Simply gorgeous inside & out, a brilliant dancer, an adored teacher, an inspiring team member, Studio J talks to Gerard Pigg to shed some light on this enigma!
A lot of people don’t realize that you have an Indian background. Tell us about your Indian Heritage.
Both my parents are Anglo-Indians, from Bangalore. My siblings were born in India but I was born here. Growing up, we attended these Anglo-Indian dinner dance events every month, where there would be Indian food, music and dance. I’ve been to India four times, but only as a child. Last time I went was 2003. I really want to go again, especially since I am so invested in my dancing.
How did you start dancing?
As a kid, I was always the first person on the dance floor! My sister taught me my first ‘proper’ dance – the Jive. During high school I also did Latin American and Ballroom with my mum. I was the only kid in the class, it was really cute and great bonding time with my mum. I learnt the Tango, Meringue, Salsa, all the Latin American styles. I did a few competitions and we actually won a few!
I started learning Hip-Hop when I was thirteen years old. Those classes made me realize just how much I loved dance. In Year 11, I was in the school musical ‘Grease’, as a dancer. But in year 12, we did Fame and I played the lead role, Tyron Jackson. I didn’t want to audition for the main lead because that involved singing & acting, but my dance teacher encouraged me because the character Tyron Jackson is a dancer. At the time in my school, I was the only boy dancer.
In year 12 all my subjects were art based – Dance, Art, Graphic Design, Media & English. For me, it was a choice between pursuing a career in Graphic Design or Dance. And then I came across this full-time course in Northland that specialised in Hip-Hop. It was a combined Dance & Business Management course.
How did Bollywood enter your life?
Whilst studying at Northland, a friend told me about a Bollywood dance company, Bollywood Sensations, who was looking for dancers. I thought, ‘Well I’m Indian and I have seen the movies and I love the energy, I don’t know if I’d be good or not, but hey, let’s give it a go’. Through Bollywood Sensations I later met Jaya and then joined Sapphire Dance. I feel so honoured that Jaya lets me choreograph for Sapphire. Sometimes I ask myself ‘How did I ever get into this Bollywood scene?’ I just love it.
How did you start your Dance Crew ‘Provokativ’?
In the Northland school, there was a dance crew that used to compete in dance comps and it was compulsory to join this crew. After about six months, I decided that I wanted to start my own crew, K2D. It didn’t work out, but it was fun while it lasted. After trying a few other crews, I decided to form my own crew again, and that’s when I came up with Provokativ. It was meant to be an all-girl crew and started with seven girls originally. I love seeing a girl dance like a girl. At the time in the Hip-Hop scene, all the girls danced very gangster-like. It’s really awesome what they do, but that was not my vision. We recently celebrated our five years of being together as Provocative.
Tell us about your professional journey?
After finishing the course at Northland, I started freelancing. I didn’t have any direction. I just knew I wanted to dance. Provokativ was the first thing I created and through that I started getting noticed. Whenever there was any kind of opportunity, I put my hand up and got involved within the dance community as much as possible. It was hard initially because everyone had their own little cliques, especially in the Hip-Hop scene.
Through the experience I gained teaching and choreographing in Provokativ, I later started running my own public dance classes. In the beginning no one used to rock up. But slowly it grew. I just put myself out there as a teacher and choreographer and by doing that, opportunities started flowing in.
When I started teaching Hip-Hop, people would come up and say, “Your style is so different. It’s not Hip-Hop, what is it?” And I was like, “Oh! I don’t know. I thought it was Hip-Hop.” For a long time people would say it’s the ‘G style’. And eventually the word ‘Commercial’ was introduced to me and I realized THAT’S my style.
Three years ago I was approached by a company to audition for their latest dance production – a dance theatre fusion show of Ballet and Hip-Hop. I thought I had totally stuffed up at the auditions! When I entered the dance industry I realized that the level is much higher than what I trained at in Northland. It terrified me when I went to auditions and I realized that I am nowhere near where I needed to be as a dancer. But the turning point for me was this show. They trained us for three months in Contemporary, Lyrical and Ballet. When I was offered this opportunity I decided to be a sponge and soak up as much as I can and just dive into the deep end. Any opportunity that I have ever been given I always see it as a learning experience.
How did your family react to your decision to follow a career in dance?
It was a bit of a rollercoaster ride with my parents. It’s not that they weren’t supportive, but they were not pro dance. They were just looking out for me. They wanted me to get into a career where I can save up for a house etc, the typical Indian parents. They were always saying, “Get a job, dance is just a hobby, it can’t be a career!” But dance was my passion and my love and I wasn’t just going to give it away. I told them that I am going to prove it to you that I can make it in this industry.
How did you get into teaching ‘Heels’?
One day I went to K-Mart and I saw a pair of heels and I said to myself, ‘You know what, I’m just going to try it.’ I didn’t know whether I could even walk in a pair of heels. So I bought the biggest pair of heels I could find and put them on. I was a little shaky at first but then I was like, ‘Oh I can actually walk in these’. And that was the moment when I realized that this could actually be a thing. And as I started meeting more people in the industry and found out that there were other guys who danced in heels, I thought let’s give it a go. It’s big in America but in Melbourne there are actually very few men and women who teach heels. It’s cool knowing I’m one of those few who teach it.
You teach Commercial, Hip-Hop, Heels and Bollywood. Do you have a favourite?
I can’t say I have a favourite. All the styles are so different and I love them for different reasons.
I love ‘Heels’ for the confidence that it brings out of me personally. And it makes me feel sexy & confident and I feel very much in charge. I love the fact that it’s eye catching because it’s not the norm. Commercial dance is just the natural inner groove that I have in my body, when I’m dancing in a club or at a birthday party. Hip-Hop is how I started, where my roots are. I know I can teach a class and smash it out and my choreography has improved over the years and it just feels great. With Bollywood, I love the character, the culture, and the enthusiasm. There are also a lot of overlaps between these styles, which makes it interesting, like my Bolly-HipHop and Bolly-Heels classes at Studio J.
Have you always been so good natured?
I think it is just my nature to be a happy positive person. Back in high school, I was very much the same person except a little more introverted. Being gay, I didn’t really know how to come to terms with it. I came out in Year 12 to my friends and that’s when I started opening up a bit more. And when I entered the dance scene, people accepted me for who I was and I was able to be myself a lot more. I try to make the best of every situation and to live life to its fullest.
The students absolutely adore you! Tell me about your relationship with them.
I definitely feel the love from the students at Studio J and it is a very humbling feeling. A lot of the students are beginners and I know how awkward it can be. The minute I know someone wants to dance, I will be their support system. Most people don’t necessarily do it as a career but it’s a hobby and they love it. And that love motivates me. When they get excited by dance, it excites me. Some of the students have started here from the beginning and when I see their improvement, nothing makes me happier.
I believe everyone can dance. It just depends how much commitment and dedication you put into it. If you have the passion for it, then I’m going to be your biggest cheerleader. I also love the fact that we film the routine at the end of term at Studio J. It throws the students out of their comfort zone. It’s fun, something they get to reflect on and walk away with.
What’s in the future for Gerard Pigg?
I really want to go to Los Angeles for a while to train. We need to keep pushing ourselves, to keep growing. I’ve been in a little bubble where I teach and choreograph, and it’s like a cycle. I love what I do and I am very grateful for it, but I feel like I haven’t done anything for myself for a very long time. I want to learn from someone else, and be in class sweating it out. That’s also why I love Sapphire Dance because I’m learning things that I’ve never done before. I follow a lot of international choreographers online and the level is so high. It’s so competitive in America and that’s where a lot of life changing opportunities are. It’s about constant growth for me.