Keep going! You’ve got this!
September 24th, 2020.
A meticulous music maker and artist arrives to work. It’s early morning and the sun is just rising over Nysted school yard in Denmark. Booma has worked as an educational artist and trainer for over twenty five years, delivering art based music and dance projects around the world. Today is no different, but still somewhat of an experiment. In the midst of a pandemic which forced kids from all over the world to stay home from school, friends and all other activities, Booma and his fellow workshop leaders from Exchanges For All did not halt their work, instead, they worked harder, committed to reaching out and connecting with young people across Europe to break through the isolation, boredom and loneliness by facilitating online workshops in dance, spoken word, forum theatre and other artforms.
When autumn arrives the team of artists have been planning and collaborating for weeks. The big questions being; how do we organise an exchange between kids in different countries without actually meeting in real life? How do we connect through screens and smart boards? And how do we create a sense of togetherness and real exchange when we are all so far apart?
Booma looks straight into the camera. On the other side of the lens, what seems to be a hundred faces, some familiar, but mostly ones new and curious from three different time zones… “How are we all feeling today?” Behind him stands a class of tired eighth-graders looking into his back and a myriad of screens with teenagers and workshop leaders from Poland, UK, Lithuania and Latvia, how will one artist be able to connect with and lead a proper warm-up for all these kids simultaneously, I remember wondering.
An audience of younger kids out in the school yard press their faces against the windows, looking in, intrigued by the energy in the room. What’s happening there? And who’s that guy? As the windows turn misty from the breaths of the younger kids, inside the temperature is rising and the energy is much, much higher. Booma makes the teenagers sweat and you can almost sense the excitement in the classroom. The Italian director, actor and playwright Davide Fossati, remembers Booma’s warmups:
“It’s very interesting to meet someone as expressive and powerful as Booma. You can see this already when he does the warm up in the mornings. Booma is a powerful person and he pushes others to express themselves through dance but he does this in a very gentle and sensitive manner. I find Booma to be a very fascinating combination of power and kindness”.
“Art really does help us all to open up, to see new opportunities and become better, stronger and more caring individuals.
My aim is to inspire the young people to get involved with music and dance and the arts as a whole. I want them to explore their creativity and develop as individuals and I believe that art is an excellent way to engage with young people, to help them to express themselves creatively, often helping to build their lives in a positive and fun way. We get to watch these kids come out of their shells and open up….which is really quite powerful and a big honour. “
Does he notice how a few students look over at each other and giggle when he frowns at his own sweat? No, his focus is on one girl who cups her knees and seems out of breath. Booma waits until he has her full attention and then gives her a nod, as if to say “…alright? Keep going! You’ve got this!” She nods back at him and grimaces but straightens up her back and keeps dancing. Soon, I’ll catch her smiling again.
“At the beginning of an exchange, young people can be shy and reserved, but within a week the change is simply amazing.
By doing what we do as artists and focusing on each individual, even if it’s just for a moment, a short time, we give our total attention and encourage the individuals to believe in their abilities, to develop, grow to be stronger, more caring and open people…. I remember one young person from a recent exchange project, he didn’t really dare to look at me in the beginning but at the end of the exchange we sat down next to each other and he opened up to me, saying that he was quite lost at home before this exchange, but now he wanted to go back and start to study and improve his life. The project and the artists really helped him to grow and become so much more confident. It was like “wow, this is why we do what we do…to empower the future generations with positivity and hope, to dream for bigger and better things. It may sound kinda crazy, but I do believe that we can change the world with what we are doing…one kid at a time”.
Christoffer Lise Brodersen met Booma in one of these workshops at the age of 14. Today, he is a emerging artist, DJ and producer who has recently been signed up to Infin9ityMusic under the name “Kaumora”. Christoffer remembers how confident Booma’s approach made him feel:
“Booma is incredibly dynamic in the way he teaches.
He presents an idea of what he would like to do but then he turns to the students and asks “what is your idea? What would you like to do? What can you do?” Then he helps them expand that idea by achieving a certain goal for their show or presentation and in doing so he helps them grow in the process. Every time I’ve been taught by Booma, or seen Booma teach, it was with a purpose.”
What happens next is a testament to Christoffer’s words. The kids start discussing different ideas and soon we watch them forming a human tower as their grand ending. Everyone seems focused and works together. When they present their tower to him they all look proud and he reinforces their cooperation, creativity and collaboration. Booma especially acknowledges how many of the students turned their attitude around and asks them about their energy levels. After a few hours of strenuous exercise most of them say that they actually feel happier and more energetic than they did this morning. “See”, Booma says, as he points at them with his ”I-told-you-so-finger”. He looks dead serious but in the corner of his eye, we all see that spark:
”Good energy remember…”
he says: “It’s all about that good energy! We all know exercise is good for our bodies and minds. It helps us to focus on something, to reach new levels and to concentrate and push ourselves, but also in a fun challenging way that gives us energy, even when we are physically tired…but our minds are active and so that is what gives the extra energy, the extra positive push and “wow I can actually do this” kind of feeling…and then when we get to rest, it’s another kind of rest…and knowing that we have earned the rest makes it more valuable, it brings a real sense of well being…”
Facts about Booma:
Booma was born in Leicestershire, England, where he grew up as a child. He later moved to the city of Leeds to attend the renowned Northern School of Contemporary Dance where he studied contemporary and ballet. For over 25 years DJ Booma has worked as an educational artist and trainer, music producer and DJ. He has had numerous record releases and public performances worldwide. In 2017, Booma was head hunted by a London based publishing company and subsequently authored ‘How to be a DJ in ten easy lessons’, a book about how to become a DJ for a younger audience. He currently works out of his studio in Copenhagen with a clear focus on his independent music company and record label, Infin9ityMusic, promoting and releasing new artists and music of all genres and styles. Booma is part of the Arttrain Communication Team and the Creative Producer and Technical editor of the Arttrain Podcast.
Text: Pernilla Gallagher