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The Twerkfit Revolution - Interview with Passionate Dance Entrepreneur Ann-Marie Fields

Happy Black History Month! This month we will bring you some great interviews with black female pioneers of the future and introduce you to some amazing black owned businesses that you can support!

We are proud to kick-start the month with this great interview with Ann-Marie Fields, Founder of Twerkfit UK, conducted by one of our wonderful female bloggers at She Inspired Her, Olivia Tuokila

Ann-Marie Fields is the Founder of the dance company Twerkfit, based in London, with various global clubs already launched in areas including Dubai and Australia!

Ann-Marie's background is filled with education. She has also worked vigorously within the arts industries, with TV appearances under her belt and work in numerous pop videos Fields has proven to have what it takes to build up a successful business from scratch.

The Twerkfit brand highlights the importance of diversity and the freedom to express one's self. There is also a strong focus on building confidence for the individual.

Twerkfit's classes; which are fun, interactive dance classes with a twerking twist, cater to and attract a wide range of people from all walks of life! From the varying teachers, to the different races, genders, and ages taking part, it is clear for all to see that Twerkfit UK is fast growing into a community of beautiful diverse people, sharing their love for dance.

We had the chance to get up-close and personal with Ann-Marie Fields this Black History Month to find out more about her journey!

Here is the interview via SheInspiredHer.com

Olivia: How did you develop the idea which led to the start of your company? 

Ann-Marie Fields: Twerkfit comes under my overall company, which is Creative Fields, and Creative Fields initially started as offering dance classes to young people who had low-income families, or couldn't really afford to go to dance schools and have dance training that way.

So it was more of an idea to be able to give dance classes and dance training at low-cost, and I started in a primary school initially, in South London, who had around 82-83% black children, and I started with ballet classes.

I brought ballet classes to young black children, and it was so that young black girls could do ballet with somebody teaching them that looked like them, and that was very, very, important to me.

It was an overwhelming response. 

To be honest, Twerkfit came (from) a really flippant comment that I made to my husband which was a bit of a joke. Then I sat there for about 10 minutes and thought about this joke that I made, and realised I might be onto something. So I then sat up until about 4am in the morning, figuring out what I would call it, how I would structure it, will it be a typical exercise class or a dance class, can I merge the two… and that's how I developed the idea.

Once I finalised the name and said "yeah, this is a good name", I trademarked it, and that was the first thing I did. Because I am a dance teacher, and I know that sometimes how you execute movements are not similar. I worked with a PT called Martino Abalino, and things that I would do as a dancer, I'd go "can I do this?" and she would go, "no, as a fitness person you probably wouldn't do that." 

So I worked out a plan on how this idea would look, and then I worked with a personal trainer on how I can develop the exercises. 

Olivia: Describe how a day in the Twerkfit studio would look? 

Ann-Marie Fields: It's not a typical day. Twerkfit runs over several different studios, so a typical day could vary from several classes, to just one or two classes, a personal training twerk session, private classes, group classes... There is no typical day, as there are different classes in different places.  

Olivia: Did anyone in particular inspire you to choose this career path, and if not, where did the inspiration come from? 

Ann-Marie Fields: My chosen career path was to dance, and (to) be a performer, and then it kind of went off in a different direction, which is the way it is. I did spend a good chunk of my youth as a dancer, as a performer, and I still teach and choreograph now.

One of my biggest inspirations was Debbie Allen. Debbie Allen was the dance teacher in the movie Fame, or if you've ever seen Fame the series, which was a TV series in the 80's.  I was a child and used to love to watch her move. The way this woman moved used to give me chills, used to bring tears to my eyes, and I'm talking like a 8-9 year old child watching a black woman move so elegantly, so beautifully, with so much feeling. I absolutely loved her. Then I remember I used to watch the Oscars, and loved to watch the Oscar opening ceremonies because I knew that she choreographed them. So, I think she inspired me to dance, and to want to dance, and I'm sure she has inspired many, many people to dance.

If I ever met her I would probably cry my eyes out. Debbie Allen is the person who inspired me to dance. 

Olivia: What are your sources of motivation? 

Ann-Marie Fields: I have daily affirmations. They really motivate me in keeping going, keeping forward, and believing in myself. I also turn to my husband, I think he's one of my biggest cheerleaders and one of my biggest motivators. He really, really believes in me, even at times when I don't believe in myself. I have lost belief in myself… I'm lacking belief in myself should I say. 

Also, my sources of motivation are the people that I teach. I never thought in my life that it would work out like that for me. I honestly thought I was going to be a performer until I was 106 years old. I never thought of going through, and going towards the teaching part, and when I did… the people you reach, the people you touch, the confidence you can give them just through your teachings, is something that really sticks with me.

