Former Christchurch tradie is now a full-time dancer
Two years ago, Nel Robinson announced to the world that she was a dancer.
She quit her day job as a painter and concrete placer, in a move to take her street dance skills to the community.
"I knew I wanted to do something else, so 'boom', off I went."
Robinson, who moved to New Zealand from Britain 10 years ago, has launched her non-profit organisation, Terra Street Dance.
Through her school, she wants to take street dance, which embodies hip hop, body popping and break dancing, into primary schools, youth groups and community centres.
"I teach students about the fundamentals of teamwork and the impact of positivity and encouragement. I connect with parents and teachers and I do believe I send a strong message to our local youth."
It is a huge leap of faith for the former tradie, who juggled rebuild work around singing and DJ-ing gigs.
At the age of nine, Robinson had her first taste of dance when she copied moves from an Usher music video.
She would spend hours at a time, practising in front of her bedroom mirror, perfecting moves and learning new ones from You Tube videos.
"I would watch and repeat and then move on to the next one."
In her mid teens, she took her dancing beyond the confines of her bedroom.
"I was quite shy. I didn't think I was good enough. I was scared about what people would say."
For years, Robinson had been known as the "girl with the accent". Dancing helped bring about a new kind of attention.
"It gave them something else to talk about."
The 22 year-old says she is now driven by her belief in bringing communities together and giving children something "cool to look forward to".
"The thing that makes me motivated is the children. I get to see children move, progress and be better."
Her "plan of attack" is to have a network of 100 schools she can teach her street dance to, alongside exercises in team work and self belief. She expects classes to cost as little as $5 a week, and 50 per cent of the funds raised will go back in to the community by way of fundraising dance events, including discos or extra tuition days.
"It's about bringing communities together."
The dancer will initially teach in community centres and in six months' time, hopes to be operating out of her own studio.
While there is no shortage of dance schools in Canterbury, Robinson says there is a gap for body popping – which is characterised by creating fluid and robotic illusions with the body.
Her classes are held at Latin Addiction studios, 573 Colombo St, and Waltham Cottage, 201 Hastings St East.
For more information about Terra Street Dance visit its website.
- The Press