great by then. I think the profile will be good...but I would like to see...I think my reservations and why I'm fumbling this question a bit is that during the pandemic, the art sector was bottom of the pile. There was little support from the government around freelance artists and there was this big uproar that the freelance workforce makes up a huge proportion of our sector and what support was there available? I worry that the Olympics is this big shiny thing, but is there enough infrastructure in between those two things to make sure we're supporting artists and it's not just a gimmick that's tacked on...I want the sector and breaking in general to be given more infrastructure and support. They are athletes and they're fucking brilliant. From my point of view, it always comes back to what's the longevity of that? How can we support artists on that journey and after that journey? What's next? Someone mentioned to me that Shawn Aimey was asking recently ‘what happens after the competition? Where do you go in your career next?’ So, I think more thought needs to given to the infrastructure towards and after those those events.

IA: The idea of the Olympics is about representing a flag. You're representing your nation as a form of nationalism. Whereas hip hop is about hyper-localism. It's about your crew, your people, your ends. I'd be interested to hear what are your thoughts on that.

EJG: It depends...I guess there's a pride in representing where you're from? I think this question is really for breakers who are representing where they're from, whether that's South London, Oxford or Birmingham. I'm sure there's that sense of pride of representing...of that recognition that you've got to that level and what that means for the community.

IA: Can you talk about your roots through and current relationship with Oxford?

EJG: Yeah. Oxford is brilliant and great, but it's dominated by dance schools and with that comes a certain element of loyalty to your dance school. That’s everywhere. London, Birmingham, Manchester. For me, it's been quite challenging to work out where where I fit in with Body Politic because the projects and programmes I deliver here in Oxford are open to everybody. You can be attending three different dance schools and still come to one of our dance leadership programmes. So the profile of Body Politic has been more tricky to build here...from a young person's point of view as a reputable place to go and train. We're not a dance school, we're a Hip Hop dance theatre company who have provision for young people and children in Oxford. It's not a catchy title for a young person is it? How do you describe that? As an organisation we have been hugely supported by Oxford City Council, Claire Thompson from Dancin’ Oxford, she probably should have been one of the people I mentioned. Can I go back and remove my mum? Claire Thompson is the arts development officer and founder of Dancin’ Oxford, which is an annual festival that runs in Oxford. She’s also a partner for Body Politic and supports the projects that we deliver. I think having that validation from Oxford City Council over the years has established us as a reputable organisation in terms of being able to get other streams of funding. All of our projects are heavily subsidised which means that we're trying to remove any barriers to participation for young people to attend. As I mentioned previously about being company in residence at Pegasus Theatre - which is an incredible moment for me personally, having been a young person dancing on that stage to later working at the venue as participation coordinator, it was one of my first jobs out of university and I ended up building their street dance classes at the time before having a little bit of a break because of touring and children - now coming back in and saying this is what we'd like to achieve together. We both work with young people, these are our values and we're very aligned. It feels like the start of something quite exciting. We are beginning to establish a base that we can use to champion hip hop and hip hop dance theatre in Oxfordshire.

IA: Part of the purpose of this is about archiving and documenting. I'm interested to hear you talk about how you consider your own archive? How do you document your own things and what are your thoughts around your legacy?

EJG: Jesus Christ. This is a big question. I think a lot of our work is documented digitally now. Our YouTube is pretty good and over the last 18 months there's been a real shift towards digital. We've always documented processes in video form and that's really powerful to have, to look back on and see how the work’s evolved. Even workshops that we ran in's nice to look back on those moments and see what impact you had or where you were at that stage in your life and career. I think there's something to be said about the impact or legacy that you have personally on people as well...I don't know how you document that, other than a dry case study example. But there's something in real people saying, ‘I remember this, this was a really great thing I did’ or people that are still around who have come back as dance assistance and are still interested in working for the organisation.

IA: What was the first Hip Hop theatre work you saw?

EJG: Avant Garde Dance - The Black Album at Pegasus Theatre. I was working as a member of staff at Pegasus at the time and I was like ‘I've never seen anything like this before. This is this is cool.’ Tony was there, he's a big character and I remember sitting there with the lighting and the sound and it was a really great piece. Don't ask me the date though. Because I can't remember.

IA: Looking back at Father Figurine, a work which took on many iterative forms, it changed, developed and shifted. What are your thoughts on it now?

