Jess Baddie is a Dancehall dancer, choreographer, and model based in London. Although she was born and raised in Italy, she has African origins and this is visible in her choreography. Her dad is from the Ivory Coast and she regularly travels to Jamaica and Africa to learn from the dance crews there, soaking in their vibes, grooves, and flows.
She also travels around the rest of the world to share her knowledge, experience, talent, and energy. You’ll find her performing, attending festivals, and running workshops. Energy is something that is never lacking when Jess is dancing. She can choreograph for men and women, and couples. Her dances can be soft and smooth or strong and powerful.
One of her main skills is expressing sensuality and femininity in her dance. She teaches other women how to get more confident in touching their own bodies while they are dancing, and loving themselves just the way they are. She celebrates that every woman is unique within their own bodies and teaches her students to see perfection in any perceived imperfections. She’s taught in Germany, Italy, Spain, France, and the USA, and has plans to teach in many other countries this year.
In London, she teaches every week at Gymbox Elephant and Castle, Studio68 (until the end of January), Base Dance Studios and she is going to start a new weekly class in a new studio in East London from February.
Thank you for joining us Jess, can you tell us a little bit about your background story and how it reflects who you are and what you do today as a Dancehall dancer and choreographer?
Well, I have been dancing since I was little, I have always been in love with music, I definitely got it from my parents, they were listening to a lot of Micael Jackson and Bob Marley when I was very little, I used to listening typical Ivorian music too from my dad and playing the piano with my mum, we still got that piano back home in Italy.
I started to train professionally with dance when I was 11years old, I started with funky/hip-hop, at that time hip-hop music was not that popular in Italy like it is now but I was watching these Americans music videos and I wanted so bad to learn how to dance like those amazing professional dancer when one day a new dance school in front of my house opened and there was this woman teaching hip-hop so I started to join them and from there they took me part of the best crew of the school, we were doing a lot of competitions together, I remember to have rehearsals until 1-2AM and from early in the morning but I had such good memories.
I have always tried to correct my movements that’s why at one point I studied ballet, contemporary, jazz to clean my move because each dance style is giving you something that you need. My family has always been humble and I know it was a big cost for my mum paying my membership that’s why as soon as I could I start babysitting and working in a restaurant while I was going to school.
The more I was dancing the more my passion was growing so as I was working and making my money I started to travel also, Paris, around Italy and finally LA, this was my dreamland and I couldn’t believe I was finally going there.
Even if I didn’t come from a rich family I always found a way to make it work and to attend all the classes, workshops, masterclasses that I could, travel all the world to improve my dance, life as a dancer can be really tough that’s why we need to keep strong, never give up and always believe in ourselves and dreams.
This definitely reflects the way I am now, I am a woman that is not scared to achieve her dreams and every time I want something I go and get it, there is always a solution and a way to get what you want.
Regarding Dancehall, I did my very first dancehall class in 2012/13 and I fell in love with the music and the moves but at that time I was still part of the hip-hop crew and I didn’t really have time to go deeper to get to know this culture and also it wasn’t that big in Milan, I was still doing workshops once teachers from abroad were coming in Italy. Once I got in London and I started to go to the dance studios to train I found hip-hop really changed, it was more commercialised and I didn’t really feel the same and I got to know more dancehall as in London there is a way bigger the Carribean/Jamaican reality, so from 2015 I started to train just in dancehall, I was travelling in Europe to train more with Jamaicans dancers coming in Europe from JA and after few months I travelled all the way to JA to experience the real dancehall, to know more about this amazing culture and since then I am going at least once/twice a year.
Dancehall has given me a lot but it’s always a giveback, I try my best to represent dancehall in the best way and to transmit the love I have for this culture to many more.
What ignited your passion for dance and what point did you realise you wanted to pursue it as a career?
I have always been very passionate about music and dance since I was little I remember to put in my stereo one of those old school tape and dance for all afternoon in my bedroom, I was making up routines and creating outfit like I was getting ready for a show. I always had it in me and I think when you have it inside naturally it’s even harder to explain, it’s just what I love to do, it’s what makes me breathe and I realised I wanted to pursue it as a career once I was about to lose it all.
I had a really bad knee injury 4 years ago (ACL injury), I was in Paris to train, take classes and there was a big competition I wanted to take part of (JUSTE DEBOUT) but the night before the competition starts I broke my knee ligaments while I was taking a Kuduro class. I was in Paris by myself, I could barely walk and at that time I didn’t have all the connections that I have now, I still remember myself going to the pharmacy the morning after with my knee that was three sizes more, on the way back from the pharmacy to the hotel a police car stop and asked me what was wrong with me and they dropped me at the hotel, I was in tears and I realised that the injury was really bad but still didn’t know what was it about.
