Danielle’s world of dance
THOUGH LIFE IS TYPICALLY WROUGHT WITH UNCERTAINTIES, there are a few things Danielle Johnally has always been sure of – her love of and ability as a dancer, and her penchant for adventure.
“I always knew I was good at dance and that it would take me places,” Danielle told EASY magazine. “It was really a gamble in a sense but at the same time I knew I wouldn’t fail.
With that philosophy firmly etched in mind, Danielle left home at age 16 headed for the Edna Manley College in her native Jamaica.
“You know, I didn’t even tell my parents when I applied. After I got in, I told them,” she revealed. “But I knew I was getting on that plane. I just let them know, but nothing surprises my family with me.”
That determined spirit and iron will have propelled Danielle through a lot of adversity, and helped her cross the globe in an effort to build her career and life, and foster a sense of independence that she wears like a badge of honour.
Though the programme in Jamaica was three years, Danielle spent four because she suffered an injury during her first year and had to leave.
“I had tendinitis in both knees and I had to come back to Barbados for six months to do therapy,” she recalled. “It was horrible. But I came back and did therapy and the day before I was supposed to go back the doctor said to me, ‘Maybe you should consider something else because it just doesn’t look good’.”
Hearing those words pushed Danielle to call on God as she relies heavily on her faith and belief in Him.
“I was at home and I couldn’t get up and I was crying and I said ‘God I feel like I’m supposed to be dancing, but I’m sorry if tomorrow I get up and my knees are still hurting me, I’m not getting on that plane’,” Danielle recalled.
Perhaps it was the excruciating pain she was in but at that moment Danielle had found herself at a crossroads because her career as a dancer was in jeopardy.
“The next day I woke up and didn’t have pain,” she said. “I have never had any problems since. I know it was God because He heals.”
Not only did Danielle return to Jamaica and graduate with honours, but she went on to London, and then moved to Amsterdam.
“I’m a born traveller,” she said, smiling. “I’m somebody that loves spending a couple of months in a place. It annoys me to go someplace for a week. It’s like a window view. I’d rather get down and dirty and know what everything is about.”
But what her two years in London revealed in her pursuit of a dance career was that while it fulfilled her, she still found herself yearning for more.
“I had gotten into London’s Studio Centre which is the best school for musical theatre. But even though I am a British citizen, because I didn’t live there I wasn’t entitled to get their fees. But I was still determined to make it work anyway, but it was a humbling experience,” said Danielle. “I had graduated in Jamaica with all these honours. But when I went there, people were a lot better than me and they were a lot of them. When I went there, I really wanted to be financially independent, so I did crappy jobs. I worked in a soap shop and I did that to pay my bills.
“I was with a dance company there and I realized company life was not for me. Then I didn’t get the part in a musical I tried out for.”
While Danielle was nursing a burgeoning depression, she received a call from a missionary friend in Amsterdam who suggested she moved to Amsterdam.
“Two weeks later I moved there,” Danielle said. “I got a job within two weeks. I had someplace to stay and I was working with a Christian organization, which was paying really well.”
Danielle felt that she was meant to be there and she was dancing and teaching dance to children.
“When I left Jamaica I would have never painted this picture,” she said, reflecting. “There are moments when I’m like, ‘Gosh, what happened?’ But I must say I’m enjoying the flight but I haven’t landed yet. I haven’t found my thing where I can say, ‘I will do this for the rest of my life.’ I love dance intensely, but is it my passion I cannot say fully, yes. It isn’t the be-all and end-all for me.”
Though Danielle admits she’s still searching for that “perfect thing”, she is enjoying the journey.
“In Amsterdam I was teaching and before that I had associated teaching dance with failure,” she says. “Before dance was a me thing, but when I started sharing it, it was amazing. I think it made me a better performer.”
Danielle excelled so well in Amsterdam that she was promoted to head of the education department. With things going well, she was surprised when she got a call from London, telling her she had gotten a part in a musical that she had auditioned for earlier.
“I was so conflicted but after talking with God I decided to stay in Amsterdam,” she said. “It was the best experience of my life so far.”
In September she’ll be going to South Africa, an experience that she is looking forward to. But she admits that she could not have scripted her journey or comprehended how her focus has changed.
“You change . . . . Now it’s no longer that I want to be the next big model or star,” she said. “I am happy. You know I worked with a church that had a school in Amsterdam and while teaching the kids I started to think, ‘What message is my choreography sending? What am I feeding their minds and their spirits?’ and that became very important to me. I’m just scared to live an ungodly life.”
When Danielle leaves Barbados, she’ll be off on another adventure, this one to South Africa for three months. After three years in Amsterdam, she resigned from her job to pursue other interests.
“I could have stayed in that job forever because I loved it,” she says, “but I know I’m not done travelling or exploring.”