The Tree of Life: movement, dance and creativity in Thamesmead

Property guardian, Melissa, performing her dance routine.

Property guardian, dancemaker and lifelong creative, Melissa has been putting roots down in Thamesmead where we have a longstanding community of guardians.

A journey to self-actualisation

After performing at the annual Thamesmead festival, we caught up with Melissa about her passion for dance and event sponsorship from Dot Dot Dot.

A self-described neurodivergent dancer and dancemaker, Melissa draws on an eclectic movement history of classical/contemporary dance, martial arts and somatic practices to create engaging dance art.

Her performance at the Thamesmead festival was named ‘The Tree of Life’ – a piece inspired by Jewish wisdom traditions. “In this dance, I use the tree as a framework to generate movement,” Melissa explains. “This piece is about the journey to self-actualisation and community.”

“When I moved to Thamesmead, I immediately felt connected to the community” she goes on. “There’s a really strong artistic space here. I actually met another Dot Dot Dot guardian through my volunteering at Greenwich Dance where I teach an improv dance class. I knew that I wanted to perform The Tree of Life with him. He’s really talented.”

Dot Dot Dot supports the community

Melissa approached Dot Dot Dot for support with funding after hearing about how we sponsored an open mic comedy night put on by her friend and fellow guardian, Bea.

“I attempted a round of crowdfunding without success. So, funding from Dot Dot Dot was really transformative,” Melissa tells us. “I used the money to hire studio space without digging into my personal income. We were on a pretty tight schedule and only had four days to rehearse. The ‘sponsored’ studio meant we could focus with no distractions.”

In the second half of her set, Melissa led a creative improvisation workshop. “This may have been more nerve racking than the dance itself,” she admits. “But the crowd was really receptive and engaged. I invited people to explore movement with me. There were people there that I’d never met before; and some familiar faces from Greenwich Dance.”

A source of inspiration

Dance has been Melissa’s life long passion, and since 2011 it’s been her fulltime vocation.

She’s collaborated with prominent companies and choreographers across the UK and Europe. Notably, she lived in Hungary where she performed with the Budapest Dance Theatre for five years.

“I then moved to London in 2020,” Melissa explains. “Due to ridiculously high rental prices, I lived in a house share. This was a real shock as I’ve lived alone since I was teenager. I really value my own space. Becoming a Dot Dot Dot guardian allowed me to live alone again and find peace of mind.”

“I’ve also fallen in love with Thamesmead,” Melissa goes on to say. “There’s something poignant about living here. There’s so much natural beauty set against the stark backdrop of Brutalist architecture. It’s inspiring. I think that’s why there’s such a wonderful artistic community here with people producing art from their heart.”

Guardian, Melissa, hosts creative dance workshop at the Thamesmead festival.

Sponsoring Bea’s open mic night and Melissa’s dance performance have prompted us to start a Community fund for guardians that want to put on events for their local communities. We will be launching this initiative in November with further information about how you can apply!

You can also join Melissa at her dance classes at the Acosta Dance Centre in Woolwich on Wednesdays at 6:30pm. The classes are for everyone from beginners to seasoned professionals. Find out more and book a spot here.