This guest blog comes from Tamika Abaka-Wood from Barking & Dagenham Youth Dance (BDYD). Tamika began dancing with the group as a teenager, and 11 years later still works with the organisation as a dance teacher.
BDYD was founded in 2003 by Georgina Alexiou. The aim was to provide a safe space in the local community for young people aged 13-19 to learn street dance at high-quality classes.
My journey with Barking & Dagenham Youth Dance began when I was 14 years old. My mum had persuaded me to do something more productive at weekends than hang out and complain how bored I was. It has been 11 years since my first BDYD experience and I am still as involved and passionate about the organisation as ever: I help teach, mentor, choreograph, run shows and continue to grow the legacy.
When I was a teenager, I’d always intended to pursue dance seriously but dance schools were usually too expensive for me to regularly attend and fund. Costumes for shows were always a particular source of financial stress.
I signed up and showed up for my first breakdance lesson at BDYD. I instantly knew I’d walked in to a really special organisation run by people who genuinely cared about and listened to young people in my area. I developed my confidence, met friends who would grow to be an integral part of my life and was taught by world-renowned professional dancers.
BDYD’s vision has since developed to provide free dance-fitness classes for women, dance for mums (mums can dance too!) and has since expanded to cater for children and young people aged from 5 to 19.
I often look back at my teenage years with rose-tinted glasses but speaking to the young people in our performance group, Paradox, reminds me that whilst BDYD progresses dance skills it also provides wellbeing. The time in the studio delivers much-needed headspace for those who are busy with revision and exams, caring for family members or are generally going through a hectic stage in their lives.
When asked about BDYD, here’s what some of the young people told me…
“BDYD is the one thing that I always look forward to in my week. Saturdays are for dance, I don’t know what I’d do without it.”
“It’s just a time for me to forget all the other stuff that’s going on and just focus on dancing and performing.”
“School can actually be quite intense sometimes so it’s good to come see all my friends and work on our choreography together. I love helping out with the little ones in their classes too.”
It seems as though history is likely to repeat itself, I can see these young people becoming BDYD pioneers and choreographers in the very near future!
Photo credit: Dominique DanielGuest blog: Street Dance and the Community,