As a young child who loved to dance, Justine found that dance classes were rarely joyful or body-positive. Decades have passed since Justine concluded that dance just wasn’t for her – but Jungle City is changing that.
Justine lives with her partner, two sons and an ageing pooch. With a background in community arts and government, she is also teaching herself German and loves to write. Justine says with a wink that she doesn’t remember her age, but she does remember a time when television was mostly black-and-white and Elvis was still alive.
Justine’s mother is Sri Lankan, and her father was Australian of Irish descent. “I remember Dad picking me up and dancing me around the kitchen whenever a particular song came on the radio,” she says.
As a child Justine always loved to dance and she has memories of dancing as a toddler in front of the mirror, the TV and record player. Seeing Justine’s love of dance, her mother enrolled her in dance classes at the age of 4.
“I realised over time that I was the wrong shape for dance – and a little bit of the wrong sort generally, it seemed – something that was fretted over by successive dance teachers and my mother alike,” says Justine.
Eventually, Justine felt that dance just wasn’t for her. She occasionally tried adult dance classes over the years, but never really embraced it.
“And then I found Jungle City and I feel like I’ve reclaimed dance back into my life.”
Justine started Jungle City classes at the beginning of a gruelling period in her life. The classes were one of the few things that really lifted Justine out of herself and gave her space to forget everything else.
“It was ultimately very healing – for my body and my soul – and transformative on many levels.”
Justine says that Jungle City is an amazing, inclusive, welcoming, and collaborative creative space. “There’s such an incredible range of people and backgrounds and body shapes – I love that part of it.”
Since starting with a foundation class a few years ago, Justine has done Stylish Moves, New Skool, Dancehall, and one-off workshops. Over the years she has had around five or six teachers – Cat, Chuby, Giselle, Lee, Shamar, and Dre – and says that they’re all amazing dancers.
“The teachers are so skilled,” she says. “I love the holistic way that you learn the steps, the creators of the steps and ultimately about the culture of a whole other place. It’s so cool.”
Dance at Jungle City makes Justine feel happy, helps her unwind, builds her fitness and health, and gives her brain a total workout. “It was a complete godsend during lockdown to attend the Zoom classes, probably the only thing I looked forward to during the week,” she says.
The Jungle experience has not only helped Justine to discover that she really loves dancing, but that when you do a lot of dance you get better at it. She is now feeling excited, and nervous, to be a part of Jungle City’s performance group.
“I’ve started to really challenge myself to see how far I can physically push myself – which is an amazing thing for someone of my age!”
Justine is also delighted to find herself part of a community of dancers. One of her best Jungle memories is performing for the first time in a student showcase with two students and founder, Cat Pwiti.
“I had a real sense of camaraderie with my little group and the response from the audience was so warm and encouraging.”
At the dress rehearsal Justine remembers seeing Cat leading a little girl, who hadn’t been able to make her group’s rehearsal time, through the steps. “It was so beautiful it made me well up,” she says.
Justine has tried to convince friends to give dance a go, but many say they can’t dance. For anyone who feels this way, she urges them to do it!
“Dancing is the best thing you can do for your body, mind and spirit. It’s a really good laugh. And Jungle City has the most inclusive environment, fantastic teachers, and great music – the whole vibe is awesome.”