My NewVIc story: Joseph Toonga

My NewVIc story: Dancer and choreographer Joseph Toonga, NewVIc class of 2008.

image001I attended Newham sixth form college (NewVIc) from 2005 – 2008.  In my time at NewVIc I set up my dance company called Just Us Dance Theatre with Ricardo Da Silva. I feel that being at NewVIc at that period really helped me develop the self-discipline and drive to push to achieve my ambitions, thanks to the energy and support I was receiving from my teachers. NewVIc gave me the opportunity to express my thoughts through dance showcases, outside projects. It also opened my eyes to the dance industry.  After NewVIc I went on to continue my training at Lewisham College and then at London Contemporary Dance School where I graduated with an Honours degree in 2013.

Since graduating from NewVIc I’ve always taken every possible opportunity to come back and teach or mentor as I know that my time at college played a big part in my artistic growth as a dance artist and also as a person.

As an artist now, I’ve had the privilege of being invited to perform and choreograph for different organisations and in different countries including Wales, France, Italy, Germany and Holland. Other highlights of my career so far include:

  • Becoming a resident artist/company with Greenwich Dance.
  • Winning second place at the Concours Choreographique International de Paris 2013.
  • Working with such artist as Robert Hylton and Wayne McGregor at the Royal Opera House.
  • Creating site-specific work on Ludus Youth Dance Company and County Youth Dance company in Swansea.

Whilst taking up all these opportunities it has always been important for me to come back and continue my relationship with NewVIc as that was where I began my artistic journey. In 2013 I was privileged enough to be awarded funding from the Arts Council, Deutsche Bank and London Contemporary Dance School to set up a mentoring programme which includes work with NewVIc students and students from other institutions where I studied (Lister school and Lewisham College) at as a way of giving back.

The programme aims to provide opportunities and tools to empower young people through dance via a series of workshops, one-one mentoring sessions, practical and theoretical sessions with a variety of practicing artists from the industry, trips to various live performances and performance opportunities alongside my company Just Us Dance Theatre.

In the coming year I am looking forward to continuing the programme and working with NewVIc and the other institutions and partners. I am also lucky enough to be continuing to work in Wales with County Youth Dance Company.  In another exciting development I feel very privileged to have been commissioned to create work for the National Youth Ballet to be performed in Hamburg in 2015.

Read more about Joseph and Just Us Dance Theatre: http://www.justusdancetheatre.org/company.html

About Eddie Playfair

Principal of Newham Sixth Form College (NewVIc) East London. Blogging about education, politics and culture in a personal capacity. I also tweet at @eddieplayfair
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