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Work Life: Teneisha Bonner, dancer


Teneisha Bonner, 31, is a contemporary, hip-hop and modern dancer. She lives in east London with her flatmate and fellow dancer, Carrie-Anne

"I get up at 8am so I’ve got time for a good breakfast before I head to the studio. For me, it’s the most important meal of the day – if I don’t eat enough, I’ll feel drained by 11am – so I’ll have porridge, bananas and some scrambled eggs for protein.

I’m a freelance dancer, so rehearsals can be anywhere from Pineapple Studios in Covent Garden to Danceworks near Bond Street. At the moment I’m in rehearsals for Some Like It Hip Hop at Sadler’s Wells’ Peacock Theatre, so I’ll jump on the tube to the studio in Kensington for 10am. We do a half-hour warm-up before starting an intense morning session, going over the choreography for each scene step by step.

The life of a dancer is a painful one. We put our bodies through so much – we dance for eight hours a day performing taxing breakdance moves which require a lot of strength – it really does hurt. As I’ve got older I’ve started to feel it a lot more and my body doesn’t heal as quickly as it should, so it’s important that I take care of myself. I make sure I recover from a hard day with a bath filled with Epsom Salts, and a couple of hours stretching in front of the TV. I’ll put on a film or a few episodes of Friends – having something to focus on distracts my attention from the pain of the stretching.

We take a break from rehearsals for lunch. I love cooking so I’ll usually bring food in: salmon, trout or roasted chicken wings with cous cous. I would never go on a diet. I eat what I want and give my body whatever it needs. Then we’ll spend the afternoon in more gruelling rehearsals.

I actually came to dancing quite late – I only starting focusing on it as a career option at about 15. But I always loved it as a hobby. I grew up obsessed with Dirty Dancing. I was completely in love with Patrick Swayze. I taped the film off the telly and watched it every morning before school. When I decided it was what I wanted to do, I auditioned for the Brit School, where Adele and Amy Winehouse also studied, and was lucky enough to get in at sixth form. It was the best two years of my life.

My first big commercial job was on Kylie Minogue’s Showgirl tour. It was amazing but it was sadly cut short when she was diagnosed with cancer. We’d just arrived in Australia and we had to fly all the way home. Everyone was devastated, but Kylie’s a tough cookie and I’ve worked with her since on her X tour. I worked with Take That on their Progress tour, too. They had a huge sculpture of a man standing in the middle of the audience; we were suspended from the ceiling and had to fly about with waterfalls cascading over us. There was a great sense of camaraderie with the band. Gary Barlow would even host bingo nights between performances but instead of money we’d play for chocolate or a bottle of wine.

Last year I was also one of the ‘captains’ for the Olympic closing ceremony. We had to help the director Kim Gavin and train the volunteers for the show. I had no idea it was going to be so challenging. Some people are just not as co-ordinated as others. I got frustrated and found it really draining. But I learned a lot about patience, a skill that I can apply to learning dance moves that seem almost impossible.

On an average rehearsal day we’ll finish at 6pm. But on a performance day, we don’t start work until 5.30pm. We’ll have a quick catch-up with the choreographers and director before warming up and getting ready for curtain up at 7.30pm. After the show I’ll head home and eat. I’m not one of those people who thinks you can’t eat late at night. I’ve been known to fry eggs at 3am. But normally I’ll have something like fish and take some vitamins and Berocca, before heading to bed at 11.30pm."

Some Like It Hip Hop is at the Peacock Theatre, London, WC2A; 3 May-30 June; from £12; sadlerswells.com



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