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bbodance Patron Series: Bonnie Langford

Bonnie Langford, image by Talbotlee

Please provide a short introduction about yourself and your journey with dance.

I am an actor, singer and dancer both on stage and TV. I began dancing at the age of eighteen months and first appeared on television at six years old; my mother had a dance school, so I joined in there, I then moved into singing and acting later and have been in the industry for over fifty years now!


Please tell us about the highlights of your dance journey.

Having been in the business so long it is very difficult to think of only a few highlights, there are many.

In 1973 I was in the musical Gypsy at the Piccadilly Theatre in London. The following year when the show went to the USA for a national tour and sell out season on Broadway, I was invited to go too to recreate my role as Baby June. I was nine years old and it was an amazing experience to travel the country and work with the phenomenal cast led by Angela Lansbury. I am incredibly grateful to have had this wonderful opportunity at such a young age, it was a very high-quality experience.

At sixteen years of age I left school and created the role of Rumpleteazer in the original cast of Cats. The show is very danced based, so I was glad to have done a lot of dance training prior to being cast and performing this show. I also loved my time in Chicago and Sweet Charity, the Fosse technique is just stunning and so enjoyable.

Another highlight must be my time on Dancing on Ice in 2014. The technique is so different to dance, everything my body wanted to do I had to tell it to do the opposite. The experience was also very liberating for me. With dance, I always knew what to do and was told in auditions never to say that I could not do something. However, with ice skating I had no idea so felt very freeing to say, “I can’t” and “please teach me”.

Dance has always been my constant; it has always been there to keep me physically and mentally healthy. It has been in my bones more than anything else.


What has been the most memorable moment of your journey with dance?

I believe that you experience the right thing at the right time, to pick one moment out is impossible. Had opportunities or experiences come at a different time, they would not mean the same thing or make the same impact.

Why is dance important to you?

Dance helps me emotionally and physically; it keeps me in tune with myself. We only have one body which must be sustained for a lifetime.

Emotionally, dance connects to me very deeply. It is such a beautiful way to express yourself. When children are young and first start discovering things, they are very expressive which says so much about what is going on inside their soul, all expression comes down to movement and dance. There are also examples of this in the grace of swans and movement of other animals, dance in innate to us all. The phrase ‘to dance like no one is watching’ is so compelling, we must find the freedom to just let go and express what we can not say.

Within training, dance gives us the ability to look after ourselves and our physical bodies. Most dancers know when there is something wrong very quickly as they are so in touch with themselves. I believe dancers are some of the most well-rounded and grounded people. They also have great tenacity, determination and dedication.

Where do you find inspiration, both in dance and in life?

I am inspired when I see people overcome adversity, when people are kind and when people are real.

The world can be a judgemental place, I think it always has been but social media has highlighted this more. We can get caught up with online life, but we need to remember that we cannot please everyone. I am inspired by people in any walk of life who have a calm sense of being and who have integrity.

Within dance most people do not have an easy path but life is not only about the achievements, it is about how you hold on and work through difficult times. For all the perfection dancers try and achieve, it comes back to what dancing means to them. Dance is a giving profession, but the most touching dancers are the ones that hold onto truth; they are happy to share, entertain and give joy to those who watch.

If you could share some advice with young dancers, what would it be?

Dance because you do not feel complete otherwise. Dance because it says something to your soul and your life feels empty without it.

If you truly love something, you will always find a way to keep it. There is a lot of hard work, blood, sweat and tears in dance; dancers find a joy in suffering but it is important to keep perspective on the world around you. Have fun and do not forget why you are doing what you do.

A key part of being a great dancer is emotion. A lot of dancers I see have all the tricks but if there is no heart, what is the point? Bodies, shapes and movements can look great but sometimes there is no connection, you must have a rainbow of emotions happening when you dance, what is connecting you to the physical story you are telling?

My main words for dancers would be that someone will always be better so use this as inspiration, not competition. There is no such thing as achieving perfection, you will always have another step you can take or more to learn. Imperfections are what make us special. Acknowledge the moment you are in and strive for the next, but do not forget to thank yourself for where you are right now.

The world will still turn no matter what happens.


Please share your thoughts about being a Patron for bbodance.

I was thrilled to be asked by John Travis to become a Patron. bbodance provide a framework for young people to work to, designed for all areas of movement. They must learn how to keep their bodies safe. The community spirit of the organisation is fantastic, whether students want to be professional dancers or not, bbodance is there for them.


Can you describe bbodance in 3 words?

Excellent. Enjoyable. Encouraging.

What are your hopes for the future of dance?

Dance will always survive no matter what. Animals dance for power, romance, survival, everything! It is in our nature to dance.

I hope it continues to grow and develop with influences from all over the world. It may change over the years but each influence is just a building block for the next thing, we are always adding to the pot of what dance can offer.


Do you have any advice for dance teachers?

Dance teachers have an incredible but difficult job. They must take the raw energy and talent of dancers and harness it but also give it freedom and room to grow. Technique is important to keep students’ bodies healthy but you must allow your students to love the freedom of dance too. It is rather like the ground plans or scaffolding of a building, there is a structure to follow but as you build it the design can change and grow. Dance is important for mental health so we must enable young dancers to express themselves and have fun.

Teaching is an exchange; teachers must not forget their own expression through dance. Learn from your dancers and remember why you were drawn to dance from the start.

Teachers themselves have a lot to cope with so having the support and structure of bbodance is fantastic.

Why is it important for dance teachers to train and gain a qualification in dance teaching?

Having a qualification proves you have done the work and have the mindset, structure and support network to complete your job well. There is a long journey for a lot of dance teachers, so having a qualification to fall back on can be crucial. If anyone doubts you, your qualification is evidence that you know exactly what you are doing. Teaching is a hard but rewarding job, qualifications can give you the structure and support you need when you face difficult times.


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