- The Netherlands
Pushing international boundaries as a dance student hungry for training and thirsty for knowledge, Cindy later pursued her dream travelling across the globe as a teacher, choreographer and performer. Today, she still regularly packs her bags and continues to build bridges between the cultures and the arts.
Dance Backpacking involves taking risks, listening to our gut feelings, and most importantly… responding to the urge most artists have to grow and expand.
Dance Backpacking takes commitment and courage. It also takes daily doses of daydreaming, envisioning those trips in order to make it a reality.
Cindy Claes DANCE BACKPACKER
Many artists develop a mindset of the “poor”, taking the lack of funds as an excuse. Many can explain why they can’t travel, money usually being the first issue. Cindy believes artists have a high creative IQ and therefor shall use their creative abilities to find resources and money to live their dreams. A solution-orientated mindset is key to success.
It is important when Dance Backpacking to know WHY we want to travel. What do you want to get out of the trip as an artist? Having crystal clear and specific goals will make every trip a total life-changing experience.
While travelling as an artist (with specific goals in mind), we have only a certain timeframe to achieve what we came to do. We live as if tomorrow does not exist. The urge to achieve, the excitement and the adrenaline is taking over. You become UNSTOPPABLE!!! This is the most stunning experience you will get out of Dance Backpacking. Contacting celebrities, walking into a theatre and ask them to support your project for free (not mentioning the show is next week…), putting together a one hour show in less than 2 weeks time, auditioning for artists you would have never dreamed of… Dance Backpacking will break down barriers as you put yourself at stake. Fear will still talk but not take over as you will unleash your full potential.
Cindy hopes that by sharing about her international achievements and journey, she will inspire and enable other dancers to travel too. The only limits are the ones we create ourselves.
- Burkina Faso
- New York City
- Los Angeles
- San Francisco
- Trinidad and Tobago
- more to come….
HER STORY AS A DANCE BACKPACKER
Growing up in a series of small towns in Belgium (her family moved almost every year), Cindy dreamed to discover the world through the eyes of an artist.
As a child, she used to spend hours looking at the map of the world, memorising countries’ names, flags and locations.
she hopes to make some money by performing magic tricks and asks for a “fat fee” of 0.5 euros per show. The “door to door” business didn’t make much profits…
Cindy LOVES dancing and begs her parents to be able to take dance classes. Unfortunately, extra school activities were considered “alien” at home. Artistic development was not valued and not a penny was to be spent on… “did you say dance classes?!?!??”.
and stubborn, she decided she really needs to earn money in order not to rely on others. She first distributed flyers. She then collected every item she could in the whole neighbourhood and started selling “stuffs” at local car boot sales. Cleaning, sorting, and organising her second business took time, but was worth the investment and the sweat. Ironically… she HATES her first dance class. But after a while, she finds another teacher and is allowed to attend 1 hour class per week by her parents. Those weekly 60 min work out are not enough to put a stop to her unstoppable fountain of energy, and even during arguments at home… she dances her way through teenage-hood.
Cindy enters her first Hip-Hop crew and is a lead dancer. The real journey begins. Parents busy arguing and divorcing, Cindy sees this as an opportunity for freedom and artistic expression. Dance is now part of her everyday life. Training in shopping malls, ex-waffle-factories and dancing in the street, Cindy develops a strong passion for Popping, New Jack Swing and Dancehall. She is now legally entitled to have a student job and takes every opportunity to do so. She did admin jobs, made sandwiches, worked in hotels making breakfasts… every penny was to be invested in… dance & travel!
Cindy started dance backpacking at the age of 17. Auditioning in Paris in the hope to get noticed, taking classes in Europe, she then took off for her first BIG trip: Africa (Niger). President Bare was shot a few days before her arrival in the country… Cindy’s mother was extremely anxious to see her daughter determined to go on an adventure in unknown field, in a country with political instability… But Cindy flew out, confident. To the relief of mum, no guerilla started, neither a civil war which media had predicted. Meeting a huge community of african hip-hop artists, rappers, MC’s and dancers was an eye-opener as to understand the worldwide influence of hip-hop culture.
she started subbing for well-known belgian choreographers and got her first paid performances. The year after, she performed on a regular basis, danced for many hip-hop crews and had her own classes in re-known belgian dance schools. She performs in Germany, Switzerland, Holland, France… The more she travels… the more she meets dancers… the more she finds opportunities to travel… It has a snowball effect. She took classes and workshops everywhere she could. Juggling her schedule between rehearsals, dance, shows, student jobs and uni duties (she studied Sociology & Anthropology at ULB), Cindy remained focussed on her dreams.
she got her masters in Sociology and starts dancing full-time for “La Compagnie”, her first true experience with dance theatre, ballet and contemporary dance. The challenge is huge but still not enough… Cindy takes off to the US for the first time. She is not fluent in English as yet, but the language of dance does not need words. The snowball effect continues… Cindy actually can’t stay still. Dance means travel, travel means dance… Los Angeles, Niger, Europe, her bags were always ready. She trained and absorbed new knowledge as a sponge.
