By Sophie Sadler
As I arrived at the hip-hop lesson, I couldn’t have been further from my comfort zone. Hip-hop was surely the arena of bangin’ young bluh from The Hood. I was surprised, therefore, to find a class of mothers busting a move to ‘Shut Up’ by the Black Eyed Peas. So what’s going down?
This is Lewis’s Dance Crew, led by charismatic former West End Star Lewis Davies, who counted Michael Jackson as an admirer and is now engaging Algarve residents in this addictive dance style. His classes are fun and casual. He breaks a routine down into manageable chunks so even someone as wack as me could get the moves – well, sort of! There is something incredibly satisfying about moving in sync with others to the music behind someone as fly as Lewis. Right, that’s enough of the lingo now!
Originally from Uganda, Lewis was adopted and lived in the UK from 1990. He attended the Cambridge Performing Arts and Bodywork Dance Company from 1998 to 2001, but says he ‘didn’t get the discipline’ in the beginning and so was always sent to do ballet classes with the little theatre school kids (taught by Lucy Douglass) as punishment! Fortunately, after six months, it all clicked.
From 2001 to 2014, he worked on the West End stage and was in the original cast of Thriller Live. Tito came to watch and loved it so much that he brought along the Jackson clan, including Michael, La Toya and Marvin. After the performance, Michael Jackson met the cast and came over to Lewis, who had lots of tricks in the show and told him that he thought his moves were really ‘cool’.
“Michael Jackson was the reason I started to dance, but when I met him, I wasn’t star-struck at all. He was actually down to earth and talked to the cast really naturally. I was most in awe of Seal, who I met when we performed at the Olivier awards in front of the Queen. He just had this aura with an amazing persona. With his tribal scars, he was like an African King – like Mufassa!”
Lewis is not in awe of celebrities. “They are just performers like me, but on a broader platform,” he says. He has played Tyrone in the musical Fame and was in Hairspray with Michael Ball and Mel Smith. Lewis has also dabbled in commercial dancing and was in a video with Chris Brown, which never made it to the television screen.
He found it to be ‘cliquey’ and preferred the intense discipline and thrill of singing and dancing and acting in eight live shows a week on the stage.
Those early ballet lessons brought him to the Algarve as he started dating the dance teacher Lucy Douglass. In fact, it was Lucy who suggested Lewis come to the Algarve to hold a Michael Jackson workshop in Carvoeiro Tennis Club – which he did with great success.
Lucy then organised another in Praia da Luz with Stephanie Milne. When he returned to Praia da Luz to run another Thriller workshop in 2014, he called his agent and told him he wasn’t returning to the UK.
Lewis started teaching locally, building up from one student to larger classes as people started to appreciate his teaching style. When the ladies class finished, an enthusiastic crowd of young hip-hoppers bound into the room and I could see how much they were looking forward to Lewis’s class.
As word got around that the Algarve had some serious new dance talent, Lewis started to be approached to appear in shows. “I was surprised at the high standard of the dance productions here. I have worked a lot with Nilsen Jorge, putting on performances in Lagos and at the campsite in Espiche. A former ballerina, she runs the Associação Cultural Dancenema. I am pushed to my limits,” says Lewis.
At 41, Lewis has performed in four different shows this year. The speed at which he had to learn the dance routines, plus the amount of lifting required, put pressure on an old back injury. He is using this winter to recover and teach but he will be putting in an appearance at the Dance Show at Quinta da Boavista on New Year’s Eve.
Now married, he and Lucy have a four-year-old daughter Lexi, who does ballet and hip-hop classes at Portimão Dance Studio with Laura Gemma Taylor. Lexi aspires to be another one of Lewis’s pupils one day. For now, her father is enjoying life in the Algarve and is “letting my dancing do the talking”.
If your New Year’s resolution is to try something new, then I can think of no better way than joining Lewis’s crew!
Lewis teaches at Burgau Sports Centre on a Tuesday with classes for adults and children of all ages. His lessons in Portimão dance studios are on a Wednesday and Friday for ages 11+.
+351 939 793 429