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Change makers: dancer Hëna Memish on the power of music

PHOTOGRAPHER – KATHERINE BOYLE
STYLIST – JADE LEUNG AT VIVIEN’S CREATIVE
HAIR AND MAKEUP – RAFFAELLA TOMAIUOLO

Breaking down barriers.

It’s no secret that women are capable of amazing things. From protesting injustice to lifting up their communities, Aussie women have a long history of breaking down barriers.

This season, Converse is celebrating inspiring women via its All The Stories Are True campaign. It aims to uncover the stories of those who’ve carved their own path, redefining what it means to be a woman in 2019.

To get in the spirit, we chatted to dancer and not-for-profit worker Hëna Memish to find out what inspires her (while wearing her Chucks, of course).

converse.com.au

What is L2R and can you talk us through your involvement?

L2R is a not-for-profit organisation that promotes social cohesion and wellbeing by providing young people who are culturally and linguistically diverse, newly arrived and/or at-risk with opportunities to participate in free weekly hip-hop classes in Melbourne’s west.

I am the lead teaching artist, so I facilitate programs as well as managing other teaching artists.

The organisation also deals with at-risk young people living in Melbourne’s west. What kind of impact has this made on the community?

Through dance we break down social barriers, while building on mental and physical health. We have unified young people through dance and helped build skills and attributes they can use in everyday life. We also have an emerging artist program where we mentor young leaders as well as L2R Mob which is our youth committee. They are the voice of L2R.

How did L2R become what it is today?

L2R was started in 2009 by Jacinda Richards, who is my mentor. She was teaching hip-hop at Western English Language School, but when the students filtered into regular high school they had no way of accessing classes. So, that’s when Jacinda started the program. It has grown from there and is forever growing, constantly thinking of ways to engage, create and grow as a community.

In what ways does dance help break the language barrier for the newly-arrived?

Dance and music are the universal languages of the world. We all love music, and dancing comes with music. You don’t need to connect through speech, you can express and engage through the power of music and dance.

Would it be true to say that you feel the most empowered when you’re dancing?

I feel empowered when I’m dancing because I’m free and I’m honest. No external things matter in that moment, just me in my purest state.

What are some of the challenges that women face in your industry?

Body image is a huge part of what is constantly on the mind of a dancer, and it’s a negative part. There is an enormous pressure in the industry for women to look a certain way and to have a certain body type.

What women are you most inspired by? And why?

I’m inspired by all of the powerful women I surround myself with. From my students who inspire me every day with their incredible spirit, to my mother who stays true to herself through and through. I’m waiting on her to write her autobiography.

Describe your personal style.

Cosy. I hate wearing tight clothing – comfort first.

Sneakers or heels?

Sneakers.

Do you wear Converse Chuck Taylors? And if so, what’s your favourite memory while wearing them?

When I was in Grade 6 I was obsessed with the Ramones and made my mum buy me black Chucks. I rocked up to school with my skinny jeans, Chucks and band tee feeling fly like Joey Ramone.

This series is proudly brought to you by Converse

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