In an exclusive interview, Gawz Dance Agency caught up with none other than Aleta Thompson, dancer and choreographer - a seasoned professional who, in the early stages of her career, performed and competed with an all-female group of dancers both nationally and internationally, even qualifying to represent the UK in Las Vegas. From there she continued to grow and found that her own creative vision in commercial dance choreography, as well as performing, was the path she wanted to pursue.
Aleta’s dance credits include O2, Nike, Basement Jaxx, Red Bull, All Stars The Movie, Ciara, Coldplay, Olympics 2012 Opening Ceremony, Got to Dance, XBOX, Sky1, BBC, KISS TV and Channel 4 to name a few. No one could doubt the accomplishments she has demonstrated so it was a great opportunity for us to find out more about this successful dance professional, from her journey right through to her industry insight and wisdom.
A vibrant, down-to-earth and humble person, Aleta emits an aura of steady confidence; her smile and warm tone of voice clearly shows her genuine support of a diverse range of dancers and her open understanding of where people are and how they feel in their dance training or profession due to her own experience in the industry. She cites her family, desire to learn and be the best version of herself as the three things that motivate her in life. So what shaped her dance background and helped her be the strong yet positive person she is today?
As a child, Aleta was constantly surrounded by music, and social dancing played a significant part of her growing up. “It was a massive part of my family culture - we were hosting parties (what felt like) every weekend!” However it was the likes of Salt-N-Pepa and Bobby Brown which played an influence on young Aleta at the tender age of 9 and she admits being obsessed with everything from the music, dancing and the clothes. “I would always practice routines in my bedroom where nobody could see me, as I was a cripplingly shy child,” she confesses. Watching 80’s/90’s music videos was what really got her wanting to dance just like her idols.
When asked how long she has been dancing for, Aleta observed how that particular question is always a difficult one for her to answer. “Technically, I started dancing around age 11,” she says, “but between the ages of 11-24 I was on-and-off. In fact... I didn’t take my dancing seriously until I was 26!”
Her determination, focus and passion for dance soon propelled a career of special moments. When asked about her highlights Aleta cites how one that always resonates with her is a highlight that took three months of rehearsals with some of her best friends. “Performing in front of the Queen in a televised event across the entire world at the London Olympics 2012 opening ceremony is something I’ll never forget!”
Other key moments were her first major TV commercial for O2, teaching her choreography abroad in various countries and also appearing in a music video for one of her favourite US recording artists, Jeremih.
As a choreographer, Aleta’s distinct style is heavily influenced by grooves, hip-hop techniques and commercial jazz funk. Edgy, current and dynamic with a real emphasis on musicality, it’s now clear to see from her beginnings where the roots of her style is drawn from. Speaking about her work as a choreographer, she explains how it was something that she didn’t really plan for. “It was just a pathway that opened up for me, as I began teaching. But as movement and music go hand in hand, I guess you could just say, simply, it was the music that inspired my desire to create movement.”
The desire to support others means she is not short of things to do or places to teach her choreography, jetting off to Ireland soon and then to Los Angeles in the near future. “I’ve also been working on my Commercial Dance Mentoring Program - The Platform, which is a program designed to guide aspiring females within the commercial dance industry,” she says. “I really want to share my experiences and knowledge with the next generation. I didn't have enough support coming up, so I want to be able to offer that to others. It can be such a dog-eat-dog industry, but it doesn't need to be without support.”
Describing her style as not being overly feminine nor completely masculine but somewhere in between, Aleta remarks that most of all, she wants people to feel like they’re dancing and to feel good.
Ultimately then, it has been her strong passion and desire which fueled, and continues to fuel her focus and determination. “Although,” she says, “I have been, and continue to be influenced by my peers and my dance community. It is almost impossible not to be inspired when surrounded by so much talent!”
It certainly looks like there isn’t a dull moment for this seasoned professional and despite the pressure and the hecticness there are some real perks to the job. “Everyday is different,” she says, “I’m never stuck in the same place for long. And as I get bored easily, that suits me just great! I get to meet and work with lots of inspiring and creative people, and I get to travel the world.” When asked about what projects are ongoing or upcoming she mentions starting a new project with Breakin' Convention and finishing choreography for a new artist named Lily Atkinson for a London event. There is definitely a lot of positive things happening, a mix of hard work meets opportunity but Aleta makes it look so easy.
Surely it couldn’t always have been so smooth a journey and there must have been trials and tribulations along the road?
“The hardest moment,” she says, “was when I auditioned once for a job, and made a total fool of myself. I couldn't remember any of the choreography, I panicked and froze.” Was that enough to deter her? “I was so embarrassed. I left that audition reconsidering if I was on the right path. I felt as though I had worked so hard up until that point, yet was still unable to handle an audition environment.” So what did she do to overcome it? “Well I had my pity party that night, pulled myself together, and told myself to work harder. It was that simple, no matter how hard I thought I had worked, the fact was, I just wasn't good enough at that point. So I had to put more in. And in the end, my passion and desire to be better, overruled any feeling of pity or self doubt.”
A dancer’s path is never easy. Like all jobs, there are perks but also the less glamourous side and Aleta is mindful of sharing this knowledge with others to manage their expectations.
“There can be a lot of pressure when working on a professional job, lots of last minute changes, and lots of critique. You have to be incredibly thick-skinned to handle that kind of environment, as it can wear down your self confidence,” She advises. “There’s also a lot of rejection… Like, LOTS! Which will make you question your ability, so again, building resilience to rejection is a must, to sustain a long career. Days can be long, being on set super early and finishing late. The set can be freezing cold, yet you can’t show it on camera. There’s body fatigue, muscle soreness and injury that you have to deal with constantly… And the constant competition definitely keeps you on your toes!”
But what of aspiring professional dancers, surrounded by so much talent with the desire to succeed?
“Train, train, train,” she offers, “And when you think you’ve trained enough, train some more! Network, talk to people, say hi, always be professional, and always present your best self. Be positive, support one another, and never forget why you began this journey - because dance is what you love. Because once you’ve lost all enjoyment, the game is lost.” Wise words indeed and certainly the values Gawz supports.
When the topic of conversation moved onto Gawz and whether there is a place for another dance agency on the scene, Aleta is quick to understand the meaning behind the dance community brand. “Gawz is all about being yourself, and embracing difference whilst celebrating others. There is always a place for that kind of outlook and ethos within the industry. There can be so much nastiness and self doubt… so there is always room for positivity!”
Her advice for dancers seeking representation with the agency; “Go to lots of auditions to get experience, make sure you have professional photos, and professional footage and a CV. If you don’t present yourself as a serious professional, then no one else will take you seriously!”
The future seems bright for Aleta Thompson and it’s evident she’s dead set on building on top of what she has created for herself as a teacher, choreographer and mentor. “I will be doing less performing now, as I graduate into this next phase of my life. As I continue to build and grow, opportunities will arise, to travel, to collaborate.” There’s a lot of exciting things going on and it’s clear Aleta is open to possibilities.
We can’t wait to see what else Aleta has up her sleeve. Meanwhile she can be found teaching every week on:
Mondays and Saturdays at Pineapple Dance Studios at 5 - 6pm.
Follow Aleta on social media:
Visit: http://www.aletathompson.com/ for more information.
For any queries email: firstname.lastname@example.org