Ghanaian dance artist and instructor Perbie opened up to us about his start, his journey and the impact he is creating with his craft.
The creator of Telli Dance, an interactive dance coaching and teaching camp, recalled how difficult but exhilarating it was for him to follow his passion.
In an intimate interview with us, Perbi disclosed not only his aspirations but his prospects for the Ghanaian dance industry.
FB: Good day, Perbie. You’ve been very busy lately , I see.
Perbie: Busy is good sometimes. Especially when it’s driven by passion with an end-goal in sight. I know what I want to achieve. I know in the next few years, I want to see myself as one of the biggest dance stars, and I’m also doing this for the ones coming.
I’m glad that a few of us have been able to jump start this thing and now there are certain things called ‘dance celebrities’. There was nothing like dance celebrities back in the days and now we have it.
FB: It’s interesting seeing how a few of you guys have put dance on the map. You spoke about how it’s difficult to come out as a dancer in this part of the world and the challenges you’ve faced. What do you suppose was the toughest hurdle for you?
Perbie: You get discouragements, people beating you down. Like, what is this? Where’s this damce thing going to take you to? What are you going to gain from this? That is the very, very first one. That’s the very first challenge.
One thing is, I’ve never listened to anyone. When I started, I used to work at a key architectural company as a draftsman then I started taking dance on the side until I started taking it full time. It hasn’t been easy because for one full year my dad was not speaking to me because he didn’t understand. But then as time went on, I started going somewhere. Dance started taking me to places; I’ve been to Rwanda, I’ve been to Nigeria, been on a few trips just to perform and it’s not easy to get a lineup with a musician on a show, in a different country where you have your own performance. This is not something small.
All this gives me a certain boost that I can make it. If I have been recognized outside the country, without no manager or agency backing. I’m doing everything on my own. So I have hope and faith and I believe that definitely it’s going to be better. It is all about branding. Branding will get you jobs and branding will get you paid what you are worth.
FB: So you think collectively, the few of you who are now up and doing should be able to brand yourself to a certain level where anyone that approaches you knows what they are getting in terms of performance
Perbie: Exactly and that’s why at my dance classes, I teach key things on the business of dance. It’s not always about gathering people to dance. It is also about imparting knowledge and skills.
FB: You spoke about you not having a manager and we’ve just spoken about branding of our craft to attract the proper deals and big payments. How do you tackle dealing with the business aspect of dancing all on your own?
Perbie: It falls down to knowing your worth- your value. You do not have to be disrespectful but let your yes be yes and your no be no.
FB: How would you describe your brand now?
Perbie: I would describe myself as a professional abd prolific dance artist. I don’t just dance, I breathe it.
FB: When you started this, did you have set goals and targets and how far have you gone with them?
Perbie: Yes, I did and yesterday, I still do. I want to be global and be recognised for it. I want to be working with names like Chris Brown, build an empire and an academy. I’m just not rushing right now, I used to be part of a group but now I’m on my own and I don’t want to rush into things.
FB: You spoke about you being part of a group and all and we knew you were with Ziggy and you shot to the limelight alongside him, how was that experience?
Perbie: It was some of the best time of my life. We are like brothers
FB: You chose to step away from that partnership controversially. Why?
Perbie: It sometimes happens, you have to step away to find your own path and that’s just it.
FB: There are rumors that there is a feud between both of you
Perbie: Oh no, for me not at all.
FB: So let’s come to your dance class, when did you decide to start?
Perbie: Last year, I was invited by a certain troupe to come in and teach them. That’s when the light bulb went on in my head and I got into teaching. My second class, was on my birthday where I held a birthday dance class and the numbers were massive, I even had a surprise guest artiste come through; the king of Azonto – Gasmilla and it was a dream if an experience.
FB: We noticed that you also took your dance classes to Kumasi. How was the Kumasi experience?
