Creative Spotlight: Grace Beckett on dancing through Cambridge
Yes that is King’s College rooftop
Grace Beckett is a second year ASNC student at Christ’s who has been dancing since she was only four years old. Since then, she has tried out a huge variety of styles, from Ballroom and Latin American, to Lyrical and Contemporary, and her love for dance has only continued to grow.
In fact, during Lent term, she had hoped to showcase this passion in a new way by creating a collection of dance videos, each performed in different locations around Cambridge, which would then be collated on an Instagram page. Although the third UK lockdown has unfortunately put a stop to the idea for now, she hopes to carry it out later this year.
The Tab Cambridge spoke to Grace about her plans for the project, the unique challenges lockdown has posed for her as a dancer, and the emotional significance dance has had for her throughout her life.
‘Since my first class as a child, I’ve been dancing ever since!’
Grace has been dancing for the majority of her life: “I started doing ballet when I was four, probably just because my parents thought I would look very cute in a little leotard and tutu!”
She quickly made the transition into Disco Freestyle at six years old, a style which Grace explains as “a fast-paced fusion of jumps, kicks, runs, and spins”, very different from the John Travolta disco dancing we all know and love.
Since that first class as a child, Grace has been dancing ever since, trying out a range styles over the years: “Through school I danced at one time or another Ballet, Disco Freestyle, Ballroom and Latin American, Street, Lyrical, Tap, Contemporary, Rock n Roll, and Jazz.”
She does her best to dance as much she can now that she’s at university: “It’s hard trying to fit everything in at uni, but I always find time at least once a week to do some form of dance, and that tends to be ballet more often than not.”
‘A collection of dance videos which encourages Cambridge to be seen as a tapestry and creative backdrop’
Grace also spoke to The Tab about how she got her idea for her video project, something she is now looking to carry out in Easter term: “I was watching videos on Instagram and I came across @melissabecraft who does character themed or music themed 30 second dance videos – but proper dance as opposed to a ‘TikTok dance’ (sorry TikTokers). So I thought to myself, why don’t I do something like that around Cambridge?”
She describes the style of the videos she wants to film: “I’m very keen to use a variety of styles to capture the different moods of Cambridge, such as dark contemporary in front of the UL or classical ballet down King’s Parade.”
Grace has a strong overall vision for the project: “Cambridge is such a beautiful city with a variety of backdrops like the different architecture colleges and its small streets.
“Having a collection of dance videos which encourages Cambridge to be seen as a tapestry and creative backdrop rather than just landmarks which you walk [around] will add vibrancy to the city. I hope to make the collection of videos into an Instagram page which would make a nice time capsule for looking at the city of Cambridge.”
‘During the first lockdown, dancing at home, for me, was a creative challenge’
With the closure of performance and studio spaces due to lockdown, this has posed some unique challenges for Grace as a dancer. She elaborated on these experiences when speaking to The Tab: “During the first lockdown, dancing at home for me was a creative challenge but one which I enjoyed, nevertheless.
“I really enjoyed the freedom of just being able to roll out of bed and do my own dance class whenever I felt like it, which always allowed me to start my day feeling motivated and refreshed.”
However, as the lockdowns just kept coming, Grace says that “the novelty has well and truly worn off”: “Whilst my kitchen is big enough for me to do dance class exercises in it, I miss having the space to really get stuck into a dance and really move with the music. I don’t have the space to do any big jumps or floor work, so that’s slightly frustrating.”
Dancing during lockdown has been challenging at times: “Like lots of other people right now, I’m struggling with motivation and drowning in work so I’m finding it harder to make time to dance.
“Additionally, whilst Zoom dance classes are a great way to keep connected and to maintain a regular routine, nothing can beat the social side of dance, getting to rock up to dance classes and chat to my friends.”
‘The reward of achieving what I’d worked so hard for was the sweetest feeling’
Grace reflects fondly on one of her proudest moments as a dancer: “When I was 16, I became the National Champion for Disco Freestyle and for Rock n Roll for my age category and became one of a few dancers to hold those two titles at the same time.”
She talks about how amazing it felt to have her hard work pay off: “It’s something that I’m still so proud of to look back on today because I really pushed myself to achieve my goals. My dance routine was so demanding on my stamina (and my asthma!) and I distinctly remember really not enjoying the rigorous rehearsing of it!
“But I really fought for the title and the reward of achieving what I’d worked so hard for was the sweetest feeling of satisfaction, pride and happiness.”
‘Pushing through obstacles only makes you a stronger dancer’
Grace loves the escapism that dance affords: “Like every other teenage dancer, I once saw a quote on Pinterest that said ‘dance is the only place where you can lose yourself and find yourself at the same time.’ And even though it sounds corny, it’s so true.
“I love how I can lose myself in the performance and forget about the world around me to really live in the moment, focussing on the harmony between my body and the music. That’s something so simple yet has the power to really change my wellbeing for the better.”
She reflects on what advice she’d give to her younger self when first starting dance: “I think no matter how overused this piece of advice is, I would honestly say don’t give up, even when it gets hard. Pushing through obstacles only makes you a stronger dancer.
“Much of my experience when training for Disco Freestyle competitions was emotionally and physically exhausting but ultimately, I am stronger because of it. A huge part of not giving up is having the fighting spirit and believing in yourself. If you have a positive mental attitude and truly back yourself then it makes it ten times easier to fight for what you want.”
Grace talks about how dance has shaped her over the years: “Something I’ll never forget is when one of my dance teachers used to shout over the blaring music when we were all completely exhausted, ‘how much are you going to fight for this?’
“Having the fighting spirit and visualising what you want to achieve and then achieving, is something that I can implement in different areas of my life.”
‘Whenever and wherever I can, I will always be dancing’
Grace is looking to continue to expand her skillset as we move into 2021: “I’d love to do more acrobatic moves and work them into lyrical dances. I see all these awesome dancers on Instagram doing beautiful acrobatic moves in their dances and I am always so inspired and think ‘oh, I’d love to do that.’
“I never really got the opportunity to learn aerials or walkovers, so once things become less crazy and I actually have a regular studio space, that’s something I want to pursue.”
Grace spoke about the future for her as a dancer: “Currently I’m working on regaining my flexibility over lockdown! But in terms of a long-term goal, I don’t think that I’ll be dancing professionally, but what I do know is that, whenever and wherever I can, I will always be dancing.”
And once the craziness of the pandemic is over, we have Grace’s wonderful video project to look forward to. Watch out for ballet dancers on King’s Parade in Easter term.
Featured image credits: Grace Beckett
All image credits to Grace Beckett