Leading dance choreographer Louie Spence passionately loves his job. Throughout his career he’s worked with numerous big names in the entertainment industry and as director of London’s world famous dance agency Edit, he’s provides artists like Kylie, Mary J Blige and Ja Rule with the cream of the dance world. He’s always on the look out to help more new talent.The 37 year old is currently involved in the third series of “Bump n' Grind”, the hugely successful reality TV show which starts next month on Sky’s Trouble channel.Auditions for the programmes have already been carried out in Manchester, Birmingham and London and the finalists have been selected to enter either Louie’s group – the “Booty camp” or his nemesis’s Darrin Henson, to be taught and choreographed in their own special ways. Now the rival teams are to battle it out until the nerve-racking live final, where the winner will be awarded the life-changing prize of a year’s- contract with the agency, AMCK. FemaleFirst managed to talk to Louie whilst he was promoting the show to ask about being Darrin’s opponent, dancing for Whitney and his desire to win the competition again for one of the kids in his team. Can you tell us a bit about your background – you have over 20 years professional dancing experience haven’t you?

I started dancing when I was about five, following my sister’s dance classes. I was told I looked better in Lycra so I continued. Then I went to a stage school when I was about 12, I went to Italia Conti. As a child I did things like Grange Hill and I did Bugsy Malone the musical at the National Theatre in Haymarket and I did the odd commercial here and there. I then went to the London Studio Centre for three years when I was sixteen. When I left there I went straight into Miss Saigon, the original cast. I then started to do more commercial dance – more pop stuff. I worked with people like Boyzone, Take That, Bjork, I did the Spice Girls “Spice World” tour. Erm, just like all the sort of pop acts that were around at the time – like in the late, mid nineties. I even did Atomic Kitten. (ex-Atomic Kitten band member Liz is a judge on Bump and Grind with Louie). I did one of their very first gigs they did at the Cambridge theatre. It was when Kerrie was still in the group, they were very green and I was coming to the end of my dancing career really. I then played Magical Mister Mistoffelees in Cats, which is one of the lead dancing roles at the New London Theatre. That’s a bit about my dancing background.

I then went to Pineapple Dance Studios and I became the artistic director there. I also opened a dance agency called Edit. From there all the TV started, and work wise in conjunction with the agency, I’ve worked with people like Emma Bunton, Will Young, Jamelia, Rachel Stevens, Brian McFadden and done numerous TV commercials, things like Debenhams for their Christmas dance commercials.

When you were growing up, who was your favourite dancer? Who inspired you?

It’s really difficult because when I was younger I just sort of used to watch dancers on TV. I used to watch things like the Hot Shoe Show where there were people like Cherry Gillespie who used to be in Pans People or Legs and Co. Also people who are known in the dancing world like Stuart Arnold. But also there’s people who are amazing dancers like Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, from all those movies that used to play when I was a kid, you know, Ginger Rogers. All those kind of people inspired me when I was a child. I used to watch those Sunday afternoon films you know Judy Garland and The Wizard of Oz. All those kind of things - like the forties Singing in the Rain films and the big MGM musicals which inspired me in that side of the showbiz.

Obviously the commercial side was more inspired by people like Michael Jackson. His videos were really big dance videos. Like when he did Thriller that was amazing to see so many dancers doing what was a short film really. All those kind of people inspired me as I was going into the industry. What advice would you give to an aspiring dancer?

Just don’t give up. Do not give up. If it’s your dream then live your dream because it’s such a tough industry and you will always be knocked down. But in the end if you do succeed it’s one of the most fabulous lives that you can ever lead. People dream about becoming rich and famous – I’ve worked with many people who are rich and famous but it doesn’t necessarily make you happy. Which I’ve found out. That used to be me – “Oh god I want to be rich and famous”. But I’ve found from working with people who are immensely famous and rich that there are disadvantages. We get the best side of it because we get to travel with them in their private jets and you get to stay in five star hotels with them and you get paid great money but you don’t have to deal with the other side of it – you know, not being able to go anywhere, like not being able to walk the streets without being “papped” by photographers. If you are content with that, you know, and I was very content - you lead an amazing life. You live the lifestyle of the stars but you don’t have their pressure. You get their discount when you go shopping with them, which is fabulous.

What skills do you need for your job as a choreographer?

You have to be passionate about what you do, but your physicality is important. Your body is your tool – you have to be in top physical shape. You just can’t let yourself go and obviously as a dancer people actually judge you on your physicality. As soon as they look at you, they’re looking for someone who is physical. It’s such a physical thing to dance. When people think of dancers they think of beautiful bodies and if you don’t live up to that, there will always be someone behind you who has been working out at the gym or doing pilates or who has a strict diet. If you are not blessed with good genes and good muscle tone then it is hard work. Fortunately I was blessed.

You’ve been with the show since it started in 2004. What’s it been like working with Darrin and Liz for Bump n' Grind up until now?

It’s my third year – so I’ve been doing it previously to this and I’ve won it as well. There’s sort of two groups – Darrin’s and mine. It’s been great working with them. Liz is great. Northern people have such great personalities, especially Scousers. They’re really quick witted. She’s really bubbly – she’s great for the show. And also she’s been in the industry for around ten years now. She’s travelled the world, she knows what it’s like, she knows what she’s looking for when she does auditions and she’s had many dancers in her videos. So it’s great to work with somebody - an artist who does have a knowledge of dance. They haven’t just got somebody in just because they’re a name. She does have a knowledge. And it’s great to work with Darrin. It’s always great to work with other people who feel the same way as I do – you know inspired by talent. I mean it’s nice to work with someone like the Americans because they do have a different attitude to us which is great, you know, which I really do admire, that attitude of the American dream and go out and get what you want.