Perbie: It was great and the response there too was massive so it’s a thing I’m going to explore. But with the Kumasi Class, it’s something I’m going to be doing annually, every December and we’ll name it ‘The Last Dance’. Kumasi was a tour, we were supposed to go Kumasi, Takoradi and other regions with a group called, U Dance Arts, they are a group outside the country. They are actually from Ghana but are based in the US. They got interested after seeing the videos of my first tour and decided to work with me. But we will be heading to Winneba, Takoradi and Cape Coast and the plan is to target and activate the universities.
FB: When you sit back and realize how much people are interested in your craft and how a lot of people are willing to learn from you, how does it make you feel?
Perbie: It is wonderful. Really. It makes me want to work harder, it makes me want to keep going and it boosts me. These are the things that keep me going. If I organize a dance class and even only five people show up, it’s a big win for me.
FB: I know you’ve been doing this with your kid brother, what’s the story behind that? How did he join you?
Perbie: I honestly didn’t even know he was that interested in dance. It’s not like I handpicked him to do this but he already had a passion for it so I decided I’d help get him where he needs to be in anyway I could.
FB: Speaking about family, how is your dad taking it now, the career path you’ve chosen?
Perbie: Funny enough, he is cool with it now.
FB: We’ve seen dance videos with your mum, seems like she is your number one fan.
Perbie: Oh yes, she has been in full support from day 1.
FB: But in the period where your Dad didn’t seem to agree with what you were doing, how did you deal with it?
Perbie: I didn’t let it pull me back, I kept doing what I had to do to prove to him that, something good can come out of this and he is seeing it now.
FB: In this path that you have chosen, you are well aware that, there is an increasing demand to better yourself and there’s a lot of things going on for you, so how do you do that?
Perbie: Like I’ve been saying, it’s not easy, I don’t let myself get easily distracted because the moment I slack, I will lose fans because I remember a few months back, I wasn’t doing anything or posting anything on social media and I lost a lot of fans.
FB: In terms of monetizing yourself, you have a YouTube Channel?
Perbie: Yeah, it’s ‘theboyperbie’ because I use the same name on all social media platforms.
FB: And since you started, does it fetch money?
Perbie: For YouTube right now, no but I’m building the channel to get more subscribers by posting content. It is important to note that, even if the money is important, I’m not really into this for the money but right now I just want to work hard and help people as much as I can.
FB: So right now, how do you fund yourself? the travelling, organizing classes, paying for space and even sometimes refreshing these kids who come to learn from you?
Perbie: I make money from the dance, like promos, challenges and performances in music videos. I don’t really do music videos because directors need more than one dancer but they are not willing to pay the right money for a group of dancers and I want these kids to enjoy how satisfying it is to earn from your craft.
FB: Where do you think the dance industry in Ghana stands?
Perbie: I will still say we haven’t gotten anywhere; I will maintain that we still haven’t got anywhere because we don’t even have a correct dance committee like how the music industry has in MUSIGHA where anything dance in Ghana can be regulated through. I was speaking to a few people who are interested in this and that will mean we will all have to come together to make it possible but that’s the thing, we don’t want to come together.
FB: You’re touching on another part here by saying that the dancers in Ghana are not unified.
Perbie: We are not coming together at all, especially when you consider other African countries.
FB: So you think that, this is a call for unity and unless the craftsmen or the people involved in this industry are able to come together, it’s not going to work?
FB: So far, you’ve travelled to Nigeria and Rwanda and other places, what were the projects that took you there?
Perbie: In Rwanda, it was a performance, together with my dance partner we went there to go and perform. Nigeria was also sort of a dancehall festival thing where we were supposed to dance and show the dancehall dance.
FB: Do you feel like in this industry, there’s a lot of naysayers? There are a lot of people who are looking for any negativity?
Perbie: Oh of course, you know, they are basically interested in the negativity more than the positive things and it hurts a lot. Because content writers should be helping blow up the dance industry in Ghana.
FB: Any last words for your fans?
Perbie: Chale guys keep supporting the brand, keep supporting theboyperbie, just keep looking up to us and anybody who wants to follow their dreams, never give up because you never know. Keep moving.