As part of our 25th anniversary celebration we caught up with Youth Provision Dance tutor Nillanthie Morton an alumni of RJC Dance to chat about his creative journey.
Nillanthie started at RJC Dance Youth Provision in 2002 at the age of 13. Before attending RJC Dance Youth Provision Nillanthie’s passions were basketball and football. However his sister and cousins were members of the RJC Dance Youth Provision and having attended a few other school clubs he decided to give the Youth Provision a go.
I asked Nillanthie what made him carry on:
“I was the kind of student who could be easily distracted but I enjoyed the RJC Dance Youth Provision, firstly because I was not used to working with a choreographer, secondly their discipline was one of a kind. I felt supported and they had good motivators in their staff. I am the sort of person who, once I start enjoying something I will keep at it and try and succeed”
I asked Nillanthie about his personal experience as an RJC Dance Youth Provision member.
“In terms of creativity and dance, the Youth Provision prepared me for the different dance styles and my knowledge about the origins of dance was improved. My other memorable experiences were traveling to Devon Ilfracombe on a youth exchange programme in the summer, it was the first time we got to mix with other dance groups and make new friends from different backgrounds and dance experiences”
After attending RJC Dance Youth Provision, Nillanthie went on to study at Northern school of Contemporary Dance where he initially completed a one year Foundation course before going on to do a 3 year BPA Honours degree course graduating with a smile and a pirouette in summer 2011. Nillanthie returned to his old stomping ground at RJC Dance, this time as a Dance tutor. His job involves teaching the RJC Dance Youth Provision various dance styles which are showcased at numerous events throughout the year including the Yorkshire Youth Dance and the NSCD Community Dance Platforms in Spring and the very popular annual RJC Dance Youth Provision Christmas Show in December.
My next question to Nillanthie was, how did his time at RJC Dance Youth Provision prepare him for the world of work, and what skills and knowledge were gained and implemented now as a tutor?
“It prepared me for the different styles of dance, I still use routines that I learnt when I was in the Youth Provision and this allows me to teach a lot more classes a week with different styles. It also improved my communication skills"
Nillanthie's career highlights to date are: Participating in Fresh 2017. Carnival Parades 2002 – 2005 as a Youth Provision member and Carnival Parades - 2013 to present as a teacher.
What advice would Nillanthie give to current RJC Dance Youth Provision Young people and those wanting to join the Youth Provision?
“Take any opportunities given to you by RJC Dance (e.g. going to see shows, doing classes delivered by other choreographers. Be humble, listen carefully and ask a lot of questions. Do it mainly for yourself and do not concentrate on what your friends are doing”
What are Nillanthie’s aspirations now?
“Doing what RJC Dance did for me, which is Aspire to inspire the next generation”
Finally I asked Nillanthie to sum up his RJC Dance Youth Provision experience in a quote, and this is what he said: "Hard work pays off"
What does RJC Dance, Chris Brown, Ciara and Destiny’s Child have in common? Well, they all inspired Dominique to take up dancing. However, seeing RJC Dance Christmas Show and Carnival troupe performances, as well as the evident positive reputation of the organisation around Leeds definitely encouraged her decision.
“The fact that they had a waiting list showed they were high in demand, another reason for me wanting to join. The majority of the young people that attended were within my generation and spoke positive things about RJC Dance.” Says Dominique
Before attending RJC Dance Youth Provision, Dominique was taking part in Performing arts subjects at her High School, Carr Manor. She was dancing and performing at events in school, at talent shows and competitions. She was also training as an athlete at Carnegie for Sky Rack running club (100m) Dominique joined RJC Dance Youth Provision in 2010 aged 15 years old.
On how she managed to cope with the demands of the RJC Dance Youth Provision, Dominique had this to say:
“Because it was something I loved doing, and I loved coming to RJC Dance, I loved the people, the demand, the tutors and the whole atmosphere. For me it was very easy to attend keep learning more and more about myself physically and mentally.
The fact that your efforts in class, determined whether you would move up in the provision also created a competitive atmosphere, which I like because I get to push myself.
Dancing is physical activity even though I was taking part in performing arts and P.E at school RJC Dance was another level, allowing me to express myself to music I love and feel. So I wouldn’t say I coped it was naturally inputted into my life and made me the creative individual I am today”
How did you rate the support offered by both the dance tutors and staff?
