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Issue 14: Nikki Zachariou

Nikki Zachariou

Nikki Zachariou was born and raised in Jersey. Even though her parents were separated, she recalls a fairly typical, happy childhood, spending holidays with her grandparents in Essex whilst her parents worked.

Nikki, the founder of UberEdge Dance Company, has always loved dancing - she danced on an off when she was younger, picking it up again at the age of 16 when she studied Performing Arts at Hautlieu. Nikki continued her studies in dance as well as psychology at King Alfred College (now Winchester University).

Initially wanting to be a singer, Nikki's love of dance stems from music. "I've always loved music, and dancing to music gives you an indescribable feeling; it's like losing yourself and finding yourself at the same time. You get out of your head, and it is almost like you're someone else, like an alter ego. You get to be the person you would want to show up in the real world as but would probably be told to calm down because you're being too sexy, too confident or too much!"

Whilst there are many different avenues to explore when it comes to a career in dancing, at the time, Nikki remembers her teachers and parents telling her that it was a competitive industry and that she should have something to fall back on. Being encouraged to take a more academic route, Nikki decided to major in psychology and do a teacher training course at Cardiff University. She came home to do the practical part of her teachers’ degree at Highlands College and continued to teach there part time after her course was finished. "I didn't believe at the time that I could make a career out of dancing, even though that's probably where my heart was. When I was younger, there wasn't the awareness of the different routes you could take with dance and how dance and creativity can affect your well-being."

"You get in touch with your sensual side, a feeling of living your most unapologetic life."

After studying, Nikki spent a year in Australia, where she continued her love affair with dancing. She took adult classes at the Sydney Dance Company and continued training with them for a few months before travelling up the East Coast. "I was only supposed to visit a friend for a couple of months, but when the time came, I didn't want to leave. Back then, you could only get a visa for one year, and you could only get it once, so I needed to make the most of the experience."

Once Nikki had returned home, she began teaching dance at Highlands College and working for a marketing company. After a few years, she decided she wanted to start her own dance company to inspire and empower other women. In 2008, on her 27th birthday, she registered her own business, UberEdge Dance Company. Nikki began teaching her own classes, starting with street dance and soon expanding to fitness classes, followed by pole classes. "I was training for a fitness qualification, and I saw a Pole Dance Teacher Qualification flyer. I had never pole danced before, so I booked the course, bought a pole, and then was really upset to discover I couldn't do it! I practised every day for 20 minutes at a time, and within two weeks, I had all the basics covered. I continued training, and once I had qualified, I introduced the pole classes."

It isn't just a great workout you get from the dance and pole classes; you also get a tremendous sense of empowerment. You get in touch with your sensual side, a feeling of living your most unapologetic life. "As women, we are told not to be too shy, but don't be too confident, don't be too sexy, but don't be too frigid either. With all these mixed messages, is there any wonder why women are so overwhelmed, confused, and have many self-doubts? The classes offer women the space to express themselves fully, without being told to dim it down."

Having a thirst for mindset and human behaviour, Nikki says that her studies in Psychology have been fundamental in her dance career. "The two subjects work well together. Part of what we do in dancing is to inspire women's confidence to grow and believe in themselves – having the knowledge of how people think and behave means I can weave that in quite easily into our classes."

"I recently did a webinar on why there is such a massive confidence gap between men and women. Part of the theory is that because girls and boys are treated differently, labelled differently, the two's expectations are different as we're growing up, which leads to a confidence gap in adulthood. Girls are much more unhappy with how they look and less optimistic about life. The shaming of female celebrities affects us, and the numerous derogatory names there are for women is incomparable to that of men. For example, women are less likely to negotiate a pay rise, whereas men have the confidence to ask for what they deserve. Consciously women know they are good enough, they deserve happiness and love, but subconsciously there is a completely different belief system. I believe that if you can clear that, you can unlock more confidence and more potential.

"Women initially come to the classes for fitness and they can show off what they've learned, and it's a fun way to work out - but they stay for the sense of empowerment that they get from the class that spills out into other areas of their life."

Having been broody for a couple of years, Nikki decided to have a baby and fell pregnant in 2019. "There were so many practical considerations that you have to look at when you are going to be a working mum. It was hard to imagine what life would be like; nothing can prepare you. For someone who likes a strategy, it seemed quite overwhelming and caused me quite a lot of stress!"

But sure enough, Nikki has found her flow and balances motherhood with work, spending her days with Kobi and teaching dance in the evenings.

Like many businesses, Nikki had to close the dance studio due to restrictions last year, but she adapted and offered her clients online sessions. "Part of what makes the classes so popular is the sense of community, friendship, women coming together and that collective energy. Women are powerful together. Even though we were together online, it's not the same, but I'm grateful that we could offer an online service and thankful to the clients that continued to show up."

Nikki hopes to re-open the studio soon and welcome old and new clients to try out the classes and become part of a strong female group.

You can follow Nikki on Instagram and keep up to date with classes and opening times @UberEdgeDanceCompany

Images: Ray Marsh and Sophie Darwin


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