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Meet the Team: Daniel Heley

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Daniel Heley
Creative Learning and Skills Co-ordinator

How long have you been working with Greenwich Dance?

I started working with Greenwich Dance in April 2019 just after the Easter holidays. It was fast-moving, there wasn't much time to pause, so I was totally chucked in at the deep end but I have managed to stay afloat for the past few months.

You are the Creative Learning and Skills Co-ordinator – what does your job entail?

I co-ordinate all of our schools-based projects and am the main point of contact for schools. We have a really wide range of projects that we can deliver for both Primary and Secondary ages, projects that we are really proud of. I’m especially proud of our Dance for Wellbeing classes which focus on the teachers, offering them a chance to let everything go and forget about the stresses of the school day. There are lots of exciting projects coming up for students as well and we are working tirelessly to get the best dance artists and choreographers into schools so that teachers and students can love dance as much as we do.

Your CV is pretty impressive and varied…tell us about your career to date and how you have come to be sitting in Adam Newton's Bedroom (our office space at Charlton House)

I started dancing from a young age, about 3-4, and fell in love with the art form. When I turned 18 I trained at London Studio Centre which was amazing. The wide range of training worked well for me. I was undecided on whether I wanted to focus on contemporary or musical theatre as I enjoyed both styles equally. After graduating I worked professionally for a few years in operas and on cruise ships before deciding to hang up my leotard and tights and settle down to a more regular 9-5.

After leaving dancing I was working in my hometown of Minehead in Somerset for a year as a Marketing Assistant for a local sports retail company. However I realised I missed the theatre industry too much and moved back up to London with nowhere to live and no work! It was the riskiest thing I have ever done but it paid off in the end. I managed to find work in the box office of a leading West End theatre and have worked in a number different theatres over the last 6 years. I also spent a year training in Stage Management and Technical Theatre and have worked as backstage crew on pantos as well as costume sourcing and dressing for a number of different shows.

What prompted you to leave your dancing career behind? How did that decision feel for you?

Where to start……well, I was lucky enough to work pretty consistently once I finished dance training and I could have kept going if I had wanted to. In the end though it came down to what was best for my mental health. The work that I was doing and the environment that I was in was very intense and I wasn’t happy with the person I was becoming because of it. Because of these factors I decided I needed to take a break and re-discover who I was. I only intended to take a few months off but that break just kept on going. When I decided to come back up to London I had thought i might get back into it but my confidence had taken a bit of a knock and I never found the will to get back to class. It was a really tough time for me and I didn’t want to go and see any dance as it was too painful to think of what might have been if I had kept going.

One day though, not too long ago (and with some encouragement from my husband), I decided to bite the bullet and went to a ballet class. Everything came flooding back and although I had put on a bit of weight, and didn’t have the strength or flexibility I once had, my muscles still remembered what to do and carried me through the class. From this I have re-discovered my love for dance and have realised that it never leaves you. It’s a bit like an old friend who you might not see for a very long time but when you do finally meet up it’s just like no time has passed at all……….although you might be in a bit more pain the next day than when you were 21!

You are currently part time – though we wish we had you with us more. How do you fill the rest of your week?

I work part-time as Inventory and Sales Manager for The Other Palace Theatre. It’s a really creative place that has a main auditorium for full-scale productions and a studio space which hosts a wide variety of new work in different stages of development. I found with other box office work that I was just there to generate profit whereas this feels like I’m contributing to the development of theatre which I love.

I have also just started a Level 6 Diploma in Dance Teaching with the British Ballet Organisation so I am going to be really busy for the next year or so.

Best and worst bits of the job?

Best bits? I like the idea that everything we do here at Greenwich Dance is about the community. Whether it be school projects, festivals, professional intensives or children and adult dance classes, community is at the centre of everything we do. The team really works hard to provide a service that will benefit anybody who wants to use it and we will always be there if you need a dancing partner.
We are also based in the best location ever and think everyone should come and visit us at Charlton House. We love a cup of tea and a gossip.

Worst bits? None. I love everything about my job…………cough cough……………..

Dreams and schemes for the future?

I think the main dream for me would be for all schools to really recognise the positive impact that dance in particular and the arts in general has on pupils of all ages. If it wasn’t for the arts I wouldn’t have been able to do half the things that I have done in my life and I think everyone deserves that opportunity no matter where you are from or what your background is.

We’ll see you at the Greenwich Dance fundraising wine tasting. Whats your wine of choice?

I’m not fussy really. I prefer a white to a red. Usually a Sauv Blanc. I also quite like an English wine. But if it’s in my glass then it will usually get drunk.

Come and have a chat with Daniel over a glass of wine at Greenwich Dance: A Rosé Future on Saturday 9th November and find out more about the work he and the organisation are doing!