All images by FEDERICO MICHETTONI for CANE
Styling by JAMAL GEORGE-SHARPE
Fluent fluctuations of the feet and hands create shapes that only a dancer can paint, Joshua Lloyd Moise Harriette is an artist in motion. Perfectly poised whilst in front of Federico Michettoni’s lens, the photographic studio is Harriette’s stage for the day. The Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance alumnus, now based in South London, moves frame by frame with great finesse.
Joshua Harriette’s dance talent has taken him around the world, where he has performed in the critically-acclaimed ‘come, been and gone’ and ‘animal / vegetable / mineral’ as part of British dance iconoclast Michael Clark CBE’s namesake company. It was with Clark’s company, well-known for collaborating with artists and fashion houses, it was there Harriette danced for Alexander McQueen and Pringle of Scotland. Currently at Ballet Black, another dream and cause he always wanted to contribute to, Joshua Harriette is running out of goals he laughingly but humbly admits. Outside of Dance, interests in modelling and lighting design are evident in the way he maneuvers the set.
Taking an intermission from shooting, Joshua Harriette reveals how he overcame a speech impediment through the Arts, his career thus far and delving into the realms of lighting design and Fashion.
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Firstly, how did you become interested in Dance?
I was first introduced to the Arts, as a whole, by my Principal at my primary school, Jean Moore. Firstly, it was through Drama. I had a stutter when I was younger and drama helped me with that. The whole acting thing, learning lines and being someone else helped me with my voice. Then that progressed quite rapidly. My sister was at Elizabeth Hills School of Dance and Drama, through which I did acting and it all just led on to each other from there really. Acting led onto Musical Theatre and the Musical Theatre led me to Dance. I was about thirteen when Elizabeth Hill suggested I take ballet classes. From there, It all kind of snowballed. I became a bit obsessed with Dance. I think looking back, and even today, it’s a form of escapism for me.
How did other people react to your dance talent specifically?
I have quite a thick skin and I’m straight-forward, so if someone didn’t accept me then goodbye! I had a small knit of friends who were very accepting. At this point in my childhood, I was doing quite a bit of TV stuff through my acting, so I was quite established in school for my “talents”. People knew I danced but they didn’t know in particular it was ballet or that ballet was one of the forms I was doing.
A memory that I do actually have from school is when we were in PE doing Gymnastics. It was High Jump and there was a competition kind of situation. The best way to technically do the High Jump is the Fosbury Flop: when you go over backwards. The other way, which I found easier, is the Scissor Kick, which is when you kick your legs to go over. People were shocked because I wasn’t really into sports. They were shocked that I won by doing the “second class” technique and couldn’t understand why I could get my legs up so high and jump so high. So from that point onwards, people started to put two and two together. So yeah, it was overall accepting and slowly I developed friends more within the Arts.
What are the attributes of a great dancer or who would you class as a great dancer?
Myself! No, I’m joking! It’s quite a difficult one actually. I’ve only been in the industry for a few years now and I’m having to change my mindset because people that used to inspire me, and still do inspire me, I’ve been lucky enough to have danced alongside professionally. It’s weird to be actually working and dancing with these people that I found inspiring while I was training. So now I keep those inspirations on the down-low because I’m a “professional”.
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So what would you say is your greatest accomplishment so far?
It’s a hard one within dance because we are always trying to achieve the best moments all of the time. We’re trying to replicate a moment that we’ve had. Whether that be on stage or in the studio. It’s quite an addictive kind of situation. It’s hard because the first time is always going to be the first time. That’s also the same in life as well, like your first love or these kinds of situations, so it’s kind of like you are trying to get that moment again. In a weird way, it would then have to be my first full, long-term job after graduating which was with Michael Clark Company. That was a big deal. The exposure I got through that and working with his music and fashion collaborators was a whirlwind of a time.
I would like to go back in time to the Modern Dance era. There’s something about that era that resonates with me as a dancer, as an artist and as a dance form itself.
