Dancer, choreographer, educator and researcher Nefeli Tsiouti is dedicated to mastering all aspects of her craft and creating a better future for the next generation of artists.
She took a brief break from her current hectic schedule on a world tour with Project Breakalign – a dance science enterprise focused on preventing injuries in breakdancers – to share some of her experiences, thoughts, advice and ambitions with Georgina Butler…
Nefeli Tsiouti was born in Sydney, Australia, and has double nationality: Australian and Cypriot (Greek-Cypriot). When she was 2 years old her family returned to Cyprus, where she lived until she turned 18. Aged 9, Nefeli began taking classical ballet classes. By the time she was 15, Nefeli was also learning contemporary and jazz dance technique and had experienced a year of hip-hop dancing. She simply loved to dance!
Between the ages of 18 and 23, Nefeli lived in Athens, Greece. Although disappointed to narrowly miss out on winning a place to train professionally at the Greek National School of Dance, she eagerly completed a Bachelors degree in French Language and Literature at university while also working as a dancer and dance teacher. During this time, Nefeli started ballroom dancing but just a year into forging a professional career she sustained an injury that prevented her progressing. Unfortunately, this was not to be the only time that an injury would curtail Nefeli’s desire to dance. Only a year after rehabilitation, she rediscovered the hip-hop culture and began training in breaking, adopting the name Bgirl sMash. Ten months later, in 2007, she suffered a severe shoulder injury. She was forced to stop dancing immediately and underwent surgery in 2008.
In 2009, aged 23, Nefeli moved to London to do a Masters degree in Choreography at Middlesex University, graduating in 2011. While studying, she formed hip-hop dance theatre company Scope Dance Theatre – enabling her to showcase her choreographic skills and perform alongside her dancers. Besides choreographing, Nefeli has been a lecturer in Dance in colleges and universities across London since 2011 and a freelance sports massage therapist for dancers since 2015. Currently completing a Masters degree in Dance Science at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance (supported by no less than three scholarships), Nefeli has devoted many years of independent research to the sector. In 2013, she founded Project Breakalign – a venture comprising a team of dance and medical specialists who are on a mission to reduce injuries among dancers.
Project Breakalign aims to offer conditioning, strengthening and injury prevention education to dancers – specifically breakers – through the Breakalign Method. The rationale behind the project was the fact that breaking has no established way, or step-by-step sequence, of being taught so it can cause frequent and chronic injuries. As research around breaking and hip-hop dancers in general has been very limited, the team behind Project Breakalign combine and adapt dance science and sports science research. Their approach is based on breaking technique and aims to prepare the body physiologically, biomechanically and artistically for the moves the style requires.
Nefeli and her Project Breakalign team are traversing the globe at the moment giving workshops, partaking in panel discussions and spreading the word about safe dance practice to b-boys and b-girls everywhere. Happily, she managed to set aside some time to answer a few questions!
Nefeli Tsiouti (photo by Peter Muller).