EJG: I mentioned it in a conversation I was having recently about the potential it has for schools of the really powerful things about the work was...a lot of the feedback from people who saw it said ‘this needs to go into schools’ It was accessible, it blended text and movement and I think it really appealed to people who were new to watching dance theatre. There were things that they could latch on to and understand...I think that that's important when you're trying to get new audiences into see work and not alienate them. Give them something they can relate. Looking back, it's a work that I am really proud of and it was the springboard for me to enter the Hip Hop dance theatre world. I think the piece is really hesitation is that when we did the report of who saw the work and who attended, it was predominantly 30 to 50 year old White people. So there's a disconnect there of who the work was intended for and how do we get more young people witnessing the work and coming into theatre spaces to see it?

IA: You're about to go back into rehearsal and Creation with Them. Can you talk about how you're feeling about that? On the cusp of going into and finishing something, what's that like?

EJG: How honest are people in these interviews?

IA: Honest.

EJG: I'm terrified. It's been a long time brewing...and COVID has extended things and pushed things back. The pandemic has been challenging for lots of reasons personally, but also from running an organisation point of view. It's been a difficult time and so I think there's been a real crisis of confidence. When you're moving from one project to the next, there's not a lot of time and space to think. So, for me, it would have been easier to move on to the next project and not have this space, this dark cave of self doubt of me as a maker. But you’ve just got to get on with it haven’t you? There is an element of being excited, of starting this creation process with a real sense of vision. I know what the piece of work needs to be about and what I would like to achieve from from it. I think that came later in Father Figurine because it was originally created as a trio and it was 10 minutes...then we decided to develop it. Whereas I am starting this creation process with a really strong team behind me, working with new collaborators - I’ve never worked with a composer before, so that's really exciting for me, but also terrifying, because I've never worked with a composer before - I think there's been a lot of thoughts around you put your second piece of work out there and that's when people start to go, ‘well, it wasn't as good as the first one or, it's alright’ I guess I'm still caught up in the what will other people think and I need to learn how to let go of that. This is a piece of work that I'm creating, because of this, that and the other and because of me as an artist...but it's hard. Our sector is brilliant and supportive but I feel like there is an element of having to prove your place at the table and to make sure that you are creating great work...because we're programmed so infrequently. If you talk to a venue, it's like, ‘we'll choose this one hip hop dancer to show for the year’. So you've got to fight to prove that it should be creates this and nobody talks about it, it creates this element of competition. Maybe that's something that I'm putting on myself.

IA: Can you expand upon your role, how Latisse has been involved and how Jackie is involved. I'm interested in how artists in that space act as authors and co-authors.

EJG: Unfortunately Latisse is not continuing as choreographer because of an injury, so we’re very sad to lose her in the process, but the lovely Jackie is stepping into her shoes, which is great because Jackie is super talented and has been there from day dot in the research and development period. We've established how we work together and I guess, tested it that relationship works. In terms of the vision of the piece, the script and the structure - that comes from me. But it's really important that there is this collaborative relationship with Jackie, she knows what she can bring to the table and I've got this...this bit’s not working for me, can we talk about it or I've got this idea. That’s the way that we work, we build on the foundations of what I've already written and what's in my head. There are lots of companies that have their set practice...this is how they approach rehearsals etc. and I think that that's brilliant. It’s really unique to each company and they have their own stamp on creating work. I think Body Politic are probably still developing their practice...because we work with so many different artists in the space, it's making sure that you're allowing and creating space for Jackie to come in and bring elements of her practice and infuse that with what I would like to get out of the sessions. I think we are probably a little bit more organic, project to project or show to show in our practice. I think for other companies there’s a kind of movement vocabulary and that's their approach to creation and that's something that should be really celebrated.

IA: As a company, Body Politic have offered a number of programmes for the benefit of the wider Hip Hop theatre community. The Writer's Toolkit, Unite UK, The Writers Programme, Us and Them podcast. Could you talk a little bit about them and your approach to generosity and nourishing the scene?

