Jamal Sterrett on Bruk Up Dancing, His Inspirations, and The Young Creative Awards

Photos: Ethan Porter
Interview: Lizzy O'Riordan
Wednesday 16 February 2022
reading time: min, words

Passionate about Bruk Up and Flex dancing, Jamal Sterrett won the Young Creative Awards in 2015. We talk to the dancer about his New York inspirations, dancing as a form of self expression, and growing up in St Ann's. 


You won the 2015 Young Creative Awards. Can you tell us about your dancing and what inspires you? 

The pursuit and feeling of freedom inspires me most. As an artist I feel often trapped in my body and I think anything external like dance expands the supposed limits of who and what we are. My second biggest inspiration is aesthetics, looking at the world through as many different perceptions as possible and getting a feeling through visual stimuli or categorisation of thoughts, places, things or people. Lastly, my love of Bruk Up and Flex dancing. If it wasn't for these two sub cultures I wouldn’t be moving the way I do. If it wasn't for Surf, Storyboard P and Ghost, I wouldn't have the blueprint to tap into my organic personal expression.  

Is dance about expressing yourself?

Dance or movement in general brings me closer to who I feel I am. Dance used to be a very big outlet for me, now it's just a big outlet. Over time the love of my dance evolved into another form. I believe things come into your life to teach or give you something, and I still love to dance but now it's different. It's more emotionally mature and I have some control on when to fully express and when to hold back. 

I’ll have my odd days or weeks where I’ll dance in the street because euphoric feelings emerge. But now there's a new side to my dancing that’s more critical. I think that's the nature of desiring more from what you love. Too much self critique can stifle expression, too little can create delusion. I think it's about balance.   

What have you been up to since the Young Creative Awards? 

Oh yes! This is a great question! To be honest I like my life simple and plain. I take one gig at a time, if it comes it comes if it doesn't it doesn’t. The main focus is just elevation. I have a good network of support around me these days though, especially after Young Creative Awards. 

When I’m not dancing I'm working with Notts CYF and my father Nick Sterrett. In terms of projects; I’ve been on ITV for an entire month in collaboration with Rosalind Davis and Justin Hibbs. I have a short film coming out on my dancing, titled Block Work, filmed in Nottingham by talented duo Nick Lee Shield and Fraser West. I have another in the works in London with Gui bailey. Currently I have a video and article featured on Factmag shot by Ben Williams and produced by Torben Lars Sylvest. That was actually shot in Rough Trade toilets in Nottingham, shouts out to them.  

No matter where I am in the world, as long as I dance I instantly feel at home.

You became known for performing around the streets of Nottingham. Is that something you still do? 

Dancing on the streets will always be my first baby. No matter where I am in the world, as long as I dance I instantly feel at home. I still often dance on the streets, but the reasons have multiplied. 

Before, dancing in public was about fantasy. I was pretending to be like my inspirations and just copying what they do in New York. I wanted to be like my heroes and feel a part of something that captured my heart and imagination. As I’ve grown up I've settled into my style more. Now when I’m out, I’m really working to develop my personal style. Some days you feel like a professional, other days you gotta drag dance kicking and screaming out your stubborn mind.

It’s been a long time now since you won the YCA. How do you feel looking back on that experience? 

Looking back it was a great experience. The whole event was amazing! I think for me it was more about the people around me than it was about winning the prize. Especially for the poster I made for the St Ann’s community film Guillemot. It wasn't just a win for me, it was a win for my community and everyone involved.     

It wasn't just a win for me, it was a win for my community and everyone involved.

What are you looking forward to in the future? Anything we should be looking out for? 

I may travel and perform internationally. I’m saving up to go to New York this year, to meet my influences. To learn the culture, history and maybe strengthen my craft in Bruk Up. But the far future is still unsure for me. I have desires, but often question if those desires come from a heart place. My life has love in it now and my dance healed that empty space I once felt.

As long as I dance, I can't go wrong. I’m writing a book called The Mentalism of a Moving Soul. It’s a guide on finding your voice within your art, based on my own life experiences through dance. It’s not just for dancers, I think anyone could get something out of it, especially topics on the flow of creativity. It’s also written through the lens of my Aspergers.

And finally, the Young Creative Awards 2022 are now open. What would you say to anyone considering entering? 

It’s a great event that exposes and connects your work to a wider audience. I never entered believing I would win. I did it because it's free and presented itself as an unturned stone on my life path. As an artist it’s important to turn all the stones, not all of them will lead to greater things, but every small stone makes the path smoother. 

You can follow Jamal on Instagram here


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