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Dancer Simmons inspired by late father

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Since the death of his father two years ago, Malachi Simmons has been devoting himself wholeheartedly to dance.

The 20-year-old just recently finished his second year of performing arts study at Edgehill University in Lancashire, UK.

He, along with the other members of his school’s all male dance company Edge FWD, were also handed a Chancellor’s Award for their work in promoting dance in the community.

He said his father Kent Simmons’ death taught him a lot about life and the importance of using his gift to inspire others.

The young dancer said: “One of the greatest things my dad taught me was to reach out to as many people as you can because at his funeral the whole entire church was full and there were people standing up, half of them I didn’t even know.

“It was crazy to see how many people he reached out to. He wasn’t famous or rich, he was a person who had a passion for life.”

Mr Simmons has since dedicated himself to encouraging and inspiring as many people as possible through the arts. Through his contemporary dance group Edge FWD, directed by Debbie Milner, he has been able to visit schools and teach workshops on dance theatre.

One of the “biggest gifts” from this role is seeing young people recognise their love for the arts and bringing it out into full force, he said.

Established in 2010, Edge FWD serves to advocate on behalf of male dancers in the traditionally female-dominated realm of contemporary dance.

They are more than just performers and have become positive role models for a younger generation of boys.

Through the Chancellor’s Award the group was given £2,000, which they used to hire new choreographers, as well as travel to events and workshops.

After graduating next year Mr Simmons hopes to join a post graduate company in the UK; he’s also looking into the option of becoming a choreographer in Los Angeles.

But after gaining some experience overseas, Mr Simmons said his dream is to come back to Bermuda and promote performing arts on the Island.

He said: “I would really like to come back and, whether it’s teaching, choreography or opening my own school, I want to give young people the opportunities that I had.”

Mr Simmons had always been interested in the arts and started taking tap, hip hop and jazz classes at four years old.

He credits his mother Lauren Yelle-Simmons for pushing him by enrolling him in classes and signing him up for auditions when he ordinarily wouldn’t have been bothered.

He studied dance on and off in his younger years, but admittedly didn’t start taking his craft seriously until taking a hip-hop class at United Dance Productions — with Virgil Gadson, who performed on America’s Best Dance Crew.

“I think it was the energy of the class that resonated with me,” he said. “It felt like a family and you could laugh and be serious at the same time.

“I had never experienced that with dance before because it was always a class, but the structure of this one was laid back and you could take what you learned and experiment to do what you wanted.”

He didn’t start looking at dance as a possible career option until starting university. When he was younger he wanted to choose a career that would make him a lot of money, but he’s learned just to follow his passion and hopefully the wealth and success will find him.

He said the tragedies he’s experienced in life have taught him the importance of being positive. He encouraged young people to “never forget why you want to do something” and always strive to be the best you can be.

Although he is not always the most talented or flexible dancer in his class, he said he keeps striving to improve his performance.

Mr Simmons is currently trying to raise money to help him get through his final year of performing arts school in August.

Support and generosity from many people in the local community have taken him this far — including the Performing Arts Project, Chewstick, the National Dance Foundation, Leitner Foundation, BMDS, the Shakespeare Foundation, Dick Butterfield, John Campbell and Don Kramer and Gilbert and Sullivan Society.

He will be performing at radio station HOTT 1075’s ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ competition on June 1.

Anyone interested in supporting Mr Simmons can contact him by e-mail: msimmons1992@hotmail.com .

Bend it: Dancer Malachi Simmons (in white shirt in the back) is currently studying performing arts at Edgehill University in Lancaster, UK. (Photo credit: Nicola Selby Dance Photography)
Dancer Malachi Simmons is currently studying performing arts at Edgehill University in Lancaster, UK. (Photo credit: Nicola Selby Dance Photography)

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Published May 22, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated May 21, 2013 at 6:50 pm)

Dancer Simmons inspired by late father

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