EJG: Yeah, Unite UK. That is digging into the archives. I think that my values are rooted in this. I mentioned earlier kindness and support...if you have the knowledge, then share it. How do you empower more artists? If more people have the skills and are doing the work, the more profile our sector gets and the more venues have to programme more than one company a season. If there's more work being created and the sector is not just an afterthought, then surely that's a good thing. I think there are a lot of artists who need a little bit more support...institutions and universities have a certain curriculum and criteria, and perhaps those things aren't covered in as much detail as they need to be because of time, because of the breadth of programme etc. There is something really important and fundamental to Body Politic as a company and that is nurturing talent and providing paid opportunities for young people to get skills. Not just those work experience opportunities you do in year 10, where you follow someone around the office and do some photocopying. The more real life, paid experiences that people can get, it can only strengthen our sector and our community. Like Just Us are doing their paid apprenticeship programme and that looks like amazing. There needs to be more of those and it needs to be shouted about more. There are lots of people doing great things and we need more of those good things.

IA: What is the reality of Body Politic and EmJ right now?

EJG: The reality...the truth is that over the past 18 months all my creative endeavours have been pushed to the side because there has been an organisation that needs attention in terms of financial management, business plans, funding applications and the bare bones of survival. These elements have consumed a large part of my time and energy and that's what’s needed to happen. I am now about to lock myself away in my shed and turn off my emails because I've got a show to create. My deadline cannot be pushed anymore and it's now time to find that creative energy again...which is, truthfully, it's hard to find. When you run an organisation with lots of different elements, it's really difficult to switch off from those things. There's a deadline, it's calling and the past 18 months are as challenging as it has been...but it's also been very necessary for me to reflect and write a business plan, have some business consultancy sessions and bring everything back to our mission and values and make sure that all the decisions that I make are driven by by those elements. Because I am a bit of a yes person. I will say yes to everything and there is only one of me. It's been a challenging time and I've learned a lot about myself and about the organisation and I'm now ready to be creative again. Fingers crossed.

IA: With you as a teacher, you speak about young people a lot. That role as a teacher, a guide, a share of knowledge, someone who inspires. What is important for you as a teacher who works in Hip Hop and street dance?

EJG: The most important thing for me is to create a safe space for young people to express, to challenge themselves and to try something new. I think if you create an environment in which young people want to learn, that's an important thing...obviously you're teaching good content as well. It's a feeling, you know. I have been to multiple classes in my career, where you hide at the back and you don't feel comfortable, you don't want to ask that question because you don't know what the seven and eight is. I don't want to create that in my sessions, so there is an element of making sure that the environment is right for people to learn...then people are going to learn, they're going to want to come back and they'll stay with you.

IA: You mentioned your YouTube channel earlier and you’ve got the collabo and videos with Kinjaz which have hundreds of 1000s of views. What do you recall from that time?

EJG: Hosting those events was mad. Absolutely mad. I remember the first time I did it, we hired out Jacksons Lane, we ordered the mirrors in...I say we, it was me, I ordered the mirrors in, but I hadn't put on the mirror delivery that they would have to carry them up the stairs to the studio. Those are important details. So one guy turns up in his late 50s with these mirrors. I was like ‘I'd like them up there’. He's like, ‘you haven't put that on the form.’ So me and four friends carried 15 mirrors up a spiral staircase to the top of Jackson's Lane. I've very fond memories Kinjaz...I met them when I was out in LA training and I had a very good relationship with Movement Lifestyle - a studio in LA. A conversation was had, ‘do you want to come to the UK?’ Of course they did. It was a brilliant time and we had 100 dancers within those sessions dancing and people still contact me today. If I put a video up on YouTube of something we're creating, the comments are like, ‘when are you bringing Kinjaz back?’ It was a really memorable time, not just for myself producing those events, but for the people that took those classes. I made a decision to not keep running those type of events when I had my first child, my daughter, because they weren't financially viable for me to keep running them. They will always be a part of our YouTube following and what helped shape Body Politic in offering workshops and providing opportunities for young people and young artists that might not have experienced someone like them. Not everyone has the money to go to LA and train, so it was a way of bringing that to the UK.

IA: What do you want to dismantle in Hip Hop?

EJG: From an NPO or arts organisation point of view - that they can only programme one show a year. That's one of the things. There's still the profile of women and non binary creators and artists, it still needs more...there are a lot of male choreographers doing amazing things...but there needs to be more space for female and non binary creatives in the scene. I know Artists 4 Artists are driving those conversations and that's brilliant. There needs to be more of those conversations and there needs to be more of those conversations which involve men to listen to the issues that females and non binary creators are experiencing...rather than feeling defensive or like it's a personal attack. I think there needs to be more of an acknowledgement of some of those issues within the sector because it shouldn't be the responsibility of females and non binary creatives to work out how to resolve that. It's a sector problem. There needs to be more energy from everybody within the community to come up with the solution.

