Lime interview - Theatre
EDITOR - Vernia Mengot
In the run up to Zoo Nation’s smash-hit show Some Like it Hip Hop’s return to the West End, Lime gets talking to Teneisha Bonner.
Since her training at the London Studio Centre, Teniesha Bonner has had a long and a successful career as a freelance dancer, choreographer, teacher and actress. Having danced for the likes of Kylie Minogue, Black Eyed Peas, Rihanna, Alesha Dixon, Bobby Valentino and Jamelia; Teniesha tells lime about her debut on screen, working with ZooNation and her involvement in the Olympics.
When did you know you wanted to go into performing arts?
I think that must have been when I was at secondary school. I went to a school called Sacred Heart. The closest we got was drama. At break time I would ask for the key to the drama room and I used to go in there and dance on my own. From age eleven till fifteen when I left.
Tell us about your training at the London Studio Centre.
It was brilliant; it was three of the best years of my life. Compared to the other collages it’s the most open minded.
You had the honour of representing the UK at the Olympics Handover Ceremony in Beijing, how was that experience for you?
That was a while ago, that was really cool actually. I filled in for someone for the Paralympics, it was awesome. I’d never been to china before, so as well as doing the whole Olympic thing which was amazing in itself, I managed to do some sightseeing. I never actually knew what 90,000 people looked like until I went to china- it was like a sea of people!
You played the character Shawna in StreetDance 3D... It was on telly recently. What was it like playing a part on the big screen?
It’s come on a few times; I get a text sometimes from friends, in my head I’m like “you’re late”. My role was the best, as a character she was the most fun just because she had more comedy. It was funny being a rude girl. I loved it!
And what about the whole pulling off your wig thing...
We were brainstorming ideas and the make-up artist came up with ‘Shawna’s wigtopia’ I was like “yeah let’s do it!” I loved it. It was great. One of the great things about it is that most of us were actually dancers. So we didn’t have to play being dancers. We were all so different. We all had a chance to inject different things.
You also dance for and assist artists is there anyone that you would like to work with?
I assist a lot, the last major thing I did was So You Think You Can Dance UK. In terms of teaching and choreographing for classes; I like to be a student, I like to be in the class. I hate teachers teaching without wanting to be there, kids can pick up on that.
Rehearsals are almost underway for your new role in the play Some Like it Hip Hop. Tell us a bit about what we can expect on stage?
Oh my gosh! This is the second time, there’s going to be changes to make it tighter and more slick. We can expect a lot of sweat, tears, it being very emotional and overwhelming. Without giving too much away; this time it’s an original story, although we have drawn on influences. The fact that we have live music and original music, mistakes will happen; the energy is never the same, because the energy is raw.
What projects have you got lined up for the rest of the year?
Well at the moment, I’m doing the Olympics. I am doing the closing ceremony with the creative director Kim Gavin and associates Nathan Clarke and Gareth Walker. There are 18 captains; I’m one of the captains and I’m one of assistants. Its long hours and pretty full on, we’ve been working with the volunteers who are doing so well. They’re not dancers, they do their nine to five, come from work and come busting their guts. We did it sporadically initially. People are doing it for the love of it. It’s once in their life time and some people are blessed to have it twice in their lifetime. To work with Kim Gavin is brilliant. I first worked with him last year for the Take That progress tour and he was creative director on that, it’s amazing to see how he works and how things unfold before you and you just thinking “where is he going with this?”
What’s your family background... where are you from?
I was born originally in Jamaica, both my parents are Jamaican. I came over here when I was about seven. I’ve spent most of my life over here. I guess I’m British. My immediate family is here, I am the eldest. I have one sister and three brothers and I’m like a second mummy. My mum is wonderful, she’s a strong, stubborn, hard headed women; I love it.
How has your cultural upbringing helped you in life?
You know the things you tend to find friction with your mum; those are the things that are the same ingredient that drives you to success on a character level. Two positives can’t necessarily attract in that way, they will repel and they have to comprise. Jamaican, West Indian up brining is strict. My mum was ridiculously strict now she has become more liberal. At the crux of it I really thank God for her. I look back now, the things she instilled in me were such important values, that when it came for me to rebel it was rebelling in a way that would not destroy her work in me. Christianity has been a big part of my upbringing, in that time out on my own and not having my mum around me, I found Jesus on my own.
Share one of your most unforgettable carnival experiences?
I haven’t got anything interesting. I just remember my first carnival my mum decide to take me dress me up in this hideous thing, I look back and think what I was thinking. It didn’t look good then and doesn’t look good now. It’s been years since I’ve been, it just doesn’t have the same buzz as it used to, the liberty isn’t there anymore to just go and enjoy.
ZooNation Dance Company
Some Like it Hip Hop
20 September – 13 October
interview with Gary Lloyd