CBBC’s dance new talent show Taking the Next Step follows young UK dancers as they audition for the opportunity to win a guest role in the successful dance show, The Next Step. The series judging panel consists of industry experts, Kimberly Wyatt (Pussy Cat Dolls singer and professional dancer), Lindsey Russell (Blue Peter), John Partridge (EastEnders and West End actor), and Simeon Qsyea (choreographer).
Dubbed ‘choreographer to the stars’ Simeon has worked with many artists including Pink, Dizzee Rascal, Will.i.am, Pink, JLS and he featured on the BBC TV show, So You Think You Can Dance. He also expresses great versatility and participates in a range of creative activities, his short film, Shade featuring Lamar Johnson from the hit Canadian Show, The Next Step has recently been accepted into several film festivals.
Hi Simeon welcome to TBB… How did you start your career as a choreographer and more importantly turn it into a successful career?
I started choreographing the same time I got into dancing at 18 years old. I combined my martial arts background and dance and that started my journey. I always had an urge to create, and then hunger made me really focus on what being a choreographer really is. I understood that anyone could put steps together but choreography is more than that – it’s the study of space and movement and I constantly wanted to know more. Once I knew I wanted to create only and not dance, it was easier as I could spend all my time creating and putting my work in small shows, festivals etc. This hard work was eventually seen by important people and led to directors, producers and agencies taking a chance on the new guy.
Is it difficult to define yourself as the ‘go to’ choreographer in what appears to be a very competitive field?
Yes, I believe that my consistency of putting out high-end work has defined me as the “real deal”. All of the work I book is based on word of mouth.
You’ve worked with many big names in the entertainment world. Is there any particular artist that you would like to work with in the future? If so why?
I would love to work with Erykah Badu, I know she never has dancers but her music is so powerful, it really touches me and I see what I could do for her creatively on her stage or Arena shows.
I’ve noticed you are a man of many talents including being a filmmaker, visual-artist, photographer and editor too, how were you able to channel all this creativity and define your talents?
I like to create, so along the way I picked up skills that all started out as hobbies, but I also saw this as a great opportunity to help BirdGang Dance Company along its journey. So what started out as hobbies soon turned into additional professions. I remember when I started getting phone calls/emails from people who didn’t want my choreographic skills, instead they wanted to see if I was available to direct a music video or shoot a model for fashion magazine etc… That was weird for me when I noticed the change.
Which skill do you align with most / find the ‘easiest’ to execute?
That’s hard as they all blur. Although I have skills in these forms I actually listen to my instinct on all my decisions (unless the client wants other). I pick my instinctive feeling over technique 80% of the time. It feels like an energy in my body and I just need to listen. A lot of the time I know the answer to an equation and I find it easy to solve, whether it’s looking at a shot, choreographing a duet or composing music. If it doesn’t feel right I know there’s a problem and then I try my hardest to cut out the noise (others’ opinions, the norm, what’s in fashion…) and really listen to myself to solve it.
Tell us about your new show, Taking The Next Step on CBBC?
Working on Taking the Next Step has been an amazing experience. At this time in my life it feels right to be on the judging panel, and it’s nice to sit behind a desk. I often get asked to judge competitions up and down the country but I’m not really interested unless I believe that the competition in question really helps the dancer(s). This competition does all that and more and the team behind it is really great. The Next Step is such a big show, so to be a part of that family with Taking the Next Step is really cool, plus my God Daughter loves the show.
What is it like being on Taking the Next Step’s judging panel?
It’s fun, crazy, silly, emotional but hard work and real. I have formed some genuine friendships especially with John Partridge and Kimberly Wyatt. We made real decisions and when we disagreed we had to find a way to go forward.
Without any spoilers can you tell us about any dancers we should look out for?
Hmm no. I love them all.
With the contestants being of a young age, how difficult was it saying ‘no’; how do you and the panel manage emotions and expectations…?
We had to be honest as it’s something the entire panel felt strongly about. But we also had to take into consideration the occasion and that this could make and break hearts. We are all softies really but we are professionals and had to a walk a fine line.
Where are you most comfortable, in front of or behind the camera?
Both, but I love being behind the camera more as I can see how things should be done (I often take over as director on many of my choreographic jobs, but only when I see they need help). But what a lot of people don’t know is that I was a child actor from 6 years old and spent 12 years of my life doing acting in theatre and TV, so I like that side too. Plus, I’m from a big family of artists who love to tell jokes, stories and improvise.
How was it working on the hit show, So You Think You Can Dance?
It was scary at first as the show is so big. At that time, I had recently stopped working with JLS and was eager to try new things and this came at a perfect time.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
Inspiring people. One instance was when a group of 9-16 year olds came up to me in Poland after a workshop and showed their appreciation; it was an eye watering moment. It was around 2007 and international dance workshops only just started kicking off in Poland. These dancers weren’t exposed to much apart from the internet and I could see in their faces they really appreciated it. They just wanted to hug, sit with me at lunch or jam in a freestyle circle. I ended up giving away half of my t-shirts and even costume-made BirdGang Dance hats.
Give us three tips for a budding choreographer…
1. Work out why you want to choreograph. Unfortunately, some of the new generation want the fame and to me that’s not what should drive a choreographer.
2. Challenge yourself, don’t do the same thing over and over, be daring and make mistakes.
3. Watch, go out there and expose yourself to all forms of art, even things you think you might not like. You are forever learning and being inspired, fill your brain up with knowledge and educate yourselves within the arts and outside it.
If you could have choreographed any iconic routine which would it have been?
That’s a hard one. I think, Held by Australian Dance Theatre or, Rosas Danst Rosas by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.
It’s been a pleasure Simeon, thank you for your insightful interview.
Taking the Next Step, CBBC’s brand new dance talent show, follows young UK dancers as they audition for the opportunity of a lifetime – the chance to win an amazing guest role in the hit dance show, The Next Step.
Taking the Next Step airs on CBBC Mondays at 16:30, and on catch-up via BBC iPlayer