“It is unexplainable, the amount of support you get from the staff and tutors at RJC Dance. I will always class RJC Dance as HOME for me. This is where I learnt my passion and love for dance and understanding of it. Dancing at RJC Dance has allowed me to connect with people, who will now be friends for LIFE. We all went to different schools however we would all come in and talk about our experiences in the week from school, this gave us all the chance to give each other advice on situations. Not only could you go to your colleagues but the staff members and tutors would constantly ask how we were, on an individual basis as well as, as a group. It is just amazing they definitely understand that every young person that is under their roof is different, this is probably why I felt so safe, and comfortable. I was able to approach any staff member with any problem, the advice and knowledge I have absorbed from RJC Dance also have been embedded in my character and again makes me the confident, responsible, intelligent, caring, open minded, beautiful and motivational person I am today.”
While at RJC Dance, what kind of student were you?
“I was very conscious about my body type at first, the RJC Dance environment encouraged me more and more, reducing my fear of what people were thinking about my body. I improved my performance ability and my fitness through RJC Dance, and at first didn’t feel as though I was a good performer and wondered why I was not receiving as much praise as everyone else. What I learnt was to not watch what others are doing, focus on yourself when you work hard your hard work will definitely NOT go unnoticed. I was still a loud and vibrant character, who at first was not really a fan of the sessions that were physically demanding. However over time I grew and enjoyed the fitness and watching my body change.”
Dominique travelled to Denmark with RJC Dance Youth Provision, she says it was amazing! a trip filled with, education, laughter, learning about different cultures and developing interpersonal skills. This trip gave rise to her wanting to learn another language. She is now in the process of learning Portuguese.
Her other memorable experiences are:
After RJC DANCE Youth Provision, Dominique completed her undergraduate degree in Business management/Dance and a Masters in Arts Management Policy and Practice in December 2017 at Manchester University.
Currently working as a tour guide, Dominique utilises her experience of engaging with an audience and excellent communicating skills to deliver an exceptional service ensuring all visitors have a lasting memory to take away with them.
She says “RJC Dance instilled confidence, knowledge of how to work professionally within a team and the ability to learn quickly within a fast paced and competitive environment”
Dominique believes that performance skills gained at RJC Dance helped her to get the tour guide job because she had to perform and show her personality in the group interview. As if this is not enough, Dominique does freelance work for RJC Dance such as presenting at events and teaching at workshops.
I asked her to tell us more on how skills/knowledge gained from her time at RJC Dance Youth Provision have impacted on her current occupation and this is what she had to say:
“Presentation skills, performance skills, standing out in a competitive environment by being yourself, understanding the importance of following the rules e.g. appropriate uniform, communication skills, time management and the ability to learn quickly, such skills and knowledge that I learnt at RJC Dance will forever be imbedded in my character. They have enhanced my personality and who I am, encouraged me to believe in myself, that I am confident and can achieve whatever I put my mind to. RJC Dance also showed me my creative, professional and physical potential and capabilities at such a young age giving rise to confidence once again”
What have been your career highlights to date
“Presenting at the RJC Dance Christmas show 2017, performing, teaching workshops and seeing the younger generation appreciate the art form as much as I do. Looking at and teaching the up and coming generation is an honour, and is very rewarding to see the talent that is developing across the North”
What advice would you give to current RJC Dance Youth Provision Young People?
“Make sure you take full advantage of all the experiences, field trips, advice and cultural environment that RJC Dance offers. The styles the physicality of movement is so rich and unique, so make sure you attend every class even if you feel you do not want to. Trust me by the end of the session your spirit would have picked up considerably, the time at RJC Dance is precious. Push YOURSELF to be the best that YOU can be, do not look at other people. Everybody is different, will learn different and perform different”
What advice would you give to young people wanting to join RJC Dance Youth Provision?
“KEEP TRYING. I was on the waiting list for a good couple of months before getting in. When I did I made sure I showed my personality and followed instructions at all times. Whilst you are waiting keep taking dance classes elsewhere, because RJC Dance is intense fitness as well as fun”.
What are your aspirations now?
“Applying for relevant jobs within the arts sector, alongside that trying to kick start some of the projects I have been creating whilst at University. My goal is to become a manager of my own business, and multi-professional in the arts/business sector”
If you could sum up your RJC Dance Youth Provision experience in a quote, what would it be?
“RJC Dance for me is my HOME, it showed me my passion for the arts and dance! RJC Dance is Hard work, Honourable, Honest, Outstanding, Open minded Monumental, Multicultural, Movement Educational, Equality, Epic! Thank You RJC Dance”
It’s our goal to inspire, nurture and develop the next generation of young black artists and practitioners. We are committed to engaging with the ever-increasing circle of superb local artists of all ages through the many different facets of our work. Our wonderful studio space is a great artistic hub, contributing to Leeds’ growing reputation as a Cultural Capital.
We love to connect with new artists on future collaborations. If you’d like to partner with us, get in touch.