It Doesn’t Matter What I Look Like
It's a cold January morning and I'm huddled over a cup of coffee talking dance, instructing and coaching the boys with Zamira Kate Mummery. Zamira is a dance choreographer, performer and teacher and also works for Our Parks UK as well as providing freelance training. She works around London and it's fair to say she's pretty busy.
Zamira started swimming at the age of five, training six days a week and believes that “had I been willing to continue with the early morning starts and pushing myself I could have made it as an elite swimmer”. She has always been active, running in the English national championships, playing football and generally having a really active childhood. At the age of 16 she discovered street dance and then went on to a degree and background in contemporary dance. From here she now teaches the degree course at London Studio Centre who she says “have been amazing in the way they have supported me”.
Continually keeping fit, Zamira tells me that she probably should have been an athlete rather than a dancer. Looking to continue with a career in fitness, and with a passion to bring dance and fitness together, she started training as a personal trainer. It was through injuries sustained in dancing that the opportunity arose to look into becoming a personal trainer and to develop her skills. All of this training was self-funded and her philosophy around person development is “even if you don’t fully excel, you should be able to get something from everything you do”. This has given her the chance to do more with the skills and abilities that she now has.
Zamira has dyslexia so formal learning environments have always been a challenge, however she was supported to compete her qualifications, which she is really grateful for. “Having the ability to talk through the questions for my exams rather than having to sit through a multiple choice paper really helped me to complete my qualifications”. Reading is difficult so she is always looking for other ways in which she can develop herself further.
She currently works with Our Parks UK, provides one to one personal training, teaches degree level dance and is looking to establish her own dance company. Zamira likes to motivate and to witness behavioural change in others. “Seeing people’s confidence grow and helping them to achieve their goals is what motivates me” she says “but it’s important to win people over and make them trust you before you can push them”. On average, Zamria will take around two months building relationships with her participants, and in particular will support the women in her group to build confidence.
Social media plays a role in Zamira’s work. Getting her groups involved in a post-session selfie, is important for her as it shows that people are having fun and genuinely enjoying themselves. “What happens in the picture is genuinely what is happening in the class” she says, and she is always looking for ways to show that you can have fun through fitness and that it’s not just about getting fit.
While talking about the barriers that women face in getting involved in sport, Zamira mentions that she feels women aren’t pushed as much as men to succeed. This is something that she has seen in both sport and dance, and she feels that there aren’t enough ‘normal’ female role models. “It doesn’t matter what I look like, what matters is that I’m here to do the job” she tells me, and this is important in building the relationships with the people in her classes.
“There need to be more positive role models” Zamira says, “more positive women promoting sport”. Role models have been an important part of Zamira’s development, changing over time as she grew up, her mum and dad were very important and encouraged her creativity through exposing her to many different life experiences. We talk about the importance of mentoring and Zamira is clear on the benefit that this can have in dance, fitness and sport. She mentions Kerry Nicholls, her tutor from dance college, as someone who has had been mentoring her – recently Zamira has received funding from the arts council to develop a piece about dyslexia, and is using Kerry for reassurance and to be someone to “simply go and speak to”.
Where does Zamira she herself in 5 years’ time? “I want to be more established as myself. I don’t want to be working for other people and I want to have ‘Zamira Kate’ as my brand. I would love to have a studio, with a café and art place”. She is also optimistic that the system will begin to nurture people more and provide more mentoring opportunities for women to access the support that will help them to become the role models of the future.
Steve Bentall, Coaching Network Manager