IA: What else do you want to dismantle?

EJG: For me personally, it's come from - this is my personal dismantling - for a long time, I felt like success for me is being able to get Body Politic to perform at the Barbican or Sadler's Wells. Those are incredible things and the companies that are achieving that's huge for the wider sector. But because I have been fixated on that as a measure of success, it's been really detrimental to me as an artist. I think very recently I realised that actually, the work that we are creating and the issues that we're discussing in our work are targeted at young people. Children and young people. And actually those people aren't necessarily going to be the audience that go to Sadler's or the Barbican and I'm OK with that. That Body Politic sits within small to mid scale venues, that's OK.

IA: What are your thoughts on how Hip Hop dance is or is not tackling or recognising racism?

EJG: I guess my hesitation on that is that are you saying that there needs to be a public statement from the Hip Hop sector that, you know, they are addressing racism? Or are you suggesting that people need to put that into their work? I can't comment on how other people may or may not be tackling that issue. I'm very aware that I'm a White woman running a Hip Hop dance theatre company. We have a very diverse and reflective board and work with a lot of different artists. It's an issue that everybody needs to be addressing on a daily basis...or at least aware of in the conversations they're having with people and what they're portraying on social media. It’s 100% an issue and we need to be talking about it and finding ways to create spaces that encourage other people to talk about it as well, so we're not just shouting into a void.

IA: We've just come off the back of COP26, environmentalism and sustainability are big talking points, and yet there's a massive, continual growth agenda. More, bigger, faster. I'm interested in your thoughts on degrowth and slowness? How might they manifest in Hip Hop dance?

EJG: I’m laughing because it's been flagged to me very recently and multiple times, that Body Politic is operating like an NPO with three full time members of staff. When the reality is we don't even have a full time member staff between the team. So it has been something that has been encouraged heavily. Personally, I need to think about this element of slowness and finding more space. I think it's really difficult though, because of post pandemic, I feel more than ever there's a drive to validate and seek recognition for yourself as a company, as an artist. We've been beavering away for 18 months behind closed doors and there's this ‘we need to show ourselves, we need to get out there’ and that's something that's really difficult as well, because we're all fucking exhausted. Everyone is burnt out. The freelance workforce are tired. I feel like there is this expectation, things are opening up and it's go go go. You're back into that rat race. So from a personal point of view, time and slowness are something that I am trying to prioritise - which is hilarious because I have two small children and time and slowness is not within their vocabulary or our lives outside of Body Politic - but it's difficult isn't it? I think there's this pressure or this feeling of if you're taking that time to slow everything down, to create again or just have time to be a creative and be an artist in the studio. It's learning to let go of that and knowing or hoping that the relationships you have with partners and organisations are strong enough that in six months time you can knock back on their door and go ‘hey, I've taken some time for myself. This is my next idea. Can we have a chat about it?’ Hoping that that is OK and you know they will open the door and put the kettle on

IA: Is there anything that you want to talk about that you want to have on the record, that's not been picked up so far or that's important for you?

EJG: I have. One of my memories - and maybe it ties into Father Figurine and some thoughts that. One of the strongest memories for that piece I have was when we were in Norwich, it was a post-show discussion with a gentleman on the panel who's a psychologist and he was blown away by it - it was his first time experiencing dance theatre. For him to be blown away by the work, because he sees that behaviour and types of relationships so frequently in his day to day work, to have that validation and those responses from other people in the audience, that was a really powerful moment for me. For me to witness the impact of our work...I'll hold on to that moment as I go into creation for the next piece of work. It’s for those kind of moments why I create work...and that is a controversial thing in itself, I know there is an argument for creating art for art's sake, but for me, Body Politic is rooted in social impact. My approach to creation is always thinking about who the audience is and what experience do I want them to have? The only other waffly bit that I want to add is...again, it's difficult being a mum and having time away from the scene, the sector and the community. The impact that that has, and there’s a lack of support or acknowledgement for creatives who are also primary caregivers - I think that that has been really eye opening for me. Having children was my choice, but I wasn't quite aware of the impact that that might have on my own sense self of self worth...of where I come back into the process or the community...where I would fit back in. I've had two years where I haven't been able to be as present in the community or show my face at events that are really, really important. That has been really difficult. But it's also, I’m driven this narrative of where do I fit in? Maybe that's a personal thing, this is like a therapy session. But, just that acknowledgement or that infrastructure for people who have timeout of creation or timeout for other reasons - maybe they've got an injury or need other support? What kind of acknowledgment is there for artists who want to tiptoe their way back in?

