Strictly bathroom for Finsbury teen who learned dance online

James Olivo, 17, and mum Imelda, 58. Picture: Tony Gay

James Olivo, 17, and mum Imelda, 58. Picture: Tony Gay - Credit: Archant

He has come a long way from apeing the moves in YouTube dance videos in his bathroom – and travelled a fair distance along the road to success.

James Olivo. Picture: Tony Gay

James Olivo. Picture: Tony Gay - Credit: Archant

But young dancer James Olivo, 17, will not have far to move when he makes his debut at Sadler’s Wells Theatre.

The teenager lives in the same road as the world famous venue – Rosebery Avenue in Finsbury – and soon he will have to feel at home on its stage and others like it.

James will perform there before embarking on a national tour after making it into the prestigious new National Youth Dance Company.

It is quite an achievement for a self-taught dancer who learned how to move by copying YouTube clips while brushing his teeth.

He said: “It started with watching America’s Best Dance Crew [US TV talent show] three or four years ago on YouTube.

“I just kept watching videos of people dancing and started doing it and I did a lot of my practising in the bathroom.

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“I would be listening to music while I was washing my face or brushing my teeth, and then I would start dancing.

“I didn’t realise I had anything. I just liked dancing.”

James turned 17 last month and is one of the youngest members of the NYDC, which is run by Sadler’s Wells and funded by the Arts Council and Department for Education, and takes young people aged 16 to 20.

He has little formal training, but last September began a BTech in dance at City and Islington College in Camden Road, Holloway.

When he auditioned for the company he was up against many older and more experienced dancers, but impressed judges with his natural ability.

Hannah Kirkpatrick, company manager of NYDC, said: “He was just amazing, really musical and an incredible dancer.

“He is a hip-hop dancer, so the contemporary style was quite new to him, but he picked it up really quickly. Technically James is great, even though he is pretty much self-taught.

“He’s taught himself very well. There’s not many people who could watch a video and then learn the way he has. I definitely couldn’t.”

Members of the NYDC have three weeks of intensive rehearsals before premiering a new work at Sadler’s Wells on June 8 and then touring.

Ms Kirkpatrick said the company will be expected to perform to a professional standard.

She added: “He is going to be working hard and putting in long days – it’s character building.”

James’s mother Imelda Olivo, 58, who is from the Philippines, said: “When he’s dancing, he’s always hiding in the bathroom.

“I’m very proud and very happy because I think dancing is what he likes to do.”