I M  J O U R N E Y

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A Journey From Sidelines To Centrestage...

By Izzy M Washington, Director, DanceIM.

When I was 3 or 4 years old my mother took me to “Kinder Gym” – a dance and movement group for pre-schoolers.  I'd beg to go every week, and every week I would get there and not join in.  Mum was patient, she knew I wanted to be there so she continued to take me.

“Do you want to join in? “ she’d ask.

Shaking my head I'd just take my position on the side of the room, watching.  According to my mother, it was 2 months until I was ready, and one day I just joined in. And I’ve never looked back.

We don’t know why we are drawn to things. Even as a shy kid,  I was drawn to dance. Something was pulling me there,  it was where I was meant to be. I knew it, mum knew it. So we persisted. And it was on the side of that room, watching the kids move and dance, that I started my journey.

At 5 years of age I started ballet, at 6, jazz, and by the time I was a teenager I had added contemporary dance and funk (what we now know as urban hip-hop) to my practice.

I never considered myself a particularly good dancer. Yes, I passed all my exams with great marks, I had a lot of fun doing “Troupes” (team performances) and made lots of great friends, but I still didn't know why I did it, I was just following my drive, and never once considered having a career in dance.

From my understanding, to be a professional dancer you must dedicate your life to dance, not doing anything else. But I had other interests, other sports and academic goals – interests I didn’t think would complement my dance.

It turns out I was wrong.

From student to teacher...

I started teacher-assisting classes when I was around 14-15, and after passing all the required Ballet and Jazz dance exams, I completed a Certificate of Dance Teaching. I taught Funk, Ballet and Jazz classes on and off for a few years and continued dancing and performing with my classmates.

When I was 18, my ballet teacher said something to me I will never forget. During a class she said, “Izzy, you are a really good dancer”.

Maybe it had been said before, but that was the first time I actually heard it.  And that comment changed something inside me. In that moment I realised I’d been holding myself back but now I was ready – now I knew I was in it for more.

I wanted to share dance with as many people as I could.

 From everything else to Zouk...

I discovered Latin dancing while I was at University studying Physiotherapy, I was working behind the bar at Melbourne’s beloved ‘The Night Cat’. Up until then, I'd loved my classical dancing, but it wasn't a very social discipline, it’s much harder to meet up casually and dance classical. But  the Latin dance community was different. I realised I could dance as much as I wanted if I embraced Latin styles – not having to wait for the next class or pay $20 an hour every time I wanted to dance. I could dance socially for hours, on any given night, with different partners, learning in an uninhibited environment. So, in 2006, I started with Cuban Salsa, gradually mastering other Latin street styles, with special focuses on Salsa and Tango. And then, in 2009, I found Zouk.

I M   Z O U K

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Izzy's Path From 'I Am Zouk', To DanceIM...

When Izzy discovered Zouk it was very small in Melbourne, rarely danced at socials and with little access to classes. However she couldn’t get enough, pouncing on any opportunity to learn – teachers visiting Melbourne and interstate and overseas congresses.

Studying Tango and other latin dances forged a strong background in lead-and-follow techniques as well as a great picture of the evolution and connection between various dances. But it became clear Zouk was the dance she wanted to follow.

Izzy began chasing Zouk around the globe. And it paid off.

Once entering the latin dance world it wasn't long before Izzy was asked to assist and partner with Corrie Wade, teaching Salsa, Bachata which lead to teaching and performing at many events including The Sydney International Bachata Festival in 2012. Izzy also performed in various shows in Melbourne and Sydney alongside Internationally recognised Fabio Robles, carving a place for herself in the Latin community. At the same time she learnt with and quickly transitioned to teaching at Melbourne Zouk, Melbourne first Zouk school.

Izzy was even invited by the Godfather of Zouk, one of its creators, Adilio Porto, to help him teach in Australia and around Brazil. This really set the ball rolling for her next task.

In September 2012, after deciding that Melbourne needed Zouk Izzy's way, she began teaching her own classes. With a few breaks to travel Brazil and Argentina, improving her skills and consolidating her desire to teach Zouk in Melbourne, Izzy has taught continuously ever since.

Izzy has taught at various congresses and events in Brazil, including twice at the iconic Berg Zouk Congress (2015 and 2017) and FIEL congress (2013). This is in addition to countless events around Australia including Brazil Central, The Sydney Zouk Festival, Melbourne Latin Festival and more.

DanceIM launched in Melbourne in 2014, and despite its challenges, Izzy continues teaching alongside her other career as a Physiotherapist. Passionate about both, Izzy is often asked if she would give up one to focus more on the other, and her answer:

"They are two branches of the same tree, and each makes me better at the other."

"One, teaches people to dance – to move their bodies in a new way. The other, teaches people how to stand, walk better, take their first steps after a trauma. They both require persistence. They both require discipline. They both require knowledge, creativity, a few laughs and sometimes tears along the way."

Izzy on dance vs physio...

"We all have things we need to overcome, physically or mentally. We all need to work hard, set goals, celebrate our achievements, acknowledge our failures and dust ourselves off and try again. Working with others' challenges is an amazing way to put life in perspective.

And so, I persist. I apply the same philosophy with my students as I do with my patients, because everyone has a cross to bare, whether it's physically visible, or hidden deeper.

I utilise all my knowledge: from years of classical training and experience, a wide breadth of Latin dance background, more extensive Zouk and Tango training, years of teaching experience, along with my Neurological, Motor Learning, Psychological, Anatomical experiences from university and my physiotherapy career, mixed in with other interests such as Silvestre Technique, Yoga training, and motivational training. I aim to bring myself along with this knowledge, and help my students break through to their true selves.

I M Dance, DanceIM is me.

Izzy is able to quickly identify issues in posture, balance and core strength and gently work through them without injury - leading to a much more enjoyable dance experience !
— Waseem, Current Student
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As I continue to study, teach, train, and express, I hope to bring an offering of more of this work. In the shape of classes, workshops, performances, socials and who knows what else. It's often shaped into a Zouk rhythm, but really what I try to bring is a representation of something I cannot live without and would like you to taste. Just in case you decide it’s something you could do with in your life too…