I stayed strong and finished my stay in Paris then I went back to London. From that trip, I went straight to work (if you know me, I am the never stop woman) at that time I was still working at the cafe of ITV Studios, and on Monday evenings I was teaching my weekly class at Pineapple Dance Studio. My knee was really bad and it was not getting any better, I was limping but still going to work and teaching, I couldn’t keep my leg straight but carried on dancing.
My mum was really worried and myself too at one point, so I decided to go to Italy to find out what was wrong with my knee and this is how I found out that I had broken my ligaments, doctors couldn’t explain how I was still able to dance with a broken knee, I guess the strength of my passion made me do that.
I got the knee surgery in May 2016 in Milan and I had to stay all summer in Italy to recover properly with my physiotherapist sessions.
That summer was very tough, not being able to dance was killing my soul, after 2weeks I got the surgery I was going to parties with crutches, at least I was listening to music and doing small moves. It’s after that summer that I realised, I cannot live without dancing, it’s all I have got, it’s my life and I want to live a life I am happy to live, so I took the risk after few months I got back in London I started my own business as a dancer and choreographer, all I can say I couldn’t take better choice.
Although you are a teacher at the world-renowned Pineapple Dance Studios, did you study anywhere else for your profession?
I have been teaching at Pineapple Dance Studios for 2years (2015_2017), it has been a good experience especially for me coming from Italy and having the opportunity to teach at the world-renowned studio in Central London.
I have been training all my life, in Italy, I use to have a hip-hop crew, we were doing competitions, theatre shows, tv shows and I also took courses to become a dance teacher in Italy and in London.
How you are balancing the work/life strife?
Wow, that’s a good question actually. Sometimes as an artist is not easy being present the way you wish in personal life, because you have to be 100% in your career, but still not impossible.
My schedule can be very busy but I try my best to go and visit my family back home as soon as I get few days with no bookings and I am sure in a near future when I will build my own family I will be there for my partner and for my kids, that’s why I am working so hard now so once family come I can take it a bit easier.
What platforms are you using as marketing tools as self-promotion?
I am using Instagram and Youtube mainly, but I also have my website that is promoting all my classes and describing what I am doing.
Do you currently use any apps or tools to help the functionality of your business practice/class bookings?
I have been using Eventbrite a couple of times for workshops, but actually, I prefer to promote it as much as I can on Instagram as a lot of people check Instagram nowadays to find anything they are looking for.
Who is the most influential female within the creative industry that you admire and why?
In the big industry, Beyonce has always been the most influential female for me, just the way she is so talented and she carries herself, I like the fact that she can be so sexy but never be vulgar, I liked a lot of her visions and she is also an amazing mum.
If you could tell your 18-year old self a solid piece of advice, what would it be?
Always believe in your dreams and in what you want to be, never give up whatever obstacle you find along your journey. Life is not easy but remember that you will fight even more for what you want to achieve if the game is harder.
Also important to be yourself and stay real!
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
#BEYOUROWN to me means BE YOURSELF in every single side of you.
- Be in her own skin.
- Be in your own colour.
- Be in your own size.
- Be in your own beauty.
- Be unique.
- Be one.
- Be diverse.
- BE YOU.
I always say to my students to never compare themselves to somebody else that to their eyes looks perfect, beauty is not perfection, beauty is uniqueness, we are beautiful because anyone else can be like us unless you have a twin.
We understand you are about to launch your GOODIES trip to Jamaica, can you tell us a little bit more about that and what the rest of 2020 looks like for you?
Yesss, #GOODIESTRIPTOJA is finally happening, it was few years that my students in London were asking me to organise a trip to Ja so it is possible for them to feel the real vibes, energies and to know more about dancehall from where it is coming from.
Finally, I got time to organise it and I am more excited than them actually. This is going to be a 2weeks trip, we are going to be based in Kingston in a guest house in a central location, taking classes from the best dancers in Jamaica (the girls don’t need to be pro dancers, beginners are welcome too), experience the dancehall parties with dancehall artists too and we are going to do excursions too to the most wonderful place in Ja (Portland, Port Antonio, Blue Hole, Lime Cay, Ocho Rios, etc etc).
At the moment we are working on the first two trips, the first one is going to be 16-30th April and the second one is 21st May – 4th June, the spaces are limited and you can email here.
These are the first two but not the only ones, so if anyone is interested but cannot make those dates just get in touch and keep yourself posted. This 2020 is going to be a special year for sure, I want to travel even more and connect with a lot of good individuals!
LinkedIn: Jess Baddie