What is one production that you haven’t been in yet but would love to be?
If anything I would like to go back in time to the Modern Dance era. There’s something about that era that resonates with me as a dancer, as an artist and as a dance form itself. In terms of something current, I’m not actually sure.
What are your thoughts on diversity in Ballet?
I feel like It’s quite a hot topic all of time. Especially dancing with Ballet Black at the moment which was always an aim for me while I was training and something I wanted to contributed to. There is something powerful in seeing eight dancers of colour on stage. I think more can be done. It’s the whole circle idea. Ballet Black for example have a school so they are training youth. It’s not just for Black people of course, it’s for everyone from all different backgrounds. It’s this idea of starting young and exposing the young to ballet.
But, I think it’s something you have to give and take from both sides. I have met people who have been discriminated against because of their colour. Also, I know people who have gotten jobs and it has gone in their favour that they are of colour. So there are pros and cons, I’m not going to lie.
Lighting design is also a field you are interested in, where did this interest develop?
Lighting designing came through while I was at Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance. We had a studio theatre there and students were responsible for the running of the show, in terms of the technical aspects. I was chosen to be a Lighting Technician, so to speak. We were taught the basics, but I soon became quite obsessed with it. I started teaching myself, collaborating with other students and spending endless hours in the studio theatre messing about. Thankfully some of those collaborations with my peers have continued. As they grow and I grow, we’re still connect in our careers which is really really nice.
You have performed at Milan Fashion Week, worked with Pringle of Scotland and Alexander McQueen, how did those projects come about?
Milan Fashion Week, Pringle of Scotland and McQueen, originally came through Michael Clark. We did that as a company which was really cool. Things have gone on from that, in terms of that exposure, meeting people and that kind of thing.
Is the fashion industry something you would like to step more into?
Recently, yes it is an industry I would like to step more into. I suppose originally, I was a bit anti towards it, but I think that was because I was kind of being dragged into it. I wanted to dance. I didn’t see a way I could do both. Whereas now, I’m becoming a bit more established and seeing a way that I can actually have both side by side, as well as lighting designing. But, we will see.
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If you could work with any fashion brand which one would it be?
I’m not going to choose one, but I think it would be cool if dancing and fashion can come more together. At the moment they do, but not enough. For live performance work, stage and tours, I really feel like it would be innovative for that to happen. It has happened before with the likes of Michael Clark and Lee Bowery. But, I feel like they’ve had their time. No-one is doing it currently. Of course, Michael is still around, don’t get me wrong, but I mean in other companies it’s not really happening.
What do you think is the greatest thing you’ve learnt over the course of your career so far?
You only live once.
What do you do in your down time?
Just like anybody else: sleep, eat, drink. I do quite a lot of swimming and gaming. It depends on what kind of mood I’m in. Sometimes I would get as far away as I can from the Arts, so gaming and that kind of thing. Other times, I would go to galleries and that kind of thing.
Do you think your cultural background influences your everyday life or work?
I suppose it kind of affects every part of your life. Work-wise it can be quite interesting because people don’t necessarily get Black culture, in terms of jokes and that kind of thing. Or where a white person thinks they’ve come up with this amazing idea and it’s already happening else, particularly in contemporary dance. You can get into sticky patches.
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In the dance industry, you don’t want to be known. You want to be the fresh face
What are your goals for the rest of this year?
My goals are to expose myself more. I suppose that’s why I’m here as well. I’m quite a closed-off person and in a weird way I don’t want people to know me too quickly, too soon. Particularly in the dance industry, you don’t want to be known. You want to be the fresh face. I suppose now I feel more comfortable in presenting myself in new and different places, to branch out.
Where would you like to be in five years?
I haven’t worked that out. Ballet Black and Michael Clark Company were always goals for me while I was training, in particular. So to have achieved that very quickly, in short space of time from leaving school, I need a new goal.