Transitioning from a boarding school in Cameroon to a high school in East London, a brief stint at West Ham aged 16, dancing to impress girls and being noticed by Russell Maliphant, Dickson Mbi has had an interesting journey to get to where he is today. He sat down for a chat with Anthony Gray, our Senior Producer for Artist Development, to tell us more.
Anthony Gray (AG): So tell me how did you get into dancing?
Dickson Mbi (DM): I met a girl. She was going to Stratford Circus and invited me along. I just thought I need to impress her! There was a dance off, and I tried to do something to make people laugh and it worked. Then I went to Pineapple Studios which I found quite hard and ended up walking out. There was a group of guys outside doing popping, man when I saw these guys, the moves! That was the moment that changed my whole life forever. I would travel to Pineapple every Saturday to practise with these guys.
What came after Pineapple?
I met another girl, and she invited me to a contemporary dance class. I went along and they were like you’re a dancer? And I was like yeah mate I’ve got a name for myself. And he said can you touch your toes? I couldn’t…. I was told I need to go to a dance school. Can you imagine me telling my mum and dad I’m going to a dance school?!
And did you?
Yeah I went to audition at Lewisham College. I did my first ballet, contemporary and jazz classes. But then we came to improv. I knew how to do that, I did it every day. They put on a funk track and I was just dancing, everyone was looking at me! They offered me a place that day. But I had to quit my job, I thought who’s going to pay for this! I had no money man, those 2 years were the hardest years of my life. But it paid off, I went to The Place to do contemporary dance, and still travelling all over to popping competitions. Then Russell Malliphant took me out of The Place to train with his company.
Tell me about that! That’s crazy. How did that feel?
My popping crew did Breakin’ Convention where I met Jonzi D, he asked me to do ‘Freestyle Forum’ which is where Russell found me. I didn’t know who he was! I told The Place I’d been asked to join this company and they were like, you worked so hard to get here so you should stay until the end. Then I said it’s Russell Maliphant’s company. He sat me down and said you know who he is right? You should go! So I did.
How did Fiya House come about?
My crew also practised at Russell’s studio, and our classes would get 30-40 people as well which is how Fiya House sort of started. I used to pick up the kids and bring them to the class. It’s been a discipline to stop them getting into trouble. The crew itself is a collective of people who are my family, now you come to Fiya house it’s really big. People travel all over the world to come to us!
And that’s what you’re bringing up to Salford?
Yeah, a lot of guys travel from Manchester to come to London just for that Friday. So it’s an opportunity to bring it closer to them.
Dickson Mbi is bringing his piece ‘Duende’ to The Lowry on Sat 2 February, along with his Friday Fiya House the night before on 1 February. Tickets available here.