IA: Is that something about distance? Proximity and distance away from a thing because your focus has been elsewhere?

EJG: I think so and potentially needing support to access that creative space again. Maybe that's because of sleep deprivation or other stuff that’s going on. I think for me, as you say, proximity - there's the proximity away from the work and away from being involved in those events and showing up and supporting. There is also a proximity of being a company that's not in London. London still holds the wealth or pool of Hip Hop dance theatre artists...what does that look like if we're looking at the national spread? How do we make sure that everyone's included in that pool? I think there's probably something there that could be unpicked further. Continuing on from that, this is why I haven't commented much on the sector in general in this interview because I feel like the past two and a bit years I've been removed from it. My proximity has been non-existent. I don't know what other companies are doing. There's a feeling isn't there, we're a family and there's that sense of community, but I'm the second cousin and that means I don’t know everything that's going on.

IA: There are a growing number of Hip Hop theatre works authored by women that are exploring the lived experience of sexual violence against them. Them is one that you're making. In the last 18 months there's been accusations of toxic masculinity, grooming, sexual assault within hip hop dance. What are your reactions to this?

EJG: We created a podcast and you should listen to it. We've had conversations recently, in the research around creating work around sexual violence and sexual misconduct. These things aren't isolated to the hip hop community, they are worldwide. I think it is great that people are feeling empowered enough to speak up, but there needs to be more support, signposting and more resources available for artists. Acknowledging safeguarding within your organisation is key and making sure that organisations have the skills and the correct facilitators with DBS - especially if they're working with young people. I feel like there is a little bit more work that needs to be done in creating an infrastructure and making sure that those things exist in creative spaces...or if they don't, that people are aware of how they can access that information.

IA: In the last 19/20 months there's been real grief and real anxiety for a lot of people. As a counterpoint to that, I wonder if you could talk about some of the kindnesses that you've received from Hip Hop.

EJG: Absolutely. A big one for me was being part of the Artists 4 Artists, Womxn in Hip Hop programme over the pandemic. It was nice to have that acknowledgement at that point, to have that professional development opportunity and be connected with other super empowering and brilliant women and facilitators. That's a key memory of kindness for me. Another memory comes from earlier on in my the time, Euton Daley and Yasmin Sidhwa were Artistic Director and Creative Learning Director at Pegasus Theatre and I was working at a pupil referral unit in early intervention. They used to come and deliver sessions for our young people and it was brilliant. They were great, it was wacky and the time I guess that took a punt on me and invited me to interview for a position that they had. I guess it's one of those experiences that really shapes your career or sense of self belief. A lot of my learn learning and experience came from my six years at Pegasus Theatre with them at the helm and that came from a real point of kindness. I remember coming into that role and saying, I want to do this, this and this, and they were like, ‘let's do it.’ It's people believing in you...that then led for me to apply to Moving with the Times - an early career artist or wherever they're calling people nowadays - commission which led to our first Hip Hop dance theatre work.

IA: What is it about hip hop dance that you really nerd out on?

EJG: The musicality. For me, just watching a piece of work and seeing the interpretation of movement and matching that with the music...and then the characterisation that falls within that. Yeah. Musicality and music in general are a huge part of what inspires me as a creative. The opportunities are so endless in terms of the layering of sounds and what people can pick out.

IA: What is your strongest memory of dance?

EJG: My strongest memory. One of my strongest memories was when I used to go up to London and take class. Tali was like...I absolutely love her...I remember after class one time, she invited me to come and film some stuff and be part of a select group of people. She invited me to...I can’t remember the name of the studio now, it's in Bethnal Green and I've used it multiple times. It’s under a bridge. I got so lost and I caught the bus from Oxford, didn't know where I was going and I walked into the session, half an hour late and I had half an hour to learn this routine. I was so out of my comfort zone, but Tali was there and a really amazing group of supportive human beings. And I think that's it. That's the essence of being in a space, in a creative space, exploring movement, feeling safe and feeling's then leaving a space with that feeling.


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