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24 Nov 2023

Isis Clunie is a dance artist and actor. She joined the DanceEast Centre for Advanced Training (CAT) when she was 11 years old, and now sits on the DanceEast board as our young board member. Since graduating from London Contemporary Dance School, Isis has been on a world tour performing with Jamie xx at music festivals around Europe and North America, as well as being involved in projects with Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Amazon, Wimbledon College of Art, Somerset House, WOO TV, and Opera Holland Park. She has also worked with Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, Oona Doherty, Jamaal Burkmar (Extended Play), Ruby Portus, and Michael Keegan Dolan.

Isis “was a really sporty kid; I did gymnastics and was into being busy. I kept dancing at home to music on my mum and dad’s big hifi speakers! My dad’s pretty musical and was always listening to Van Morrison and The White Stripes. My mum is an actress, so she absolutely adored listening to all the Dylan Thomas and Under Milk Wood vibes. My mum is very creative, so she put me into ballet class.” Isis attended ballet class at Coral Stebbings Dance School, before moving to Angela Rowe School of Dance, which prepares students for Royal Academy of Dance exams, and then joined the DanceEast CAT, which she was part of until she was 18 years old. Isis reflects that the CAT “really nurtured my approach to dance and how I saw the world, it helped me realise what a dancer’s life could look like and how dance could thrive in a community. It provided a really solid foundation for understanding the elements that made up the dance industry.”

Whilst on the CAT, Isis also did musical theatre and was part of the English Youth Ballet. “I sort of kept my fingers in all of the pies, but I’d pretty much decided I wanted to do dance and I thought I could make it work, so I geared everything towards that while I continued with traditional education. Her A level subjects were not related to dance, and she enjoyed learning and academia. This interest continued when she went on to further education at The Place, a specialist dance centre, and home of London Contemporary Dance School, where she “[explored] the critical studies side of dance, the art history, art philosophy and joining in the conversations around dance, not just the practical side.”

Now a professional dance artist, Isis loves performing and “bringing joy to people. It doesn’t really matter what form that takes, I just really love sharing art that makes people happy.” She says that dance artists “get to live what we love, and we know this will make us happy if we do it. Being able to show other people that yeah, you can do this or I’m doing this so you can feel happier, that’s the best bit.” For Isis, dancing feels like “taking your brain to a very good spa! It’s a bit like having a really big coffee or breathing fresh air or seeing a really nice flower. It just feels so good for you in a way that other things might be a serotonin release for other people. The fundamental difference is that dance is a necessity.

Finally, Isis thinks we should all feel free to dance, everywhere and anywhere. She says: “It’s because it’s about connection and fun. Dance happens in spaces where it feels slightly more than ‘normal’ and where you can be less inhibited, and that’s necessary because of the worrisome and stressful things you are doing every day. We should really normalise dancing (or ‘bopping’) in places where it’s almost a bit embarrassing or silly to do it, because even that sparks joy and freedom and childlike playfulness… Every time someone dances, they feel like they are being a bit imaginative with their space. Why would you not want to do that all of the time?”