February 08, 2012
As Part of Sternberg Clarke's Dance Month, we're turning the spotlight onto some of the best dancers and dance acts in order to promote dance at corporate events. To help us do this, we're going to be talking to some of our favourite "dance folk" to get their opinion on how dance works best at an event and generally find out more about the life of a professional dancer.
First up is Tommy Franzen, who some readers may be familiar with from his appearance on BBC One's So You Think You Can Dance where he finished Runner-Up. Tommy is a skilled performer able to work across multiple disciplines as well as a talented choreographer - who better to ask about dance in the events industry?
Hi Tommy, how are you?
I’m great. Thanks for asking!
How would you best describe what you do?
I’m a dancer and a choreographer. When people ask me what kind of dancer I am I prefer to just say dancer. I’m jack of all trades and if I was to say that I’m a hip hop dancer or contemporary dancer then I’ve automatically pigeonholed myself and I like to keep myself open to all possibilities.
How did you get in to Dance and was there anyone in particular who inspired you to become a dancer?
Back in Sweden I watched my sister and her teacher do streetdance and I immediately got inspired. There was an American guy called David Johnson who opened up a dance school in Sweden, I was put in class and I soon realised that I had a knack for it. A few years later I did a musical and then that opened me up to Jazz and Tap as well. After 5 years of doing musicals in Sweden I moved to London to continue my dance studies at The Urdang Academy.
What are the challenges of performing for a Corporate audience compared to, say a show like ‘Some Like It Hip Hop’ or your on ccreen work in movies and commercials?
In a corporate environment the audience are generally a lot of fun. Partly because they’ve had a few drinks already and in a real party mood but regardless of that a dance performance always seems hit the spot. They are always very appreciative and become inspired to dance themselves for the rest of night. In most cases the energy in the room is a bit scattered so you just have to make sure the show is easy to watch and is entertaining. In the theatre for example you have the audience’s attention from the start and you can take a bit more time with a story or something like that.
In movies and commercials however every second of film is so expensive and precious so your have to be prepared to do lots and lots of work and be lucky if only three seconds made it into the final cut.
How was the experience of appearing in ‘So You Think You Can Dance’? Has it boosted your profile in the Corporate Market?
Yes it definitely has. I now have interest from the Corporate Market to book me as ‘Tommy Franzen’ rather than as a dancer amongst other dancers.
What’s the strangest ‘space’ you’ve had to work in?
I once had to perform on a platform attached on top of some electrical vehicle in a big warehouse. There were tracks on the floor it followed but every now and then it would suddenly stop without warning. That always used to throw me off balance but after a while I kind of learned where it did those stops. It is a quite vague memory though as it was sometime when I had just started dancing many years ago.
You perform in a number of different disciplines like Contemporary Dance, break-dance and Hip-Hop – is there one in particular that you find most satisfying?
I love them all. I just have to make sure I get a good balance of all of them by doing diverse jobs. That seems to keep me the most entertained and satisfied. In some cases it’s about staying true to the style and in other cases it’s about moulding the styles together. That it two completely different kind of challenges but that’s what makes it so much fun for me.
As someone who’s known for being such a versatile performer, do skills or techniques from one style of dance carry across into others?
In many cases I suppose the answer would be “yes, but not always.” For example I don’t see any link between ballet and breaking techniques but contemporary techniques seem to help both my ballet and breaking. These days when it’s starting to become more usual to bridge different styles and it’s become advantageous to train in different disciplines.
Having worked on adverts for companies such as Pepsi, Nike and SanDisk; how do you use dance to embody the identity of a product or brand?
That depends on the brief from the director of the advert and how they want you to represent the product. In the Nike advert they wanted me to be a hard-core bboy type whilst in the SanDisk one I was a geek that could dance. In the Pepsi Max however I was doing more physical acting but in all of the adverts I always had to give it my all.
Where can people see you perform next?
I’m working with the Russell Maliphant Company at the moment and we’ve got a show on called The Rodin Project. We are touring parts of Europe this spring but will be coming to Sadler’s Wells later on in October 2012. Also in the autumn another show I’m part of called Some Like It Hip Hop will be revived so I’m very likely to be performing in that one as well.
Anything else you’d like to plug?
I will be at the Move It! exhibition this year at Olympia 9-11th March 2012 with a stand selling merchandise and speaking to anyone who wants talk about future projects, discuss business ideas or just want to know more about me.