Tell us about yourself.
Well, I’m a Limerick based dancer, teacher and student. I have been dancing since I was five years old, it really is my passion – it’s what I love and it’s what I do. Dancing comes naturally to me. I have been living in Limerick for fourteen years now, so I’m pretty much Irish. I’m originally from Zimbabwe. My family is super musical and involved with dance. My sister loves to dance too, and my brother raps. It all really comes from my mother, she is the singer in the family, and she plays the guitar. I love to drum as well. I adore anything artistic; I love art, I get great enjoyment from drawing and it was definitely my favorite subject in school.
I am also a part time student in Limerick Senior College. I study mental health and I have taken introductory modules in Psychology. I think about things very thoroughly so I really enjoy learning about how the mind works, figuring out how people think, and human behaviours and emotions. It all links to my work as a dance teacher and dealing with kids and teenagers. I have been teaching dance since I was 14, it affords me such a fantastic opportunity to inspire and influence people in a positive way.
Do you think there is a huge link between artistic fields and mental health, for you and for students?
Absolutely. There is no denying it. When I dance, it is like everything fuses together. When I dance, I feel the music. It helps me to express happiness, anger and sadness. Dancing is so emotive and cathartic. I believe everybody can dance. Some people say ‘oh no, I can’t dance, not me’, but they can, they just need to find their own moves, their own style, a way to express themselves through movement and dance. People can’t imagine how beneficial it is for their mental health as well as physicality. I feel as a teacher, it is my job to help people to express themselves, to be comfortable in their own skin and in dancing. Dancing is freedom, it is life. Where there is music there is happiness, dance – everything.
How would you describe your style of Dance?
Well I never really knew until last year, but I call my dance experimental dance. I freestyle many different dance genres and interlace them into my performances and workshops. I do contemporary, popping and locking (James Brown style!), hip hop, house, krump and gymnastic dance. They all fit different types of music and have a different groove to them: hip hop is chill with attitude, house is even more relaxed, while krump is full of sharp moves and dramatic pauses and often identified as a very angry/ expressive dance form. When I freestyle and use all these different styles I can tell a story- my dances always tell stories because I believe dance is a personal expression of you in the now, flowing with the music and living in the moment.
What are your main approaches in teaching?
In dance, you can’t be stiff. You just can’t! That’s my main thing in teaching. I like to get to the level of the students – I address them as an equal rather than an authority figure and I use my humour a lot in class which works with children and teens as well as adults. Also, I don’t want to teach choreography, I want to teach dance. Like with hip hop – sure, you can learn a routine and look great, but do you really feel the music, the moment and can you truly express yourself if it is a taught and rehearsed routine, compared to doing what moves just feel right and flow for you? I don’t think so. That is why you can’t be stiff, you have to fully use your body to express yourself.
What are your greatest struggles as a dancer?
Oh a tough question! I guess, because I freestyle there is always the fear of the unknown just before I perform. I will know a move or two I want to include but I won’t know where or when I will do it. Also because I perform solo it can sometimes be nerve wracking.
I struggle a lot with choreographed work too because I hear the music differently to others. Everybody hears music their own way. When I feel a beat and I want to do a move there, it might not be where it is supposed to be, so there is a strong element of self-control in choreographed pieces for me. I just find them constraining I guess!
What is your 5-year plan?
It keeps changing. I am so ahead of where I ever thought I would be, and I am so humbled by it. Next year, I don’t have an idea where I could be – I would love to start travelling a bit further, maybe Europe. I want to keep improving my teaching skills and learning more about different types of dancing and developing my experimental creative dancing style… I guess it will unfold itself.
What is your biggest project at the moment?
I am always very busy between my involvements with Drum Dance Ireland – I have travelled across the country doing workshops with them – and RARE, a dance crew I have joined where we meet, dance and compete. I also work in schools with all age groups and run workshops for hen parties and the like, but right now my work with Make a Move Festival is my big kick. Since 2012 I have worked with Make a Move Festival as a dance assistant, leader and teacher, but this year I was asked to be the board director for all things dance related in the festival. Because I am always careful to only take on things I can fully commit to, I am really loving my role with Make a Move this year because there is so much to it: organizing workshops, music, indoor and outdoor facilities, guest performers and all that jazz. We have had meetings over the last few months where we all work together to produce the best experience for people living and visiting the city for the festival. It is so soon too, the first weekend of July is just around the corner!
Finally, a quick one! Who is your greatest inspiration?
Michael Jackson! In terms of his performance; he was famous without being provocative which is such a big thing these days. He was original, genuine and had his own moves that everybody still instantly recognises. He changed dance, I would love to be able to develop techniques the way he has.
To keep up with this exuberant young gem in Lady Limerick’s crown, follow her on twitter: @AshleaRonds
Article by: Rebecca Egan
Images by: Tarmo Tulit – www.tarmotulit.com