I first heard about Body Electric seven years ago. Dance classes for all abilities that culminate in a huge show sounded like the perfect opportunity to simultaneously live out my childhood dream of being on stage and face my adult fear of being the centre of attention. But, it wasn’t until 2021 that I officially joined the Body Electric community with a couple of girlfriends. Despite the emotional rollercoaster of postponed performances and studio closures, it provided a safe and supportive space to dance away life’s stresses. Jade is the creative mind and relentless energy behind it all. I’ve been blown away by not only her choreography and vision, but her unwavering patience, stamina and positivity in a year of unexpected twists and turns. It’s such a joy to be part of the brilliant community that Jade has nurtured for over a decade and I’m still buzzing from our December performance at the Forum. I can’t wait to get back into the studio in 2022!
“I started dancing when I was about three and I haven’t stopped since.
I danced all through primary school then spent my high school years at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA). After Maths, English and French lessons, I’d go to the other side of school and put on my leotard and tights to do ballet. I went on to do the VCA’s tertiary program so I was there for nine years and I loved every second!
My background was in jazz and ballet but I found myself moving into contemporary dance and then started teaching these styles.
In 2007, my younger brother made a short film for the Melbourne International Film Festival and I got involved. Over the course of six weeks, he got about 20 friends together – some with dance backgrounds, some without – and taught them a dance routine to Fame’s ‘Remember my Name’. We performed in the middle of Bourke Street Mall in the lead up to Christmas. We stopped the trams, ran onto the tracks and danced. It was a flash mob before flash mobs had hit Melbourne. It drew a huge crowd and everyone left so inspired just from getting together and dancing their hearts out. It was a really powerful experience and it inspired me to create Body Electric.
Body Electric is about embracing the inner dancer in everyone – it’s a place for people to get together, be themselves and just let go! It’s ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
At first, we had just one class in Fitzroy, which turned into two, and an end of term show at the Spanish Club on Johnston Street. We weren’t sure if anyone would turn up to the performance but there ended up being so many people we couldn’t fit them in!
Everything escalated after that first year. We started doing two semesters a year with a performance at the end of each. Each term, I would have to add a new class because more and more people wanted to join. It was incredible watching this community grow so organically.
We had to find bigger and bigger venues for our performances so we could accommodate the growing number of dancers. We moved from the Spanish Club in Fitzroy to the Collingwood Town Hall. We then had some shows at the Palace Theatre (the old Metro nightclub) until the doors closed and we’re now at the Forum Theatre, which is mind boggling. It’s my ultimate venue!
The crowd at these performances have always been such a huge part of Body Electric – the friends, family and co-workers of our dancers are such a massive part of the community. The atmosphere in the audience is always electric.
Body Electric has really brought people together. There are a bunch of dancers who’ve been there since 2007. They’ve had babies and come back. Dancers have made lifelong friendships. There have even been Body Electric relationships, marriages and babies. I think it shows what dance can do for you and just how good it is for your mind and body.
It’s a mammoth amount of work and it can get exhausting. I get home at about 10pm each night and then find it hard to switch off because I’ve got music going through my head. I taught through all three of my pregnancies, turning up a few weeks before the baby was due and coming back with my baby in my hands. I’ve had some assistant teachers helping me but I’ve always been there. At the end of the day, I feel so lucky to know all of these amazing people and to have the opportunity to work in such a fun and creative environment.
Not only do we put on a huge show, but the dancers all make their own costumes. They blow my mind. These beautifully crafted outfits take the dancers weeks, if not months to put together. I usually have a specific costume concept that each group works with. I never know how it’s going to work but without a doubt, the groups get together and come up with the most amazing end products. We’ve done reveals, where dancers are ripping costumes off, and we’ve had dancers adding layers or morphing into something else – there are no limits!
Sometimes I think I’ve run out of ideas for songs and choreography. But then, I’ll be inspired by a beat or listening to lyrics will spark an idea. I enjoy letting my imagination run wild. Each of our shows has a theme that ties everything together. One was all Australian artists, another was songs about love and obsession and our first year at the Forum had the theme Let’s Go Crazy (and everyone did – it was huge!). We even had one show where each group chose their own song. It brought together a whole set of songs I wouldn’t necessarily choose to work with, which in turn brought entirely unique concepts and choreography. It was a great opportunity for me and I’m looking forward to doing it again.
This year’s theme, I Feel Love was all about everyone coming back to the studio after lockdowns. Being able to reconnect with mates and dance together again – you could feel love in the room — the theme was obvious!
Covid has been really rough on dance studios – we’re usually the first to close and last to open. My approach has been to take it one step at a time. If I knew 18 months ago that we would lose three shows in a row, and we wouldn’t be in the studio for months on end, I’m not sure I would have coped. It’s been incredibly challenging – there’s no other way to put it.
In 2020, we made it work with a virtual performance to Dancing on my Own by Robyn, but we really need to be in the studio. So, this year I ran exercise classes each weekday instead. That worked really well. They were so good for my mood every day. As soon as I was dancing to music with 100 people on Zoom, I would get rid of any negative energy I was carrying. I felt 100% better every single time.
In the past we’ve also done lots of work with festivals, performances and TV. For example, we did shows at the National Gallery of Victoria and had an appearance on the Offspring. I would love to do more of that outside our biannual events. But, for me, the future is about doing what we do best – putting on a huge dance extravaganza and having the best time!”