When you see somebody that had the lack of confidence, that would say, "I can never get on stage," and you work with them, and that day they get up on the stage and they shine, and they come off stage and they are like, "Oh my god, I want to do it again," that moment motivates me. That motivates me to keep going, that what I'm doing is right, what I'm doing is where I need to be.

People that I teach, clients, students, they are my motivation. 

Olivia: What changes have you experienced, concerning being an entrepreneur during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Ann-Marie Fields: The pandemic has shaken us all, and if you are an entrepreneur, a small business owner, a medium-large business owner during this pandemic, I'm sure it has been quite difficult.

The changes that I experienced (was) not being able to be in a studio. I found that really, really, really difficult. I didn't realise how difficult I found it until I had to learn how to teach class online. That was probably the quickest turn-around, in changing the way that I deliver something, that I have never done in my entire life. It was literally a 24/48 hour turn around.

Learning how to use zoom, learning how to get optimum sound, learning how to get optimum picture, putting a schedule online, getting some of my instructors involved... I had to learn all this information to be able to be online because we couldn't be in a studio, and obviously not lose our client base because we are not offering classes. So that was the biggest change. 

Then it was; how do I adapt? How do I adapt long term, what can I do long term. Then I could sit down and think about it, and plan it out… try to set some goals for myself because it's been sporadic.

I think the fitness industry (and) the dance industry, have been hit the hardest because we cannot be in the studio. If we are in the studio it's only 4-6 people or something like that depending on your size, and the two meter distance, and your square box that you have to have on the floor. That is my biggest concern of being an entrepreneur during COVID, and how can we keep delivering, keep being fresh, how do we keep our client base has been quite concerning. Retaining clients, because now you're online. We are now in a world where; "I can choose 1,000,000 things that I could be doing, why am I still coming to your classes?"  It has been really difficult but we got there, and w worked well. 

Olivia: Are there any skills you have learned as a dancer, that you feel you have brought into your day-to-day life? 

Ann-Marie Fields: Always keep going, no matter what. Keep going. Keep consistent. When you're a dancer, if you're not working you're going to class. You're keeping fit, you're working on your technique, you attend class because you've got the "use it or lose it" kind of thing.

So you have to be consistent with constantly going to class, whether it's a ballet class, contemporary class, pilates class. So I think that bringing that consistency into my day-to-day life has been key. The discipline that you have to have as a dancer. I feel that I have brought into my day-to-day life (and) the motivation that you have to give yourself, because there is no one out there honey telling you you're good, so you're your own cheerleader.  Constantly. Especially if you're going to audition after audition, and not getting any work. You're still giving yourself that, "Ok I'm good, I'm good, I am good," so that constant motivation that you have to give yourself, and that constant reassurance, those are the things I've taken in as a dancer. 

Olivia: Career-wise, what will your next step be?

Ann-Marie Fields: I'm working on something at the moment with Crystxl King and another dancer and choreographer called Dominick Spin. I don't want to divulge, but i'm really excited about that project, and that will take my career on a little bit of a different path. 

Another step that I'm taking, is I'm slowly moving across into the fitness world from being in the dance world. I'm finding it very interesting, learning the fitness side of things, and what I've decided is that I am going to take my movement, and take these ideas, and apply them to older people, over 50. Specifically black people over 50. I am going to develop movement and keeping active programs for them, because we are the second to lowest ethnic group that post-50 don't do a lot of keeping active in the UK. It is something that I want to challenge.

The way that I feel that I can challenge that is by bringing a little seasoning to the equation. That is where I am going now. I want to work on these programs with black Africans, black Caribbeans, black British, and highlight the need to stay active. Highlight the need to keep in some kind of exercise routine in their daily lives. It doesn't have to be too strenuous, debunk some myths that are surrounding exercise and keeping active.

Olivia: What is your favourite aspect of your job? 

Ann-Marie Fields: Creating! Creating, creating, creating. I cannot stress how amazing it feels when you have this tiny little idea in your head and then it becomes something that is your vision. That is probably one of the best things, something I love. In my brain I had a dance piece that I would really love to do, really love to create, and I sat there and thought about it. For 6-8 years this dance piece was at the back of my head, and then one day I had this opportunity where I was choreographing something and then going, "Oh my god, I can use that piece!" That tiny little piece that sat in the back of my head for 6-8 years, finally became a dance piece, and those are some of the best aspects of my job, being able to create these things in my head that come to life and people love, or enjoy, or were moved by. It's the joys of being an artist I guess. 

Olivia: What are your main goals for the future as an entrepreneur in this industry? 

