Tom Hobden is a Suffolk-based choreographer, educator, and mentor. He is founder and CEO of UNIT, a company that creates dance performances, projects, and films, with extraordinary people of all ages and experiences.
Tom took a while to find dance. He originally trained as an actor, and started to dance more during this time. After finishing his Performing Arts degree, he completed a Masters in Choreography – his “first job was at Dance United, teaching contemporary dance to female prisoners. I did it for five years and never looked back… I am the teacher I am today because of all the work I did there.”
This set Tom on a path. Since 2002, he has built an impressive and diverse career as an award-winning national leader in community dance practice, and is best known for his intergenerational performances and digital innovation. Tom has worked with organisations including the Royal Opera House, Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Royal Ballet School, New Adventures, Studio Wayne McGregor, Ballet Boyz, Trinity Laban – and DanceEast.
He says “quite simply, I wouldn’t be where I am now without DanceEast. Full stop! Every part of my creative journey has been shaped, guided, and comforted by them.” Tom’s company, UNIT, are former DanceEast Associate Artists. He says: “Brendan (Keaney, Artistic Director of DanceEast) knew [UNIT’s] potential to become Associate Artists… Consequently, I’ve worked for some of the country’s largest dance companies, I’ve spoken in front of Government advisory panels, mentored hundreds of artists.”
Tom’s relationship with DanceEast continues to grow. He says: “my development is still growing with DanceEast as they support in my digital work. I’m exploring light, interaction, and movement, all to get people dancing. True 21st century community dance. It’s really cutting-edge stuff, and DanceEast is leading the way.”
Tom’s career in dance continues to be driven by “a fundamental belief… that everyone can dance, nobody needs to be taught how to do it.” When asked what inspires him, he says “that’s easy, it’s the people. I get to meet extraordinary people all the time… I’ve taught people to dance forever, it’s my thing to get people with no dancing experience from 0 to 1 and that, hopefully carries them forward…”
For Tom, dance is always about finding joy and freedom. When asked how it makes him feel, he says “it’s just a really joyous, freeing feeling. It helps me to know ‘me’, and it helps me to know other people. It’s not about learning steps, it’s about being the most ‘yourself’ you can be… Dancing is full of joy, and I’ve tried hard [over my] career to get people to feel that.”
Tom is passionate about dancing for the sake of dancing – the way it makes us feel, and how it helps us connect with others. He says: “the three pillars that I sit dance on are: it’s great for a healthy body because it keeps us moving; it’s great for a healthy mind because it releases huge amounts of endorphins; and it’s one of the fastest art forms to connect people to people.”
However, he recognises there is still work to do: “we still haven’t cottoned on, have we, that dancing is good for its own good? People go to yoga classes not to look good while doing it, but just to enjoy it for its own good. People don’t have that connection to dance yet… we just need to see dancing can be great for our overall health.”
Find out more about UNIT here: Home – UNIT (weareunit.co.uk)