Stories

Ben's Story

Ben was initially involved in Boys Dancing as a schoolboy participant. He went on to study Dance at university and will be working as a choreographer on the Boys Dancing projects in the Black Country.

"When I was a kid at school I wasn’t into dance, but I was very sporty. My older sister did loads of dance though - she went to a dance school and did ballet and tap etc. So because of her I was always dragged along to these dance festivals - but I never used to watch, I just used to be outside playing football!

Then when I was in Year 7 or 8, the dance teacher in my school suggested that I got involved in a Boys Dancing project with Dave McKenna & Mark Worth [choreographers]. At first I just used to be really quiet and sit in the corner, because when I first started I had no confidence - I was always in my little shell. But Dave and the guys just kept knocking on that shell, trying to get it to crack - and they did it! I struggle with dyslexia, but when I started dancing I realised that I could perform what I wanted to express, rather than having to read or write it, so I found I was really comfortable with it. I did the project the following year again. From then I figured out that I probably quite liked dance! I started doing classes at school, then studied Dance for GCSE and A level, and trained outside of school as well with Coventry Youth Dance and BeingFrank Youth. Eventually I went on to get a scholarship to study Dance at Coventry University - which is amazing for someone who initially didn’t like dance!

At first it was hard to tell my friends that dance was something I wanted to pursue as, when you’re that age, you automatically think that dance is for girls. Boys are meant to play football and get dirty and scruffy and the girls look pretty in tutus and tights! I did get a bit of grief every now and then but then once you show them what you can do, they get it. I performed some dances that I had created in school assemblies, and that kind of hit them in the face! When you start getting older and thinking about career paths, most of my friends were going off to study things like Business at university and I know they were thinking: “Ben’s going off into dance, so... good luck with that!” But I know that it’s just about being accepted for what I want to do, that this is who I am and this is how I want to live the rest of my life: performing, teaching and helping others do that too.

I remember coming off stage after that very first Boys Dancing performance on such an adrenaline high and thinking “This is what I need to do now.” When you’re on stage there’s always uncertainty - you might have worked out all the choreography and have got all the moves, but you still don’t know what’s going to happen in the moment of performance. It’s like you’re walking on thin ice and I enjoy that sense of risk. And when you’re in the studio, coming up with these amazing lifts and jumps and wondering if you’re going to be able to pull it off on stage. As dancers, we’re always trying to push ourselves to the next level and I love that. So if anyone ever asks me: “Why are you doing dance? Why don’t you go off and work in business or management or something more normal?” I know that I won’t get that same sense of accomplishment, or challenge - or the adrenaline rush of performing. And I can’t sit down for longer than two minutes at a time anyway!

I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunity of being a participant and performing with Boys Dancing from such a young age. I think I’d never be able to do some of things I now do if I hadn’t started when I was young. But after luck, then it’s hard work to get to where you want to be. You’ve got to make sacrifices and take risks and I took a lot of risks. But it’s certainly paid off. It’s been a great journey from being on a stage for the first time with all the other little participants to now being a professional dance artist. Now I can say to the lads that I’m teaching to dance: “If you put your back into it then you can be here as well” because that’s what happened to me. It’s been a privilege to have come on the journey with people like Dave and Mark as well: the choreographers I’ve met through Boys Dancing have been there every step of the way, helping me out with opportunities and development and performances.

Boys Dancing, ultimately, helped me to realise what I wanted to do in life. I’d say it made me who I am today and gave me the opportunity to meet some remarkable people on the way. When I was younger I was very shy, very quiet, but now it’s opened the door for me and given me so many amazing opportunities. And I’ve learnt to really apply myself and go after something that I want - you can’t expect things to just fall into your lap.

In the future, I’d just like to carry on performing until my body says ‘No’. Until I deflate! I love teaching too - it’s great to be able to change lads’ perceptions about dance, because I understand where they’re coming from."