Do Your Own Thing: Imogen

Name: Imogen Mansfield

Occupation: Dancer

How did you first develop a passion for what you do?

My mum took me to a ballet class when I was 3 and since then I have not stopped dancing and creating. I trained in ballet for many years, and it was all I knew. However, I found my passion for contemporary dance when I moved away from home to start professional full-time dance training.

What were you doing before?

Before I made the transition to contemporary dance, I was a very stubborn ballet dancer. I didn’t have an open mind and I was completely set that this is what I wanted to do. I was convinced that nothing else in the world would make me happy! My journey has taught me that you must have an open mind and heart, and embrace all the possibilities that come your way, as you never know what it could lead to.

What gave you the courage to step out and do your own thing?

During my second year of professional training, I developed a stress fracture in my lower leg which would mean I wouldn’t be able to dance on pointe for almost a year. This meant I was taking extra contemporary dance classes and becoming more and more interested and excited by the contemporary dance scene in London and Europe. In the end, it was almost a rebellion against my teachers and family, who told me it wasn’t possible, I wasn’t good enough, and I should stick with what I know – the ‘safe’ option.

What have been some of the struggles along the way?

I had a lot of catching up to do! In ballet, everything is so structured and there is a right and wrong in everything you do. Therefore, improvisation, floorwork and contact work were the biggest challenges at the start of this journey. However, they are now among my biggest strengths and what inspires and excites me the most, because I gave so much attention to developing myself in these areas. I have learnt that every experience in life has a lesson and a meaning, which is sometimes very difficult in the moment. However, when I reflect on the setbacks in my (still very early) career, for example my injury, they were leading me to a different, more fulfilling place.

What do you love about what you do?

I love connecting with other artists from around the world, and collaborating and learning from each other. This summer on the Greek island of Crete, dancers, musicians, physical theatre artists, photographers, and filmmakers from all around Europe and the US came together to create a series of improvised performances in the small village of Panormos. This project culminated in a photography portfolio and film led by Laurence Ellis, to be exhibited in Spring 2018 at the Carob Mill Cultural Centre, Panormos. This project helped me realise my passion for collaboration and connection between artists. Because of this, I am pursuing photography to expand my repertoire as an artist, leading to more connections and possibilities.

What’s made you feel proud of what you’ve achieved?

For me, being an artist is simply about creating something from nothing and sharing it. I am proud to be different, to be daring, to be a rebel, to create my own story. Sometimes this is scary and insecure, and people don’t understand or accept it. However, I know it is worth it, because it is what makes me feel alive, fulfilled, and connected.

What would you say to another woman contemplating doing her own thing?

You just have to start. Listen carefully to your intuition, act upon it, and it will take you to places you could never have dreamed of.

Do not be afraid to let go. Embrace your own messy, emotional, crazy journey.

How many “what if” moments have you had in your life? Don’t let there be another one.

The romance for me in the artistic pursuit is not the success or fame, it is in the story of doing it. Imogen Mansfield

Helen R loves words, running, dance, her dogs and yoga. For her, age really is just a number. She believes in living life to the full and adopting an attitude of gratitude.

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