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Interview with Richard Alston Dance Company dancer Ihsaan de Banya

29 Aug 2017

Ihsaan de Banya and Jennifer Hayes in ‘Gypsy Mixture’; image by Chris Nash. Thumbnail: Ihsaan de Banya; image by Huge Glendinning.

Ihsaan was born in London, and began his training with The Place’s Centre for Advance Training (CAT) and Shift. During his time with both he danced works by Bawren Tavaziva, Tom Dale, Jose Agudo and Maresa Von Stockert. In 2010 he continued training at London Contemporary Dance School, graduating in 2013, dancing Theo Clinkard’s Murrisant (Ripening). Ihsaan joined Richard Alston Dance Company in 2013 as an apprentice, becoming a full member in 2014. In 2015, following the success of a 2013 Resolution creation, Ihsaan was commissioned by The Place to choreograph for the Company’s Alston At Home season. He created Rasengan, a danced for three exploring an abstract energy within us all.

How has Richard Alston Dance Company supported your artistic development?

Richard has a confidence when he choreographs, likely from years of practicing the craft.  I truly admire this; I think for any individual it’s important to feel confident in decision making. I hope that when I’m dancing and creating I bring this same Alston-inspired attitude to it.

To be honest, I wouldn’t be the dance artist I am without the company. I’ve grown so much throughout my time and been challenged. The company is incredibly nurturing of us all. Company class isn’t just a time for us to warm up for the day, but to grow as technicians; to explore our own quality of movement within the Cunningham technique. Furthermore, if any of us do venture into choreography, Richard and Martin (Lawrance) are always happy to offer their insights.

How can dance help young people?

Dance offers the individual something special, as it nurtures an ability to have control of one’s own movements. I think when you are young and finding yourself, this sense of control is really important.

The notion of individuality is also important. Even if you are learning set steps, no two bodies will execute them the same. That sense of being different and together is extremely liberating. It offers a philosophy that is transferable to life.

Dance offers a form of expression, again completely individual to you. I believe that at a time when you are told what to wear and what you should be aiming for, and Instagram is brainwashing you into what success looks like, dance can still be something that is very much yours. Dance can be born from you and belong to you. No right, no wrong – just you and yours! Your dance. Your expression from your body.

How important is it to involve boys in dance from a young age?

I think it is important to emphasise, not only to boys but to any individual, that the innate relationship between emotion, movement and the body is a natural, normal thing. It helps you to connect in a natural and human way.

Also, many boys like to show off! So, why not jump higher, spin faster and longer and be more on point with the music? Why not be an artist? Surely you’ll stand out more than all the other boys playing football?

What is your favourite memory from working with Essential Alston?

I always enjoy every opportunity that I get to teach. I love the communication that happens between the teacher and the students. I love the exchange of energy. I love watching how information offered is interpreted through different bodies. I love helping and facilitating someone with that ‘light bulb’ moment when a movement just clicks. I genuinely have very fond memories of the creation with the young people from Northampton. No idea was too strange, no challenge seemed insurmountable to them and no movement was going to be left without a good attempt! This only makes my job easier and inspires me to keep pushing and be the best I can be.

Who/ what are your influences?

My biggest influence is my mother. She offered me a belief system and values that allow me to thrive not only in dance, but in life. I think influence is everywhere and comes in various forms. When I was training I was very influenced by the work of Rafael Bonachela and I loved Akram Khan’s Vertical Road when I saw it in my second year. In my third year, I worked with Theo Clinkard. His natural way of working and humanity really inspired me. The work of Marina Mascarell mesmerises me. Equally, I have been influenced by the many Japanese Manga and Anime I watched growing up. I’m influenced by my awareness of being a young black man within contemporary dance. I’m influenced by my desire to not let people watch dance passively. I’m influenced by the clarity and isolation I see within the dance style of poppin’. I hope I’m a little bit influenced by everything I engage with: a sponge absorbing information at all times. A constant learning experience of just living.