Camden Close - Up: Joseph Toonga
Love Camden loves its local talent. We aim to celebrate everything cultural in the borough, from Hampstead to Kilburn, from the British Library to that little café around the corner - we are always out to show what Camden has to offer. As part of this we launched our Camden Close-Up series: interviews with artists, thinkers, entrepreneurs and downright interesting figures that live, work or are inspired by the borough.
This month we interviewed dancer and choreographer Joseph Toonga, artistic director of East London-based Just Us Dance Theatre. His latest work Born To Manifest is at The Place in Euston on Saturday 16 November.
- What would you would do if you weren’t doing this? What would your parallel life look like?
Probably be doing something in sports or a youth worker
- What do you think is most important: luck, chance, opportunity or hard-graft?
- What has been your most career defining moment to date and why?
A big moment for me was being a choreographer on the East Wall project at The Tower of London as it got me more recognised nationally. And the performance has since been voted one of the best shows of the 21st Century by The Guardian.
- What makes your work important today?
I feel that the work the company does is vital in reaching and impacting people who really need it, especially through the development programmes (the Let’s Shine Mentorship and New&Notable) which engage with a different audience for my theatre work and bring people who wouldn’t usually attend the theatre in. My work is about showing how accessible dance can be and working with venues/organisations to make it accessible, that’s how audiences, participants and opportunities for artists will diversify.
- What does Camden mean to you?
It was where I completed my dance training at London Contemporary Dance School and got my BA Hons degree. I am the first person in my family to get a degree so for me this was very important.
- What makes Camden unique?
I think what makes Camden unique is its different areas that integrate people from all walks of life. It’s full of people of all ages, students and families, has a good night life and the tourist attraction that is Camden Market. It’s unique for the different cultures and genres it brings together.
Choreographer and dancer Joseph Toonga was born in Cameroon before moving to East London with his family when he was 8 years old.
His choreography fuses Hip-Hop, contemporary dance and powerful storytelling to explore and physicalise the challenges of living in today’s society.
Joseph is artistic director of Just Us Dance Theatre which he founded with Ricardo Da Silva and Rudeen February in 2007 to inspire, nurture and support young people in his East London community and beyond and provide the conditions for artists to create and collaborate.
He established mentoring programmes Let’s Shine and New&Notable to support young Hip-Hop dance theatre artists to achieve their goals and is co-founder of artist led hip-hop initiative Artists4Artists.
His choreography commissions include Boston Conservatoire of Dance (2018); Middlesex University (2016); Codarts University of the Arts, Rotterdam 2016; EDge (2015/2016); National Youth Ballet/Bundesjugendballett (2015); and Richard Alston Dance Company (2015). His company has performed in the UK, Italy, France, Holland and the USA.