Justyna Sochaj is a contemporary dancer, community dance practitioner and dance teacher with a distinct passion for bringing dance to unusual venues and to people who may not have previously sought it out. It’s little wonder then, that she tutors Contemporary Dance - Beginners and Absolute Beginners Dance here at City Academy.
Putting her degree from the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and project experience with the likes of Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures Dance Company, to use for the greater good; she believes though not everybody knows it, everybody can dance.
It’s a matter of tapping into the sources of imagination, emotions, and relationships we already have around us, and allowing those to inspire experimentation with movement.
In a quick interview, she tells us what dance means to her and those she teaches, and about nurturing and channelling the everyday into rhythm and dynamism.
Why are you passionate about the Absolute Beginners Dance course and helping adults who are completely new to the art form?
Having worked as a freelance teacher leading sessions in both grassroots and educational settings, I believe that dance can change the lives of individuals and communities. I have participated in several projects and witnessed the impact of dance on people - patients with dementia at residential homes being transformed by the possibility to move.
I’m passionate because I’ve seen the great sense of belonging dance gives when regular people get involved in the creation of it.
What does being creative, and specifically being able to dance, mean to you personally?
Being creative means connecting to my inner side and imagination - morphing ideas, thoughts and dreams into the real word by giving them a new existence and meaning.
Dance is about discovering yourself, your own body, new forms of movement and expressions. It is a portrait of your spiritual experiences, expressing the deeply hidden mysterious inner-self but also everyday life exposures. It is a space to grow, share and develop your artistic vision with others. To dance is to be alive and draw from every form of life - nature, surroundings and people.
Personally, my inspiration comes from music and dance artists such as Isadora Duncan, Marta Graham, Merce Cunnigham, Trisha Brown, Rudolf Laban, Alvin Ailey, and Pina Bausch.
What do you enjoy about performing, in particular site-specific dance?
Performing is like entering another world - now your ideas need to be communicated in such a way that you connect with the audience. Site-specific dance is great because it gives you the possibility to create an instant relationship with the surroundings, and I really like to be aware and open to any possibility which may happen during an improvised performance. I like to be inspired by places - for me it is as if they are finding a way to speak through my body.
What gets your creative juices flowing when you’re not performing?
Like everyone, I experience blocks while creating, dancing and teaching so I read about other’s people approaches in order to stay positive and overcome any doubts.
I constantly look for different opportunities for choreographers, improvisers and performers, and attend professional workshops, to broaden my knowledge and get the creative juices flowing. And I draw inspiration from stories, poetry, sounds, and other art forms.
Are you working on anything interesting outside of City Academy currently?
Currently I am doing one year residency at Clarence Mews working on the embodiment of memories. It is a solo exploration into the past and present, capturing the moving moments of my life.
I play with form and style; merging together words and exploring the pointing effect they have on movement and sensations, seeing how different sounds can throw us back to other moments and spaces. A part of my solo will be shown at Chisenhale Dance Space on Sunday 19th March in collaboration with London Consorts of Winds.
What advice would you give to someone who thinks they have 'two left feet', or wants to dance but is too shy or nervous?
I would say to overcome those thoughts by taking small steps, feeding yourself with all the information about dance you possibly can to build a positive image and grow in self-belief, in your own power.
If you would like to take your first proper foray into dancing under the guidance of Justyna, see our Absolute Beginners Dance homepage here >>>
For other dance courses at City Academy, see our department page here >>>
You will find various dance styles, a range of tasters and courses suited to all abilities.