I want to teach people to forget their hate and their stigma

Sabrina Bramble

Freelance writer, Mental Health at Work

Doing work that aligns with your values and feels meaningful is an important part of wellbeing. This year, Sabrina has been talking to different people who are making a difference in areas that matter to them. Here, she interviews Alex Scurr, who founded his own dance company for the LGBTQI+ community.

Growing up in the 90s amongst a flurry of beautiful gay​Supporting someone who is LGBTIQ+ Web page Sadly, people who are not straight or cisgender are more likely to experience mental health problems than the general population. This web page from Mind explores what you can do to help if an LGBTQI+ person tells you they are experiencing poor mental health.Free By: Mind View resource men at the contemporary dance school I went to was such a fun and endearing experience. I’m thankful that I was exposed to such a myriad of different people, especially when I recall a family member disparaging a headline which had the word gay in it, and reducing it down to being nothing short of disgusting and wrong. Being eight years old or so, I had no idea of how to respond to something that brought about such hate. I understand now that it comes from being uneducated, and ill-advised about a world that is more like your own than you think.

So, it’s with great privilege that I speak to the founder of The GMDC (Gay Men’s Dance Company), dancer, choreographer and teacher Alex Scurr.

As much as I loved being a performer, it wasn’t where my happiness was

Scurr appears for our Zoom call ​Ways to make video calls less stressful Web page Video calls can be more stressful than a face-to-face chat. This quick guide from Leapers offers tips and hints on reducing anxiety before and during these calls.Free By: Leapers View resourcewith a slick top knot of brown hair and black rimmed glasses, and he is in good spirits. I get the ball rolling by asking about how he got started in the dance world, and I soon discover that after ten years of doing “cruise ships, casinos, and tours in between contracts of teaching,” Scurr was not quite satisfied. “I wasn’t happy, and as much as I loved being a performer and professional dancer, it wasn’t actually where my happiness was,” he says. “It was just the dancing and the teaching that I loved.”

After an array of teaching and performance jobs, Scurr built his own company, and within a month GMDC was born. It was designed as a haven for the LGBTQI+ community to come out and dance, with no experience necessary. Scurr said he hoped to build “a sense of community, a feeling that they were a part of something special. Having a space to talk freely about certain things – like for example, gay sex – that they wouldn’t necessarily talk about with their straight friends or their families.”

Two people play with an LGBTQ+ Pride flag

GMDC has achieved a great deal – but how has it coped through this pandemic? “I’ve been very lucky because my business presently doesn’t own a studio,” Scurr explains. He admits that his self-employed teachers have not been so lucky, though, and some have struggled.

But, like many who work in the arts, his view is one of unrelenting persistence and optimism. “We’re used to fighting to live, which might sound dramatic, but that is what we have had to do,” he says. “I’m almost glad that I have that kind of resilience​Personal resilience: an anchor in the unknown Web page Personal resilience is the way we cope with challenging and difficult situations in order to overcome them. This guide offers advice on improving your resilience and managing uncertainty. Free By: NHS England and NHS Improvement View resource – it’s made me a much stronger person. I think performers are fighters!”

This is undoubtedly a powerful statement but, as Scurr knows, bills still have to be paid, and he expresses how humbling it was when his workforce carried on in the face of financial uncertainty​Practical financial skills to manage money Web page This guide from Finty aims to equip you with money management skills and an understanding of the link between your health and finances.Free By: Finty View resource. “All my teachers were happy to teach on a donation basis, so if you were earning there was the potential to pay, but if you couldn’t there was an opportunity to come along anyway. I didn’t want money to be the reason that someone couldn’t be a part of GMDC any more.”

I’ve had days of not wanting to get out of bed

It’s remarkable how Scurr sustains this ferocious energy, which he’s not only focusing on GMDC but also working with LGBTQI+ refugees in a new line of work as well. “Over the last year I’ve felt depression​Symptoms of depression and their effects on employment PDF At least one in six workers is experiencing common mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. This report addresses some key questions about how depression can affect work. Free By: The Work Foundation View resource, the darkness and the negative voices, and I’ve had days of not wanting to get out of bed,” he says. “But if I’ve had to teach at 12 for example, but haven’t been motivated to do so I can feel that way right up until 11:59, but at 12pm I turn it on and say let’s go! Because regardless of where I’m at, I try to remind myself that by doing this I could be helping someone so very much.”

Scurr’s mentality of showing up is realised in so many ways – one of which sees the hard work of GMDC brought to life on stage, in either a Pride procession or GMDC’s own Gala. “Sadly, being in a minority community you often have a lack of love in your life, so you have to go out there and find it for yourself,” he says. “That’s what happens in the LGBTQ community; we go out and we find our family, we find our people, and these galas are a celebration of that love.”

The first gala saw over 800 people attend, and I can personally attest to how utterly brilliant it is to witness such freedom of unstoppable expression in every performance. Scurr has fond memories too: “I remember sitting down for a moment [at the show] and feeling this amazing electricity in the air thinking, this is what I was meant to do with my life – this is it, I am home.”

A large group of men wearing rainbow colours and GMCD T-shirts posing in front of a bus saying

GMDC has grown rapidly in members and fun socials, so what’s next? “My idea for years now has been world domination, nothing less.” Again, Scurr leaves us with an answer which we both laugh at – but, all games aside, he’s determined to put GMDC on the map, and deservedly so. “I want to make the world a better place. I want to teach people to forget their hate and forget their stigma, because it’s all so completely unnecessary, negative and ignorant and we just need to move forward.”

This statement is why it’s easy to visualise GMDC not only flying the flag for change, but quite simply fabulous-ness for generations to come, and it’s exciting.

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