Hey Funky Movers! I’m Lara, the classes manager here at FM HQ.

I’m sure I will have spoken to some of you when booking you or your kids onto one of our classes. (If you’re still yet to book someone onto one of our classes then you should probably click here)

For this month’s blog, the team suggested I should write about how I found my Funky Moves career as it’s a slightly different path to many of my fellow dance teachers and how I overcame a dance injury to bring me to Funky Moves.

India DancerAs most of our teachers who work for us, I was a professional dancer and singer working in the industry. In 2015 my girlband landed a gig to travel to India with a dream of taking over the music scene. We were called City Girlz. We danced, we sang (in English AND Hindi) and were 3 girls, like sisters, with a passion to succeed in one of the greatest countries and cultures in the world. If you have ever been lucky enough to venture to the beautiful country of India then you will know just how proud they are of their music and Bollywood industry. What an exciting adventure! So City Girlz went to India and decided to do something different – we fused the Bollywood style with the western sounds. It went down really well and we were starting to establish ourselves as a music group. We were based in Mumbai so there were a lot of shows in the city to begin with. But one day we booked a gig in Kolkata for New Year’s Eve. It was a HUGE event with almost 10,000 attendees. We were so excited to be a part of it.

We rehearsed hard and travelled to Kolkata with 3 sets ready to perform. We gave it everything we had! It was an amazing show and I was having the time of my life, until… in the last couple of seconds of the last set I felt something go.

I remember feeling paralysed, I struggled to breath, I struggled to walk, I barely managed to crawl off the stage. My band mates came to my side. One asked me to roll down my spine (classic dancer thing to do!) and as I did that came one of the worst pains of my life….my back had gone. It felt like it had snapped in two halves! I was heartbroken, struggling to make sense of what had just happened. Such a high to the lowest of lows. Dramatic, I know! But to a dancer very much at the peak of her career having something like this happen was just the worst.

An on-site doctor came to see me and said I needed to go to hospital straight away but as the hospitals in Kolkata were very basic he recommended trying to fly back to Mumbai to get the best possible care.

I don’t know how I managed to make it through a 4 hour flight. I’m forever grateful to painkillers! After landing, I went straight to the hospital. One epidural and an MRI later, I received the news that I had slipped two discs. Pretty much the worst news I could’ve had. Surely this means surgery? Actually, the hospital in India didn’t suggest this. Instead of having surgery (which I would have almost certainly had in the UK) they put a belt around my waist which was linked to weights at the end of my bed. Yes, traction. Old school or what?! I had to stay like this for 7 long days as the weights realigned my spine very sloooowwwwly.

After those 7 days contemplating life, dancing, pain, the colour of my hospital gown, I was relieved that I had made it through a serious mental and physical challenge and one of the darkest moments of my life. The next morning I was due to get discharged, by no means fixed but ready to rehab at our apartment. Waiting for the doctors to sign me out I got the fright of my life…my temperature went up dramatically and my body went into shock. Doctors came running in. I was terrified and weak. After what felt like hundreds of drips and millions of tests I found out I had caught dengue fever and typhoid. Back to being almost bedbound in those 4 walls, wondering whether I’ll ever dance again.

I was in hospital for just over 2 weeks and after 2 weeks resting it off in my Mumbai home I decided to fly back home-home to London- I needed some family time!

Lara BakerMy family and friends were incredible and I felt so lucky to have had such a strong support around me. My now fiancé was INCREDIBLE! He pushed me to do my exercises 3 times a day so I could recover as quickly as possible. In regards to the dengue and typhoid, I managed to get rid of them very quickly, thanks goodness.  The next 3 months of boredom, frustration and no dancing took its toll on my mental health. All I’ve known since I was 15 was the life of a dancer. I decided I needed to get out of the house and do something… anything, while I try and get back into shape, clinging on to hope that this injury wasn’t going to dictate the end of my dance career.

I desperately needed work so I picked up a job as a receptionist at a beauty salon. No offence to the salon but I hated it. It just didn’t suit me, my brain, my energy. It did however give me time to physically and mentally recover and think about my career options.

After 6 months at the salon, enough was enough and I stopped my work with them. “I need a job I can be passionate about,” I told myself. Dance was and is my greatest passion and I was missing it so much… so why not teach?! There’ll be no pressure of having my body ‘performance ready’ but I would be getting my exercise and strength back whilst using my creative brain.

The first company website I even looked at was Funky Moves. I decided to drop them an email to see if they had any jobs going. I did feel it necessary to make them aware of my injury but hoped it wouldn’t count against me. The wonderful Jess and Holly (both of whom I now consider two of my best friends) responded straight away and asked me to come and meet them the following week.
As soon as I met them both I knew this was going to be a great company to work for. They filled me with a lot of excitement and energy…two things I needed back in me.

I started teaching for Funky Moves in November 2016, starting with less demanding roles like nursery classes and assisting main teachers. As my strength (and my sparkle!) came back I was able to take on more roles, leading classes with full energy, teaching faster and more complex routines to older children, even taking our Funky Fit adult classes which are a full on workout! (Still haven’t been to a class? Click here to join the Funky Fit Fam). As my relationship with Jess, Holly and the Funky founder Alice grew, I developed a real desire to help to grow this wonderful company which had really helped me find myself again. After initially assisting with admin, I’m proud to now be a part of the management team, working alongside 3 of the most inspiring business women I’ve ever met.

Funky FitBut what about that dance career I put on hold? Well, on November 29th 2018 I performed my first professional gig since my injury and it felt incredible! Emotional but incredible. Funky Moves is my main focus and drive nowadays but when a dance opportunity presents itself, I know I can take it and get back up on that stage, shake my stuff and keep that fire in my belly going.

The message behind this is to never give up. Yes, in a really tough couple of years my career path has changed but I never gave up on my dream. My dream, my path in life is to spread the joy and the passion of music and dance and I’m so grateful to be able to do that every day. Thank you to Funky Moves for the opportunity. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it and I promise you, you can get there. 

If you’re feeling inspired then why not come and join us at class and share your story. We have classes for everyone…kids, teens & adults. If you’re not based in London, don’t worry you can still dance with us. Just pick your favourite video on our YouTube page and follow along (don’t forget to subscribe).

Thanks so much for reading my story.

Lara xxx