How do you feel about going head–to–head with Darrin and his camp? He says he’s “whipping your butt” at the moment!

Look, like I say the American Dream is great but he’s living that dream over here and it doesn’t quite work the same over here. I don’t know what he was doing when he was choosing his dancers but if he says he knows what he’s looking for then he is so wrong. I mean the fact is, I do know that I have the winner. Also for me I have a great advantage. One I’m based at the world famous Pineapple dance studios. We’ve been there for years now. We have over two hundred classes a week there, we have a turnover of dancers coming every single day – new faces from all over the world. I know what I’m looking for now, I’m at the advantage there; I know what kids are going to make it.

I do also have another little tool. Debbie Moor who actually owns Pineapple Dance Studios – she’s always around as well and whatever I miss she’s always first in there to tell me, you know “ Have you seen this one”. It’s about being in touch and knowing the latest trends. I’m at the heart of dance in this country and Europe. Whatever heart is beating with him I’m telling you, is not beating the same rhythm. One, he’s not got a winner and two, he does not have Pineapple on his side. That’s what’s made me the winner for the last two years. It really is about being in the heart of that place. You don’t miss a trick, any new styles, any new young dancers, any new artists will always come and work there before they actually go out. That gives me the advantage of knowing exactly what’s going on in this industry and that’s how I know how to pick a winner - apart from my own talent.

You’ve worked with so many famous names, but is there anybody in particular that you’d still like to work with?

For me it’s not really so much the name of somebody, as so much about the passion of it. There are certain people obviously like Madonna who puts absolutely amazing shows on. I mean what she does with her shows is truly a theatrical spectacular. She doesn’t scrimp and scrape with a budget or anything. I was really fortunate to meet her when she actually videoed part of her last video when she was in the dance studio because she filmed it at Pineapple. The energy that I got from her was just amazing. It was so inspirational. People like her. I think if there was anyone it would be an artist that puts on the most amazing spectaculars and doesn’t scrimp and scrape. It would be somebody like Madonna.

What’s been your favourite moment of Bump n' Grind, series three so far?

Something that made me laugh is when three pole dancers auditioned. However, they didn’t have a pole where they were doing it, so they decided to do a lap dance on a chair. My self, Liz and Darrin were in absolute fits.

Out of all the famous people you’ve worked with, who would you say were the natural dancers?

I did some stuff for Emma Bunton when she went solo and she is an amazing dancer. A really, really natural dancer- great rhythm. Her own interpretation of dance was great. She really had a flair for it. And she really enjoyed it. It came very easy to her and she picked up choreography so quickly.

Is there anybody you have worked with that has struggled to learn some of your dance moves?

Someone who showed true dedication to dance is Will Young. Literally, he’s gone and had private ballet lessons. He’s really gone all out in dance – he absolutely loves dance. All of these shows he does with dance troupes – these big spectaculars.

Bump n' Grind have introduced another route in the show this year, with viewers getting the chance to queue jump the auditions by submitting video clips online. How do you feel about that?

I think it’s great cos you know what, with these competitions, sometimes people actually can’t afford it cos we only do them in Birmingham, London and Manchester. If people can’t afford to get there – cos it’s not cheap to get a train ticket now. Or they have something on the audition day like a wedding or who knows – but they couldn’t get there. They have the same opportunity as the other guys. We can still view them.

What would you say have been the most memorable moments of your career so far?

It wasn’t actually a dance moment. It was when myself and Emma Bunton were in the Bahamas. She was doing part of a show out there and when we got there, it ended up there was lots of famous people there that we didn’t know like Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown, Gloria Estefan, Stevie Wonder and it was a private party for this really rich guy. We had dinner with Ray Liotta, everything was great and we went in to where they were all going to do their show and their singing. Afterwards everyone went to the casino and we all had our own limousines. Well when me and Emma got out the limousine wasn’t there, so we were still waiting and chatting and Whitney and Bobby come out and asked us if we wanted a lift back to the hotel with them. And for me that was…I know it’s not a dancing moment but it was a moment where I spent 25 minutes with someone who I thought was absolutely amazing - Whitney. And I did get to dance with her as well – it wasn’t a paid performance but it was an amazing moment in my career.

Also when I was Magical Mister Mistoffelees in Cats because it was the lead role in the West End and for a dancer there aren’t many lead dance roles in commercial kind of dance. There’s the Royal Ballet, but I'm thinking of commercial kind of dance, which I call musical theatre. And it’s something that although I’d done lots of commercial dance as in pop stuff, the training that I’d had had never really been utilised to that point. So for me it was something that I had to work 120% every night to give the performance that the public wanted and I got great rewards for it.

Do you have a favourite style of dance yourself – one that you like to do to chill out perhaps?

I love a lyrical kind of dance. Anything that is really passionate. You can call it lyrical jazz, you can call it whatever you want. It’s where you dance and really interpret the music. So I would say something like a lyrical jazz where I have to move every part of my body, you know, all the facility I have. That’s where I really feel as though I can be totally free.

Your final words – you’re going to collect gold for a third time then?

The fact is it’s not solely me what’s going to win, it’s gonna be obviously the kids that I’ve got, one of those is gonna win. They’ve got great determination and real dedication, more than any of the other years these kids have got it. Booty Camp, which is my camp will be the winning camp, but it is definitely down to the individuals and what they’ve put in and also cos they’ve taken everything that I’ve said on board and turned it to their advantage. It will be Booty camp that will be winning – but it’s about them.

Bump n' Grind starts on Trouble on 6th September at 7pm. For more details about the popular TV show please visit www.trouble.co.uk

Rebecca Leach