Exclusive: Dancer Boy Oliver Wheeler
By definition dance is, “to move rhythmically to music, typically following a set sequence of steps.” The idea behind the Dancer Boy series is to get inspired by dance, and the men that inspire us through it. Arguably dance has been part of some of the most iconic performances in entertainment. From Britney to Michael Jackson. Chicago and The Lion King on stage. Inescapably dance has elevated itself from just a set sequence of steps; Dance inspires, amazes and affects emotion.
From a young kid copying the dance routines on television to now living the dancing dream, Oliver Wheeler has come a long way from the days performing in his kitchen. Having studied dance from the age of just sixteen, Oliver is constantly inspired by the expressiveness of dance. “Dance is a way of expression, it makes me feel enlightened and there are moments you can’t really put into words when you are performing, it’s a feeling of being alive and present, and that feeling is addictive,” says Oliver. Having now entered the real world of dance, enjoying many successes, there really was no better time to talk all things dance, fitness and performance with Oli and find out what’s been his biggest experiences so far.
So what made you want to become a dancer, what is it about dance you love, and how did you get started in the dance industry?
I was lucky, I have always known what I wanted to do. So from a very young age, I used to watch pop videos on TV and copied the dancers, made shows in my kitchen and performed them to my parents! My parents sent me to dance lessons held in the local village hall and that is where it all really began. Dance is a way of expression, it makes me feel enlightened and there are moments you can’t really put into words when you are performing, it’s a feeling of being alive and present, and that feeling is addictive. At the age of sixteen, I moved to London and trained at The London Studio Centre and began my intensive training in all aspects of dance, music and drama. From there I entered the ‘real world’ and forced my way into the dance industry, unknowingly that is where you learn the real lessons.
You’ve had some amazing jobs in dance, dancing for some of the UK’s biggest TV shows. Has there been any particular moment in dance that has stood out for you so far in your career and what makes that particularly special?
Every job has been a huge experience; I’ve never stopped learning on each job. College teaches you the dance technique but nothing prepares you for the fight in the industry, and how it actually works – that you have to workout for yourself! So from job one, you go in blind and just wing it! My first job was working on a TV game show series, I was 1 of 5 part of the resident ‘dance troop’ featured on the show. It was my first time in TV studio, performing in front of cameras and other dancers already well-established in the dance world. I was totally inspired by the other 4 dancers. I was a ‘rabbit in headlights’ in the entire time. It was on this job I learnt how things worked, work etiquette, what was expected from me etc. That job will stand out as special; I couldn’t believe I’d landed it as my first gig, to have that exposure and experience as a ‘newbie’, was fantastic! It was incredibly fun and silly too! ‘Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life’
You danced as part of the London Olympics’ opening and closing ceremonies. Was that an opportunity you couldn’t pass up?
Absolutely! Who wouldn’t love that opportunity? I had two rounds of auditions, and the rehearsal process was about seven to eight weeks. The build up was electrifying, London was buzzing, we were all going to be part of history! Plus we were watched by billions when we finally went live to the World. Amazing memories.
Do you still find yourself wanting to better yourself as a dancer and how do you try to push yourself in such a competitive industry?
Constantly, as performers we are all our own worst critics, we are constantly faced with doubts and fear because we put ourselves in the most vulnerable positions. Therefore, I don’t think you can ever stop trying to be better, because there is always somebody next in line to replace you, who’s working extra hard to be at the top. I always allow myself to learn from others on jobs, working with new choreographers or directors and adapting to the ways they work. I recommend to always keep your body and brain active, by taking class and keeping up with fitness. I teach regularly to younger performers who wish to go on to colleges and do what I have done, and that keeps me inspired and focused to always be the best I can be, as they look up to me as an example.
As a dancer there are obviously times when you have to show off your body, is that something that feels natural to you? Where does that confidence to show off your skin come from?
I’m not confident at all, It’s all an act! It’s required a lot of the time and part of the job is about an image, so this motivates me to keep up looking good and be comfortable with being half naked on stage or in front of a camera.
It’s clear you stay in great shape. Is that something that you find especially important being a dancer and how do you try to maintain that on a daily basis?
I try to train at least 4-5 days a week at the gym or bootcamp. I maintain a healthy lifestyle, not just for work purposes but also for the feel-good factor. You have to look after yourself at the end of the day, your body is your tool, so it needs TLC all the time.
As well as Dance, you also model. What’s modelling been like for you over the years and what’s been the best and worst thing about your experience so far?
I never thought that modelling was something I could do alongside dancing. I was scouted on the tube, and it was soon after this that I started working on balancing both the dancing and the modelling and occasionally both work well together when doing shows like The Clothes Show and other fashion dance shows. I learned that I suited this type of work. I really enjoy I can model also, it can be really rewarding, no one day is ever the same, the variety of work is crazy and I get to travel all over the world occasionally which is a bonus, both industries work quite similar, and I have been able to use different qualities from both modelling and dancing in each industry to work to my advantage.
What would be your goals in dance and your career over the next few years?
I would be so happy to achieve a tour working with an artist. That would be a huge tick off my list. Performing in front of thousands gives you the biggest buzz! Fingers-crossed the opportunity comes along. I am constantly grateful for any work that comes my way. Calling yourself a dancer is one thing, but to be able to call yourself a dancer and be able to admit dancing is your full time job is another. That is an achievement and it’s taken a long time to get here. I plan to keep heading in this direction, positive, motivated and thankful and I believe good will things happen. I am lucky to be able to do what I always dreamt of doing, It’s not forever, so every moment must be cherished.
If you could go back 10 years and give yourself any advice what would it be?
That’s interesting because it was exactly 10 years ago I started my training, I was going to type ‘keep pushing yourself and work hard’ but I did that. I can’t regret not being the first to arrive in the morning and sometimes the last to leave because that was me! However, I would remind myself to not be dishearten by rejection, you soon become immune to that feeling and don’t compare yourself all the time to the best person in the room, stay focused on what you are right for and chill. Oh! and don’t go out in London on a student night when you have ballet at 9am the next morning.
Finally, when can we see you dance next?
Dancer: Oliver Wheeler
Concept/Styling: Craig Andrew James