Holly, 27, choreographer/creative director
What is your job, exactly? I’m a choreographer and creative director. I choreograph music videos, films, commercials, work with visual and recording artists and make live work. Tomorrow I have a show with Hannah Perry for Boiler Room, we made Horoscopes (DÉJÀ VU) last summer for the Serpentine and are recreating it for both a studio audience and of course the live feed.
Creative direction can mean loads of things. If I’m working with an artist on a live show, it can encompass the visual aspect of what it is, or its tone, or even the way it’s constructed. We’ll be discussing what kind of aesthetic and what kind of idea the project will be about. I’ve been doing that full time for 2 ½ years, which has its pros and cons. It’s good because I don’t feel too clogged down with the industry, I still feel awake and fresh. On the other hand… I’m still pretty new!
If you’ve only been doing it full time recently, does that mean you were doing it as a side project before? No, before that I was a dancer. I was collaborating with an amazing artist called Claudia Palazzo, we were in a company together for about 4 years. Then we created our own project together, she’s my right hand man, the person I go to for advice.
Do you work for yourself? I do, but I have a team working with me, like my manager who runs a dance agency.
What was your first ever job? I’ve done a lot of jobs: I’ve been a cleaner, I used to clean taxi ranks, I’ve been a waitress, a bartender, I’ve done some crazy performance stuff, dancing on bars. There haven’t been a lot of jobs I haven’t done! I’m glad for all of it, from that I got a sense of reality, or so I hope.
Where did you learn dancing? I started learning when I was 3 or 4, I went to ballet school. I’m from the north and I went to a brilliant dance school called Dance Inc. I moved to London to do my [dance] degree about nine years ago.
Did you always think that you wanted to have a career as a dancer or a choreographer? I never wanted to be a choreographer, I always wanted to be a dancer. I never really grasped the concept of why you would not want to perform! And then I had this huge shift where I felt the need to witness what it was as opposed to being inside it.
Is there anyone whose career you really admire? There are so many people! For so many reasons, I admire loads of my friends. At this kind of age and in this kind of time, when you’re propelling yourself in this place where you want to be… it takes a lot of courage. The hustle is tough, rejection is guaranteed, London keeps you broke… It takes thick skin and a sense of humour…. Sometimes watching the resilience of my mates keeps me going.
If you had the possibility to go back and change anything, would you? I wouldn’t, but I haven’t followed a very linear path. A lot of things didn’t go the way I had planned when I was younger and I can absolutely see now they were the best things that happened to me. I became absolutely determined and pushed harder for the things I wanted, if things were more seamless perhaps I wouldn’t be where I am now.
Did you ever have a mentor? There’s one choreographer in particular called Gary Clark. I learned a lot with working on instinct, being courageous with your ideas, and about living being such a massive part of making work. You need to engage with life in order to really connect with people, I’ve kept that with me.
What do you wear to work? I wear tracksuits! When I’m not working I try and wear normal clothes, otherwise I would live in a tracksuit!!
What’s your work schedule? It’s ever changing! It’s generally very busy. I’m really fortunate for the work, I try to be thankful every day. I get up early, finish late, and work every day. Working as a choreographer and a director is a life choice. And when you work for yourself, it’s only ever going to be as good as you make it.
What do you do to unwind? I do a lot of yoga and I get spend time with my mates.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done at a job? When I was in a company, we used to do nocturnal rehearsals, from midnight til about 5am. We were performing at the same time, so we would go and do the show from 3-4pm, get ready, do the show, finish around 10pm, start rehearsal at midnight. And we’d sleep through most of the day. We wanted to fuck up the mind and the body…. That definitely happened!
Who should I speak to next? My sister Kiera who runs an art space and is a curator (Ed. note: coming soon!).