Interview: Leah Timmins brings a touch of Decadance to the club world
In the world of clubs there are countless people who help to make the experience unforgettable both musically and visually. A lot of the bigger clubs employ dancers to accompany the music, though sometimes they can be hired purely on the looks rather than their skills. Leah Timmins runs the Decadance Agency, which counteracts the typical notion of club dancing, taking it to a far higher level with dancers who are trained in the artform and not only contribute dazzling routines but also work on conceiving fresh and exciting concepts with their shows. I spoke to Leah recently about her background and the professionalism her agency brings to the world of club dancing.
Tell me a little bit about your background with dancing?
I can’t imagine my life without it. My mum took me to my first ballet class when I was about 3 or 4, since then I’ve been involved in different disciplines but it’s always been a massive part of my life. I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to make a living from it.
When did you realise that dancing would be something you’d pursue as a career?
I went to a school where, fortunately, I was able to take Dance as an A Level. I did my academic subjects along with dancing, plus I was training in my spare time. I ended up venturing from ballet into contemporary dance, which opened up a whole new world for me – it was a completely different, unorthodox way of expressing myself. It was the idea of expressing how things felt rather than focusing on how things looked. After I did my A Levels I was at a crossroads in my life, “Do I go the academic route? Or do I do something that inspires me every day when I wake up?”. From college I ended getting into Liverpool John Moore’s where I took a more academic approach to dance; health and nutrition, physiotherapy and so on, things that would support my performance and give me a stronger foundation career-wise. I was fully aware that I have a shelf-life, so I knew it was important to acquire knowledge that would be beneficial in the long-term.
Who were your key inspirations when you were growing up and getting into dance?
Among the early ones are definitely pop choreographers such as Tina Landon and Wade Robson, people I’d see on the TV when I was growing up. Since I’ve done so many forms of dance over the years, there are quite a few within different styles and disciplines. With choreography there have been people who have taught me so many things. People like Edouarde Lock, Merce Cunningham and Martha Graham, key fundamentals in dance that pushed the boundaries of neo-classicism, it’s not just about making lines it’s about making things look ugly and pushing the idea of aesthetics beyond the norm.
It’s only when you study and embody those forms you can really relate to them. When I was at university I started to practice Somatics and that’s become a really important part of what I do now – like I said before it’s about what you feel, reacting to a catalyst and expressing it any way you feel. It’s a far more carthartic performance than ‘traditional’ ideas of dance. Everybody can dance, whether you’re bobbing your head in a club or breakdancing, you’re responding to that music – that’s more Somatic than being told how something should look and being marked on it.
How did your relationship with dance music grow in tandem with dancing?
Naturally, whichever form of music you’re studying, you become immersed in the music that accompanies; whether it be jazz, classical, hip hop and so on. I was studying and I got offered a job in Ibiza – although I listened to electronic music we’d never done classes in it, other than going out clubbing I’d never been in a situation where I was scrutinised while dancing to it. So I went to Ibiza to work for a show called Manumission, and that place really opened my eyes to a whole world of hedonism and self-expression – it tied in with my holidays from university. It embodied the idea of freestyle and letting go, nothing was right or wrong, and being paid to do that, something that I really love, was a dream for me. Learning a new language, culture and community really helped me grow as a person and the music complemented that every step of the way. I’d never been so close to the music with such intensity. So many people flock to the island just for that and the idea that I could combine the dance aspect of my life with the escapism of the island and the music, channelled into contemporary classic, skilled movement – it was a pinnacle moment in my life.
How did you come about setting up the agency?
There’s myself and my partner Michelle Pamela, who I couldn’t do anything without. We have a team of nine girls. Over the years in Ibiza we built a family, a community, a sisterhood, naturally and we decided to start something. So, at the end of 2012 we set up Decadance to offer a range of services without outsourcing the staff – every member of my team provides an intergral role to the company. Every girl contributes to concepts, we have graphic specialists, elite costume designers– everyone is an intrinsic part of this company. For me it was about utilising the people around me and their skills to get the very best result.
So I guess being in Ibiza made it quite easy to connect with the key brands?
Yeah, you become part of the community, a family, you substitute what you miss at home with the people out there and naturally form bonds and help one another. I was lucky, I auditioned for projects and got involved, built relationships and the stronger those relationships become the more you contribute and I ended up taking on a lot more creative projects and being involved with conceiving concepts. What’s really nice to see in Ibiza is that they’re using a lot more dancers now, there’s a lot more respect for girls who have a professional background, and have that conditioning and skill – rather than these decorative, beautiful girls who are put on stage as a bit of eye candy. There’s a skill to what we do and it’s nice to have that recognition.
Have you ever had any negative responses where people maybe haven’t given you the respect that you should be getting?
Of course, there are people who might think that we don’t have any academic substance but when people get to know you and see the qualifications that we have got, they’re astounded because it’s not generally expected. But dancing; the skills, the determination, the progressive nature of it, the physical aspects as well as the discipline – it falls between an art and a sport. The components that go into what we do are not easy to acquire so it can be disheartening when you’re compared to the model-esque girls who are put on stage but have no real background in dancing.
Where do you envisage the agency going?
We’ve been fortunate enough to get involved with festivals and so on, like BPM in Mexico. It’s the best festival it’s amazing, also projects like WMC in Miami. It’s nice that we’re being recognised for carving out our own niche. Since the music is becoming more popular there are more opportunities for us, so I’m definitely looking to do more work on the bigger stage and get involved with more festivals on a global scale, based on the high level development of production we can offer.
For more information on Decadance, click here.Tagged in: Decadance Agency, Ibiza, Leah Timmins
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