Creative Director

Clair is the Creative Director at Shut Up & Dance, meaning that she choreographs the routines and has full control of the classes themselves, as well as manages and coordinates our new instructors.   Clair loves walking so we decided to have our chat along the Mount Victoria track. Walking with Clair is like getting picked up and thrown into a whirlwind.  A whirlwind you really want to ride.  After sipping a long black and talking mainly about crunchy leaves underneath our feet we stop for a moments rest and decide to sit on a bench together for a yarn, overlooking the new city that she calls her second home.

So tell me Clair, how did you become involved with SUAD? 

I met Lesa when I was on my travels in New Zealand in Castle Point.  Lesa was so friendly and funny, we spent the day speaking in loads of accents and danced like crazy people, she didn't have a care in the world and I was like... Omg I love this girl she's totally bonkers just like me!  After my travels I headed back to London (back to the "real world"), but missed New Zealand way too much (alongside falling in love with a kiwi guy) so I took a leap of faith and moved to Wellington.

Settling into a new city is hard, so with any opportunity I had to meet new potential friends, I jumped at the chance.  One night I was out with a few mates including Lesa and I met Abby (one of Lesa's pals) at Goldings Freedive.  We all had beer and pizza (the best friendships usually involve these two joyous ingredient don't they...).

And straight away I knew.  I knew we would get along.  We talked about life and had a few deep and meangingfuls and then continued to see each other more often.  Abby messaged me this EPIC message on Facebook and I thought, nah... no... This is a spam 'cause we're not bum chums yet; we're only just learning to get our friendship on.  So I didn't open it 'cause I thought it was a spam, then I received a few more messages, like a video and gifs of pop stars and stuff and so I opened it and read it and Abby had sent this long message like "omg wouldn't it just be so funny if we did this class" blah blah blah and I thought... Ok this is cute.  I don't know what this is, but lets do this.  So we arranged to meet up for dinner and I was really excited slash nervous about it 'cause I wanted to hang out with girls cause I was looking for female company.  I didn't even care what they were gunna say.  I was like yep!  Yep!  Yep I'm in!  We hung out at each others' houses, put our favourite songs on and danced to the ones that literally made us jump around like 10 year olds.  I had found my Wellington girlband!  

What do you love most about being a part of Shut Up & Dance?

I love people.  I love being part of the community. I love teaching.  I love the fact I have made lots of friends now in Wellington.  I love that the people of this city are so ready to try something new and that they welcome a Pom with such open arms.  I love the energy that each and every class brings. I love the secret moments I see between friends who come together and crack up at the fact they're dancing to Britney Spears, as Britney Spears, on a Monday night after a massive day.  I love the nostagic element of hearing those songs from 15 years ago.  I love the challenge of choreographing, learning and teaching a new routine every week.  I love the giggles.  I love the awkward moments.  I love the high fives.  I love the fact that each week, Abby, Lesa and I come together to do the class and then eat with a bevvy afterwards.  Energy that's unspoken. People don't HAVE to be there, it's not work. You're just there cause everyone loves to dance and everyone loves to feel part of something.  All I want is to be happy and to give happiness.  

Whats your Guilty Pleasure dance track? 

Always a boyband track!  Or disney... But Boyband is always the one.  Disney, I know all the words, I will sing them and I'm not ashamed.   You know the second you sing one word of a disney song, you know who your friends are when they all go "CAAAAAN YOU FEEEEEL.  THE LOOOOVE TONIGHT."  But seriously, most probably Nsync, Tearin' Up My Heart.  It literally makes my whole body jump up with excitement and my facial expressions go to a whole.  New.  Place.  No joke haha.

If you were to be stranded on a desert island and you had to take one person with you, who would it be and why?

Alive or dead?  Ok well, if they have to be someone who is alive today I reckon I would take either Barack Obama or David Beckham.  Oh actually, it would depend if the island has waves. I really wanna learn to surf before I'm 30 so maybe I would take a really cool surfing chick and have her teach me all the moves!  Boom!

Have you done anything in the past week that has made you proper cringe?

Always!  Every day I do something that makes me cringe.  I always say sorry to the lamp post when I bump into it.  Ooh, I know!  This is bad! This is so bad.  I was really excited to meet this girl called Hannah, and a long story short - I'd built up, the excitement so much, that I when I went to introduce myself I went "HI I'M HANNAH."  And then I was like, "NO. You're Hannah. I'm Clair.  Gah.  Sorry."  And she was all... "Aw that's so cute" and EVERYONE just laughed at me and then for the rest of the night everyone was like to me "HI I'M HANNAH."

What would you say is your biggest achievement yet?

A serious one?  A 10 Day Silence Retreat.  Two years ago I took part in a 10 day Vipassana Meditation Retreat in the blue mountains Sydney. The experience changed my life.  It was THE most challenging thing I have ever done.  If you've met me, I know you'll be thinking: YOU? Clair?!  Being quiet for that entire amount of time?  No way.  But honestly, the silence was the easiest part.  The silence was actually total bliss. It was the 8-11 hours of meditation a day that was the challenge. No reading.  No writing.  No communication - that's including the smile you'd normally give to the lady who is serving you lunch or the girl you're sharing a room with.  In short, the experience made me fully understand that everything is impermanent, that you truly have to live in the moment and fully trust the process.  I would not have been able to fully uproot myself from home and be brave enough to do certain things life throws at me now without having done this course. I am so grateful.  

And a funny one?  Managing to eat a sugared donut without licking my lips until it's finished.  Try it... It takes real skill.  It really does. Whenever I say to anyone eating a donut (as they're eating it) "DON'T LICK YOUR LIPS," you're enjoying it so much that you're just like... Nah.  I don't wanna do that.  So THAT is the skill because you don't wanna do that?  But if you really wanna do that then you'll do it.  You know?

What's your favourite quote?

Ooh!  I have a few... With this year being such a whirlwind of emotions and being so far from home I use these daily:

"Too blessed to be stressed"

"Everything is Impermanent"

"Team work makes the dream work"

"If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place." 


Vegemite: Yay or nay?  

Abby didn't get the concept of fire round, so I'm going to show her how it's done.  Yay or nay?  Yay!

If you were a cake slice what would you be and why?

Fruit and nut.  Because I can be soft and sensitive but also strong, stubborn and a bit bonkers, e.g nutty.  

If there was a film made about your life, what's the song that plays on it's trailer?

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.

Cats or dogs?

Ohh... Definitely a dog.  We have lots in common.  We both like food, we both like walking and we both like attention.  Boom! 

Something you're really good at?

I'm good at sudoku.  I'm good at eating sausage rolls.  Not posh, herby rolls, just the standard buffet, pastry, weird, meatball-thing-that-isn't-meat sausage rolls.  And analogies, I always come up with some weird analogy that relates to my coming soon haha. 


Clair is absolutely impossible to describe in one, two or even three words.  She's something to be experienced in the flesh and you'll be a better person after the experience.  Want to spy on her life?  Follow her on Instagram.

Abby Damen