Guest Post: Breaking Barriers Through Dance

Chaz Bonnar, 24, shares his story so far, which has led to him using dance and the creative arts to “educate youth about positive health and wellbeing”.

A lot has changed for me over the last 10 years. Even though I came from a good area of Glasgow and had a good childhood, I still had my own issues to overcome, many of which stemmed from having poor self-esteem and zero confidence as a teenager.

During my formative years I found it difficult to make friends. To go out to places and meet new people proved difficult. On top of that I had no way to express the frustration I was feeling at the time.

That was until I came across Breaking (proper name for Breakdance) and Hip Hop culture at the age of 15. At first I saw it as something cool to do in my spare time – which I had a lot of! Then as the years went by I became attached to it and saw it as a great way to express myself.

Through involvement in Hip Hop culture it became easier to make new friends and embrace the positive lifestyle that came with that. From there, I’ve travelled a lot to attend Breaking events and become friends with people from all over the world.

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Photo by Sasha Lee Photography and used with permission

At first dance was a hobby. It wasn’t until early 2015 that I saw myself making my income from it. I left university with an Honours degree in 2014, having no idea about what I wanted to do for work. After I left university, I was awarded a Travelling Fellowship from Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, which allowed me to travel around America for 8 weeks – learning about community engagement, organising outreach projects and how Breaking + Hip Hop culture affects young people from deprived backgrounds.

I learned a lot about myself and gained a better understanding of the importance of continuous learning. The outcome of this Travelling Fellowship was a positive one. Solidifying my lifestyle choice to engage with dance and Hip Hop culture full-time.

All I could think of were the positive attributes of engaging with dance and Hip Hop culture. It gave me confidence and helped me to develop better social skills. In essence it’s made me the person I am today. If I wanted to keep this amazing feeling I get from dance, and Hip Hop culture, I would need to keep it a top priority in my life.

Having this in mind came with its issues. I would have people tell me I need to be more realistic about my career choice. That it’s difficult to make a good income through dance. In ways, they were telling me the truth, because I’ve heard of many people struggling with this. All you heard of were the problems they had. Including the sacrifices they made and the long hours of teaching/performing they needed to do to get by.

Then again, there’s always sacrifices to be made for whatever you do. Especially if you’re going to give 100% to make it work. Plus, there’s always somebody to ask you if it’s worth all the effort. It is – if it’s what makes you feel great. The personal association you have to your work is always a motivating factor.

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Photo by Joan Elliot and used with permission

What makes everything even better is having the support of your closest friends and family members too. With their support you can do anything. Luckily I have amazing support from my friends and family. They encourage me to travel as much as I do and live the life I want. It’s how I’ve arrived at the point I’m at right now.

I’m able to educate youth about positive health and wellbeing, through Breaking and Hip Hop culture, and make it my full-time income, as well as making Breaking and Hip Hop culture more accessible through various events and community projects.

From this I personally believe everybody has the capability to live the life they want. It allows you to stay feeling great everyday of your life. Truth be told, it takes a lot of your time and energy to make it work, including long hours and a lot of persistence. However, it feels nothing like work and the rewards you get from it makes it all worthwhile.

We need more people, especially young people, living meaningful lives with their passions; otherwise we have more people complaining about their work. We already have too many people doing that!

It also takes a certain level of belief in yourself. To decide this is what you’re going to do and give 100% conviction to it. There’s always going to be people that challenge what you’re doing. As long as you’re doing what makes you happy and fulfilled, you’re on the right path.

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Photo by Stevie Reilly and used with permission

Chaz is a dancer and filmmaker, who also organises international dance events and collaborates with other youth organisations.    You can find Chaz’s report on wcmt.org.uk and follow him on Twitter, @ChazB.

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