On your toes!

9 February 2024

To celebrate National Apprenticeship Week 2024, we celebrate our brilliant Apprentice Company Dancers, Kadafi and JP!

From mentorship and equality to sticking together and being kept on their toes, in this conversational Q&A, Kadafi & JP share their reflections and experiences of their apprenticeship at Company Chameleon.

Q1. Hey guys, introduce yourselves to our readers!

Kadafi: Hi everyone! I’m Kadafi and I’m in my second year as an Apprentice Company Dancer at Company Chameleon.

JP: Hi! I’m JP, I was born and raised in Hong Kong and I’m in my first year as an Apprentice Company Dancer here at Chameleon.

Q2. Tell us what a day looks like as an Apprentice Company Dancer.

JP: We arrive at the studio at 9:30am and begin the day with our own warm up in the space. Company Class takes place each day and is an opportunity to explore different dance techniques and styles, as well as prepare yourself mentally and physically for the day. Company Class is open to the wider Manchester dance community, so there’s a social element to the training; it’s a good way to meet and connect with other dance artists. 

Kadafi: Following Company Class, we move into our next session of work which really depends on what we’re working on as a Company. For example, we could be in development for a brand new work, rehearsing an older piece for a school visit and performance or rehearsing for our summer touring work… but that one’s a secret for now!

JP: It’s also really nice when we get some choreographic exploration time of our own in the studio as we both really enjoy being able to work on our own ideas.

Kadafi: In the afternoon, again it depends on what the focus is. Sometimes we’ll pivot into something completely different – I really enjoy it when this is the case as it keeps you on your toes!  What’s great is that you get lots of hands-on experience teaching and learning from each other in our afternoon sessions. Myself and Dave are currently teaching Alice and JP our work PUSH.  

It’s been an incredible experience teaching movement to another dancer. When I first started as an Apprentice I was understudy for a lot of the pieces, so it feels like a big achievement to now teach movement to other dancers and perform as a dancer in the main cast. 

JP: The last part of our day is to coach and supervise our youth companies, Chameleon Youth Juniors & Seniors, which we both really enjoy! As well as being assistant choreographers and putting them through their paces in training, we also get the opportunity to take them to performances such as U-Dance at The Lowry. It’s really nice to be able to take on a mentor style role as well as the day-to-day work as a professional dancer.

Kadafi: That’s the end of the day, but myself and JP do train in the studio gym together each day which is great. Us Apprentices need to stick together and push each other!

Q3. What’s your favourite Chameleon memory so far?
JP: My favourite memory was my first tour with Chameleon. I went to Spraoi Festival in Ireland to perform VOID with Kevin, our Co-Director, and Cameron, one of our freelance dance artists. It was my first ever performance with the company and it felt very special. I also tried my first Guinness! I really grew as a performer during the process of learning VOID in the studio and then performing the work professionally on tour.

Kadafi: My favourite memory is from last summer’s tour in Germany. We were leading a workshop and a few dancers came over to say ‘hi’ saying they recognised me from the year before! It was an incredible moment to get recognised and be remembered for my work. This highlights the opportunities and growth that come from being an Apprentice.

Q4. What’s the difference between Apprentice Company Dancer and Company Dancer?
Kadafi: The main differences are in leadership and responsibility – all of us train in Company Class and explore new work ideas equally together. However, there is a responsibility split with performance and shadowing and learning. For example, in creation when making a new piece, Company Dancers perform and the Apprentices shadow and learn as an understudy. This of course changes depending on the piece and tour schedule. We’re always learning though, and that’s what makes an Apprentice role so special.

JP: Chameleon is special for its fluidity and adaptability and this translates into our roles because it really depends on the calendar, touring programme and what we’re actually doing in the space! Being an Apprentice doesn’t always put you in a secondary position. Even though we are learning, we are still working professional dancers.

Kadafi: Exactly, Chameleon creates a great space of equality in that there’s no hierarchy in the space. There’s respect for each other and our company roles. There’s not an attitude of ‘someone’s better than someone else’. It’s the kind of nurturing environment that helps us grow as dancers and work on our craft. We can be more confident in our movement exploration as we’re helping each other to get to the same end goal which is great.

Q5. What’s your biggest piece of advice for people wanting to work in this industry?
JP: Be open minded and try new things, it’s the only way you’ll push forwards. You can learn so much from every experience, there is always something to take away – both positive and negative. Find your own self, your own identity, but also stay true to what makes you happy as an artist and as a person. I never try to have an end goal in mind, I prefer to have checkpoint style goals to help me keep pushing forward. Also, always stay polite, humble and kind.

Kadafi: I’ve had a change of mindset throughout my journey- I’ve always had high goals, which is nice, but they don’t always make you kind to yourself. As an artist who progressed rapidly over a short space of time, I sometimes feel scared that I’ll get stuck. Sometimes I feel nervous to fail, but my advice is to smile in the face of failure. Everyday is an experience, take each day as an exploration and not as an assessment, and don’t be afraid to fail. We grow as much through failure as we do success!

Q6. The theme of this years Apprentice Week is #SkillsforLife, what skills have you learned from dance that you use in your day to day life?
Kadafi: Sometimes I struggle to feel like my opinions are as important as other opinions in the room. In the past, this has made me not speak up in a group. Being able to express my thoughts and feelings through movement has allowed me to build my confidence, express my thoughts out loud and feel more heard. This is my biggest non dance takeaway, from which I’ve benefited in everyday life.

JP: For me it’s how I see life. In Hong Kong, it’s very much a ‘work hard for money’ type philosophy. When I started dancing, I began to treasure the present moment. I was working for myself and for my own enjoyment and I thought, this feels great! Dance has helped me to learn to put myself and my happiness first. 

As part of our commitment to developing emerging dance talent, Company Chameleon’s apprenticeship scheme offers the opportunity for dancers, age 21+, to join our team in a paid role, as part of a two-year programme of development. 

If you’re a dancer, who is passionate about the artform and you can demonstrate a high level of commitment to your dance training and development so far, then look out for our next call out in November 2024. 


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