Londoner, Sian Nathaniel-James, 25, teaches Rave, Commercial Dance, S&M, Ballet Barre, Bikini Me and Contortion. She has also made it into the original UK cast of hit show, Dreamgirls. "I never dreamt of being in the show because I never thought that it would ever make it to London. But it's here, and here I am!"
Hi Sian! We're so proud of you. Has dance always been a big part of your life?
I've always danced. I can't remember a time where I wasn't learning choreography or choreographing my own routines! When I was young my dad took me to see the Alvin Ailey dance theatre, and I knew from that moment that this is what I would do for the rest of my life. Dance excites and relaxes me at the same time. It's my one moment in life where I am completely focused and most happy.
You have recently joined Dreamgirls as a ‘swing’, can you explain to us what that is?
A swing is basically a person who steps in the when the original ensemble are not on stage. For example, if a performer is on holiday, I'll play their role in the show. As a female swing I have to know all of the ensemble parts and be able to do them at an excellent standard, so the show looks flawless. Being a swing is a very big responsibility in the show, and I absolutely love it because I get to play somebody different each time.
Congrats. How do you feel about getting this part?
Grateful is too small of a word to show how I feel about being part of the show. It has been 35 years since Dreamgirls was last shown on Broadway, and it has never been to London. I'm so proud to be part of the original cast which is historically incredible. The music and choreography moves me to tears and every day my cast remind me of how blessed I am to be part of such a beautiful production. I never dreamt of being in the show, because I never thought that it would ever make it to London. But it's here, and here I am!
Describe your younger you, and how much have you changed?
I always wanted to be everybody's friend. Big lover, not a fighter, very innocent and a bit of a nerd. Now I'm still a bit of a nerd, now with added sass. I embrace my uniqueness. I love discovering the different quirks in everybody. Being 'normal' is so beige. Who wants to be beige?
What advice would you give to the younger you now?
Stop caring about what other people think and be your quirky, beautiful, fabulous self! Those that love you will love you, no matter what.
Tell us about your dance training at the Urdang Academy
I absolutely loved my three years at Urdang. I'm so grateful for my incredible teachers and the friends I met. It's now branched out into acting and musical theatre, so it's definitely known in the industry now as a triple threat school. Each of us who were accepted into Urdang had the opportunity to audition for the DADA scholarship award, I was lucky enough to get one of those as there're only 10 given out to each year.
You joined the cast of Lion King in Hamburg soon after graduating, how was it?
Lion King was always the one show I desperately wanted to be in, and I never expected to walk straight into it after graduating. It was an incredible experience. I learned so much living away from home, and becoming a better performer with the help of being with the most incredible cast.
Do you prefer to dance alone, or with a group?
I think I just love to dance, period. When you dance by yourself you're in your in the world and you don't really have to think of anything but yourself and your feelings. It's a very vulnerable place to be, but it means that you can't ever do anything wrong because it's just you and your interpretation of movement. When performing as part of an ensemble it's a group effort. If you're doing a set bit of choreography then everybody has to look the same, so it's your opportunity as a dancer to make sure that your movements are uniform with everybody else.
What do you think of the phrase, 'dance like no one is watching’?
To dance like no one is watching is basically to not have any innovations and just to go for it, which of course I believe in. But, I like to dance like everybody's watching! Because when I have an audience it gives me more confidence. It's not all about me, it's about how I can entertain others, and change their day in a positive way.
How do you stay strong as a dancer?
I train legs 2/3 times a week. The rest of the days I'll be teaching or in rehearsal so I get my cardio then.
Are you strict with your diet?
Well... I eat three meals and two high protein snacks a day. I have carbohydrates after I train, never before. But, If one day I feel like cheesy chips (my personal fave) I believe in just eating it. Get the craving out of the way and train harder the next day. I think if you hold onto cravings it just gets worse, and then you end up binge eating on fast food more often than not.
Go on, tell us your guilty pleasure
Cheese! Milkshakes, and bread.. white bread straight out the oven with butter! Delicious.
What are your goals for the future, and how are you aiming to get there?
I would still love to continue my career in musical theatre and work my way up to be dance captain/associate choreographer of a production one day. Being a swing prepares me to look choreography in a more creative way, so I'm already on my way to being on the other side of that audition table!
Follow Sian on Instagram
Dreamgirls comes to the Savoy theatre in November