Ann-Marie Fields: My main goals for the future, if I'm 100% honest is to get (the black) community moving. I mean from young black children having black teachers that can teach them. I want black ballet teachers, black contemporary teachers, that we are not stuck in this genre of commercial dance, street dance, or things like that. That is one of my goals. To make sure young black people have role models in the industry, such as myself that look like them, that are them, that can do this dance and teach them. 

My second main goal is to debunk and challenge the hypersexualization of twerking and let people understand the origins of twerk, let them understand that it's not just a fad, that it is a serious cultural dance, also that it has a history, and where that history has come from. It is a dance technique of its own, because it is difficult. I'm not saying it's up there with your contemporaries and your ballets, and your popping and locking, but it's technical and that's what I've found. 

My third area is to get my people, moving, exercising, and keeping active. Those are my goals for the future. 

Olivia: The 'Dance Against Racism Day' is a great initiative. What was your thought process when planning this project, and did you face any challenges along the way? 

Dance Against Racism Day came off the back of everything that happened with Black Lives Matter. It came out of a conversation. I was having a conversation with a friend, and I was like "You know what we should do, something online - an online event where people come together, they move and they dance." We raised money for a charity, because I felt like I had to do something. There were a lot of things going on, a lot of chat, there was a barrage of things coming from the media, whether it's social media, whether you're reading it in articles, whether it's on TV… it was just a barrage of stuff. 

In the wake of George Floyd's death, and people realising the extent of racism they wouldn't have normally known, I personally put out some of my own stories of racism in the UK, racism in London, and that I had experienced. I wanted to take this energy and put it towards a positive. So I worked with a couple of fellow dance choreographers, they run their own dance company. We came up with this day where we would have three zoom streams, and there would be a different class every hour. You could pay £10.00 for the day or make a bigger donation if you wanted to, and raise money. We contacted a ton of teachers, slotted them into different slots, gave them a load of information on how to log on, get the best video and sound, etc. We had 3 classes an hour. The charity that we chose was the Stephen Lawrence trust. We raised over 2000 pounds in that one day. It was just amazing. 

I think the challenge we faced was the time. When I first initially thought about it, to the date that we chose, we had three weeks. So we had to work very, very quickly, and at that time it was like; how do we get it out there? Who do we get it to? It was constantly working really, really fast. That was the biggest challenge that we faced, but the day ran well and people really enjoyed it. That was the most important thing; bringing people together, from all races, all colours, and just dance.

Let's celebrate together, let's stand up together and use dance as our medium for standing up, for resistance. 

Olivia: How did you go about the marketing of 'Dance Against Racism Day,' and which tactics did you find to be most successful? 

Ann-Marie Fields: The marketing was very slap-dash if I'm honest. Because it was such a quick turn-around initially, we were like; alright, ok, let's post. Most of our marketing was on social media, and we used Instagram and Facebook to get the word out there. Also, we used EventBrite, as that is where you purchased your tickets. Then people shared, other companies shared our information and charities themselves. We did two different charities last year and they also posted. 

Tactics which I find most successful, I think posting and re-posting, people sharing, and people contacting friends and sharing, that was our successful tactic. When people saw what it was, the amount of shares that we got was huge. 

What are your top 3 tips for women aiming for a successful career in the dance industry?

Ann-Marie Fields: Believe in yourself. You're gonna need a lot of that. You're gonna need a lot of belief in yourself, because the dance industry is not nice. Believe in yourself and your ability, you are gonna be your biggest cheerleader, and you need to be your biggest cheerleader. 

Secondly, go to class. Don't stick with one style because you like that style. Get your ballet classes in, get your contemporary classes in, get your body conditioning classes in, layer your foundation. Make sure your foundation is strong. Even classes that you don't particularly like. Don't stick to your commercial class, or your heels class, if that's what you love, great. Learn, because the more versatile you are as a dancer, the more work you can put yourself up for.

Learn some other skills. Sing. Learn to sing, learn to act, get some other classes in there, under your belt. If you can, play a musical instrument. Make sure you're great at it. Go to singing lessons. Go to acting lessons. You can take yourself in so many different directions, I think that is one of the things that helped me. I came from acting initially and went into musical theatre, and really focused on dance. But then I could go back to my musical theatre, or my acting side, when I needed to. It will help. It will help you get west-end jobs and those consistent pay checks. Invest. Invest, invest, invest in yourself. 

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Interview by Olivia Tuokila at She Inspired Her

Article by Crystal Emmanuel

The Twerkfit Revolution - Interview with Passionate Dance Entrepreneur Ann-Marie Fields The Twerkfit Revolution - Interview with Passionate Dance Entrepreneur Ann-Marie Fields Reviewed by Crystal Emmanuel on 12:05 Rating: 5

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