Born & bred Tottenham women, Shenika Blygen, is a dance teacher and fitness instructor who ishelping local kids and adults build their confidence and increase their fitness through dance. Shekina is founder of Define Me, which is a community based business that provides classes from the age of three and up, at all levels from beginners to competition. Rachel Ho caught up with her to find out more.
Photo supplied: Shenika Blygen, founder of Define Me.
Where did you grow up and what did your parents do?
I grew up in Tottenham, I've lived here all my life. My mum worked in Early Years and my dad had range of physical, manual labour jobs when I was growing up.
Describe your relationship to Tottenham.
Tottenham is home. Not only do I live here, but I work in a local school and teach my own classes here too. I have good relationships with people in the local community and make an effort to connect with locals. I've seen Tottenham change over the years and what I am most proud about is how diverse it's become and the increase in local small businesses!
Photo supplied: Shenika with some of her students.
Tell us about Define Me. What is it and how did it come about?
Define Me is Dance. Fitness. Fun!
I started Define Me in March 2018 after going through a rough time, mentally. It saved me! I have always loved dance and fitness became an essential part of my life for dealing with stress and anxiety. I'd considered starting dance classes for a while, but didn't have the confidence to do it initially. I went back into dance training and attended workshops and seminars that helped to build my confidence to get to a point where I felt confident enough to start teaching my own classes.
March 2018 was a breakthrough moment for me. I began teaching dance to children aged 6-11 years in the local community, with the aim of not only teaching dance, but building confidence, a strong sense of self and identity and forming new healthy relationships. I now teach classes from age 3 - 11 years.
As well as the children's dance classes, I also instruct dance fitness session for adults in Tottenham too. It was important for me to start within my community because It gives me an opportunity to connect with locals and build positive relationships with those I may not come across otherwise. I am keen to share my knowledge and culture with those willing to learn.
With running dance classes for younger children, what benefits have you seen with kids learning to dance?
Where do I start?! Physically, it helps develop gross motor movement, coordination and spatial awareness - as well as increase fitness levels.
Photo from Facebook: Shenika with teaching one of her classes at The Engine Room.
In regard to personal/social development, I've witnessed real growth in confidence in themselves and their abilities. One of the greatest benefits is seeing that these children have something to be a part of. I think it's great to be a part of a team, one that you have chosen to be part of, and learning how to work together effectively in order to meet a common goal. As a woman, how do you think Tottenham has changed? What would you like to see change?
I think Tottenham is becoming a lot more diverse, not only ethnicity-wise but social classes too. There's a real mix now and I think this is a great thing, Tottenham was known as "ghetto" and I think it would be very hard to label it that now. The improvements done to the area are changing the negative perceptions and Tottenham is quickly becoming a very popular area to live in.
With all the local businesses, products and services, we no longer have to travel to big retailers and popular shopping destinations to get necessities/use services. We can shop and support our local community.
As for change... I'd like to see more young people taking time to develop their interests and learn skills that will benefit their future. I remember being a young person and being a bit lost, not strong enough in character and not sure what I wanted to do, which lead to me just "hanging out" on the road and wasting a lot of valuable time. This happens to many young people and unfortunately, they can get caught up in negativity and find it very hard to get out of. Favourite thing to do in Tottenham?
Other than teach my classes at The Engine Room and The Hub, I use the local Tottenham Green Leisure Centre for classes, gym and swimming; which I love!
Summer walks along the marshes are also one of my favourite things to do.
Anything you would like to add?
Thank you for taking the time to interview me. I appreciate being acknowledged as a Woman In Tottenham and I think you are super inspirational. Great to see women supporting other women!
Photo supplied: Shenika with her Define Me crew.