Q&A With Tracy Dennis
Tracy Dennis is a bit of a powerhouse when it comes to the entertainment industry.
After buildingoodles of experience as a professional dancer, she turned her hand to choreography before founding the hugely successful IT Girls. Acting as Creative Director for The IT Girls as well as an independent choreographer, it’s fair to say she’s busier than ever! We took the opportunity to catch up with the British born choreographer about being a ‘Girl Boss’, the creation of ‘The Super IT Girl’ and how cabaret can help save the rainforest and support feminism.
'Girl boss' seems to be a phase increasingly used to describe women in business? What's your take on the term??
Of course we are all in charge of ourselves to a certain extent, some days I choose a Mars bar over a banana, and that’s my choice as I’m the boss of myself & my body. And PS. speaking only for myself a Mars bar is always a good idea!
In the workplace however, I need to function as a boss in an entirely different way. But being a boss to me is not about ordering people around. I work with some of the best international artists London has to offer, they of course have great ideas and I love to listen to and incorporate their ideas into the choreography, medleys or harmonies. The shows we create are so varied, listening to the suggestions of dancers, vocalists and musicians is vital to create an exceptional product. So when someone says to me “but your the boss, right?”; I answer yes, but in order to let creativity flow and get the best outcome, you need
teamwork and equal ground in the workspace. As long as there is respect for what we are all working towards and each other, then you have got a pretty magical recipe to put on an amazing show.
As for referring to myself as a ‘Girl boss’, I think I would only occasionally use the phrase on my social as a hashtag. I’m a boss with or without the prefix of ‘Girl’ and proud of it
What do you love most about what you do?
When It comes to my profession, the performing arts is definitely where I belong, I love being surrounded by talented, creative, like-minded people. It’s where I thrive the most as an artist and am happiest.
But when you have been in a profession for a very long time it's like a relationship, and as with any relationship you need to work at it. There will be good times, the “never in your wildness dreams” amazing times, but there will also be challenging times.
Have I ever thought the grass would be greener? Of course I have, everybody does. Does it mean I would leave the industry altogether? Definitely not! I feel lost when I’m not working in the industry, I love the creative process and the buzz of putting on a show. It’s not everything I am, (I’m also a mum to the most gorgeous little boy) but my profession helps me identify with who I am as a person and that’s why it’s worth all the work.
We’ve heard you talk about “Super It Girls” in the past, it even inspired one of your costume designs. But what makes a woman ‘super’ in your opinion?
Firstly, I’m a big believer that women are equal to men, so while I think women are super, they are definitely some super men out there as well.
Those red costumes were about trying to incorporate the power, dedication and grace of what makes a super woman. They were also an attempt to achieve a timeless yet current look, which is a quality I strive to constantly create.
But if I think about what makes a woman super, especially in a performing arts setting, this year’s Super Bowl performance with Shakira and J-LO was a fantastic example. Just 2 women in there 40’s & 50’s at the top of their game, absolutely rocking it and looking incredible.
There was also a timeless dynamic that I love seeing in the choreography of dance. The all female cast of dancers performing with J-LO looked like one awesome tribe of females and was visually, so so powerful. Then Shakira, with an all male cast of dancers contrasted this perfectly, with striking visuals that gave me goosebumps. This type of performance can be traced back through classics like Westside Story, Grease and Mary Poppins. It’s great to see that even with all high tech visuals, timeless choreography was at the heart of the performance and key to making it shine, were 2 super women, confident in their skills, their bodies and their ability to carry one of the most watched shows in the world!
Do you consider yourself a feminist?
Yes. And I now realise I have always been a feminist without really knowing too much about the movement. Like most women in 2020, we’re more aware about the new wave of Feminism and are all striving to build on Feminism’s legacy to be heard and listened to more than ever before. What I do find frustrating within Feminism however, is where women criticise our act because they feel in some way that seeing other women dancing is offensive, exploitative or old fashioned.
To give you an example. The IT Girls performed for a corporate event in 2017. As usual we had filled the dance floor with men and women having a great time dancing the night away to our professionally arranged show, complete with outstanding vocals and dance choreography. Unfortunately a few women took to Twitter during this event to say how they disapproved of The IT Girls. This
developed into a social media furore and escalated to the point where it featured in The Times newspaper and Woman’s Hour on Radio 4.
In the majority of cases, female audiences enjoy our act more than male audiences so not only did this come as a surprise to us, we actually felt bullied by, rather than supported by other women, which for me at least is not what a Feminism is about. The art of performing is to make the difficult look easy. I’m sure if these women that disapproved had more of an understanding of how much hard work and dedication goes into our art then they may not have judged a group of talented professional women so readily.
As a choreographer and Creative Director, where does your creativity come from?
We are all born naturally creative. We want to paint, draw, cook, dance and play. As a child we see a cardboard box and think what can I turn this into? A car ? A boat? We stare at the sky and make shapes out of the clouds we make up stories and our imagination is boundless. As we get older unfortunately that gets suppressed and I think the stress of every day life doesn’t help.
I believe the key to allowing the creative door to fly open again is to slow down, be still and find time for yourself, which as a mother and businesswoman is certainly a luxury these days! But when I do achieve these ‘still’ movements, I find my natural creativity pours out, and the ideas flow.
Of course this is only half of the battle, and I have found that no matter where you are in your life, be that in a 9-5,
working from home, or going through a quiet patch in your career it’s vital to remain optimistic, be motivated and have a belief in what you do if you want to make your ideas a reality.
How is cabaret helping the rainforests?
In the last couple of years I have been looking for some way to ‘give back’ and following a chance meeting with One Tribe back in December, I was given the opportunity to do so.
One Tribe work closely with a charity that helps the rainforests in the Peruvian Amazon. It’s my belief that Amazonia, the world largest tropical rainforest, is one of the human race’s greatest resources and we need to do something to protect it.
Therefore we’re giving the chance for IT Girl Cliental to help. Everybody can protect an acre of rainforest from just £5. It’s a fantastic cause and it’s something I’ll be talking to our clients about more frequently in the future so that we can make a real difference in the fright to protect the Amazon Rainforest.
Tell us about 'Sparkle Like you mean it! 'What is it?
My ‘Sparkle like you mean it!’ workshops are something I started a little while back. Essentially they are international dance workshops focussing on what people might also call dancing with feathers.
For me they are a great opportunity to share my passion and expertise with rising stars and other dancers, wherever they are in the world. I’ve found that those who attend have a lot of fun, but also leave with new technical skills which they can incorporate into other performances.
Everyone leaves happy, not least myself as I’ve found that I get a huge amount of pleasure out of teaching!
Why'd you think 1920's entertainment is still appearing in the 2020's?
So much has changed in 100 years but in entertainment, fashion and some music I feel we can’t help but look backwards for inspiration. Today of course we are bombarded with entertainment mediums, but there is something about twenties dance, flapper girls, tap and swing that has a timeless appeal, which will always resonate with audiences.
And while we are seeing more equality for women in 2020, let’s not forget how important the 1920s was in the changing role of women in society. Huge changes like the number of working women increasing by 25% because of the role they played in the workforce during the war. Or, thanks to the hard work of campaigners, achieving votes for women (can I get a #Amen ladies!) Flappers smoked in
public, were out dancing the new dances, and were more sexually liberated than ever before!
They were exciting times, and I feel that same excitement for women as we enter 2020.