Cindy is 24 yrs old. Many were threading that day… Cindy leaves Belgium, leaving behind a legacy and words of inspiration many still remember. She moves to London and wants “to make it”. She also suddenly realises she is just one “immigrant artist amongst others”… She knows it’s her mindset, integrity, work ethics and creativity that will make the difference. One month after her arrival, terrorist attacks hit the city and panic rises amongst the population. Cindy was scared too and didn’t leave Brixton (South London) for 4 days. Life went back to normal after a few weeks… Auditioning, sending CV’s, trying to get some teaching jobs were part of her daily routine. Despite the bugs, the “no’s” and the huge challenges ahead, she knew her enthusiasm needed to stay high.
The journey isn’t easy, but difficult doesn’t mean impossible.
Fast forwarding to 2007, after 2 years of dance, battles, shows, and some more auditions, Cindy became Artistic Director of Limitless Dance (East London Dance). She founded Spread Expression in 2008… (now known as Cindy Claes Productions) and doors are opening up! Hip-Hop Theatre and Dance Drama is now her true focus. She receives awards and grants to support her choreographic work.
Cindy values international exchanges. Experiencing and researching dance where it came from is her priority. She travels to L.A. to train Krumping and to Jamaica to research Dancehall. Both trips evolved into a Krumping Theatre and Dancehall Theatre project!
The journey isn’t easy, but difficult doesn’t mean impossible.
Cindy receives a Lisa Ullmann Travelling Scholarship Fund to do choreographic research on Krumping in Los Angeles. She meets her “Krump family” Demolition Crew in Long Beach. Fudd, 2Realz and Cindy start dreaming about an international exchange. The vision is big and powerful. They never stopped dreaming…
2010, the company is invited to perform in San Francisco. The SF Hiphop Dancefest accept Cindy’s request and agrees to support phase one of the dance exchange! Demolition Crew drives all the way up from Long Beach direction north… Both crews spend the day together labbing and introducing: Krumping Theatre! Tears of joy, tears of hope and tears of willingness, they have no choice but to take this project further! Cindy
Cindy returns in April 2011. Together they organise a series of Krumping Theatre workshops for the wider community, supported by the Homeland Cultural Centre Long Beach. A group of 8 dancers worked together daily. Cindy choreographed “Dark Energies” as well as a series of short works in progress. They curated a whole evening of Krumping Theatre where audiences were moved, touched and inspired.
2010, friends, family and artists discourage Cindy to travel by herself to Jamaica. Kingston has a bad reputation and is considered too dangerous for a solo female traveller. ADAD believes in her work, and Cindy receives a small grant to support her trip. One month before her departure, Kingston is placed under state of emergency. Drug Lord Christopher Dudus is wanted by the US, the police and the military. Shootings occur in Tivoli Gardens and curfews are imposed. Cindy is determined and goes anyway. Dudus was arrested a few days after her arrival on the island, but many curfews are maintained. She studies Afro-Caribbean dance forms at Edna Manley College. She performs with Orville Hall/Dance Xpressionz on TV and at Reggae Sumfest. She meets amazing dancers, an incredible welcoming dancehall community and improves her skills. Edna Manley College opens its doors for Cindy to lead a Dancehall Theatre taster session. The success of the taster session pushes her to come back with the project one year later…
June 2011, Cindy is casting for a lead role for Voices in the Alleyway, her brand new full-length production in London. Faith Drama Productions accept Cindy’s request, and Worm (Demolition Crew) flies over to the UK for a month. Performing the role of Badda, he had never travelled outside of the US before, the experience was… totally life-changing! Sept 2011, “Dark Energies” was performed at the Ford Amphitheatre in Hollywood.
2011, Cindy is a Bonnie Bird UK New Choreography Fund Awardee. She sets off to Jamaica again, teaching at Edna Manley College, performing her solo “Dark Emerald Fire Stairs” and leading a series of Dancehall Theatre workshops over the summer. This international and cultural exchange allows her to pursue specific choreographic research, and gives the opportunity to local Dancehall dancers to study dance theatre. The workshops are creating a high energy group dynamic and excitement amongst the dancers. Due to a lack of funds and not being able to pay for public transport, dancers commit to walk for an hour and a half to attend the sessions… (3hours return)!!! This is determination!!! The workshops made a huge difference to the artistic community and gave a sense of growth and achievement to the participants.
After being on the road for 6 months in 2011, developing her craft in NYC and in Kingston, she settled back in London again early 2012. 2013, is promising and has a lot of surprises to unveil, Cindy received her first Arts Council fundings, got and ADAD Trailblazers Award and will develop work internationally with a residency planned in Brussels (Zinnema).