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My Journey with IRIE! dance theatre

Updated: Jul 25, 2020

Veronika Koleva – Contemporary Dance Lecturer

I knew I wanted to teach as soon as I started dancing. I saw my teachers and wanted to be like them.  For me it is extremely important to see the deep sense and real meaningful purpose of things. I saw this in teaching dance and generally in making movement part of my life. 

I wanted to have an impact on others with continuous, strategic work, built on a belief system.  In teaching I saw a balance between intellectual and physical work, and it was important to me to have that exact balance in my day to day professional life.  This was the truth as I saw it before I started my professional training and it still is. 

I am Bulgarian, I wanted to do contemporary dance but I didn’t really see myself as strictly a contemporary dancer, I wanted to do a more diverse training. At that time there wasn’t an educational establishment in Bulgaria offering diverse training, so I started looking at options abroad. I found IRIE! dance theatre and the Foundation Degree dance course that they were running at that time. I was impressed by the strength and uniqueness of the dancers being trained in African, Caribbean traditional styles and Contemporary Dance.  It was the first time I had seen anything like it. I thought, I would love to have that strength and ability of physical expression in my body, I should apply! And I did. 

One year later I was in London, undergoing rigorous training and living a completely different cultural experience. I was not only dancing, but also learning about music and history, which made the whole educational process very complete. We often had guest artists coming in, colourful individuals who were rich in knowledge. For my young and driven self, seeing established industry professionals was beneficial in many ways. It helped me to clear the vision of who I wanted to become.

The teachers on the course were very supportive to me, while I overcame language and cultural barriers. At times I was down because I was homesick, but all the teachers knew that and were always able to find a way to uplift me and make me feel I really belonged. This is how the place actually changed its meaning to me, becoming more like home rather than school.

An important part of my journey was my experience as a member of Connecting Vibes, a dance company established to support young artists/students towards a professional career.  It really solidified my work ethic. It taught me how fundamental that is in order for a dance company to be able to function. I gained stage performance experience and learnt how to work creatively in a group. I met fantastic people on the course and enjoyed creating artistic work with some of them straight after I graduated. 

I started teaching while I was still undergoing training. After graduation I started looking for regular teaching work. I would take literally any teaching work to be able to get as much dance teaching experience as possible. I did that for a very long time, it was rocky, but it worked. I ended up knowing a lot of fellow dance teachers, semi professional and professional dancers, alongside people from art and educational organisations. Most importantly, I learnt how to be in the classroom, how to create a learning environment and navigate it. I learnt how to make different people benefit from it and how to approach the complex nature of the human in the vulnerable condition of the dance space. This intense search for experience became the backbone for my teaching knowledge. I guess this was my journey of becoming a professional. I was always thinking that this whole process is invisible to others. When I was offered a teaching job on the BA course I realised that it has become rather visible. 

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