I am Ella (also known as Maya Gandaia!)

I have been dancing forever, but started a wiggly way in salsa clubs in Bristol, then Leeds, getting gigs which eventually took me around the world including Denmark, Serbia, India, Turkey, Spain, South Africa!

I began contemporary when a friend (thanks Helen Wilson!) suggested I audition for a company in Leeds founded by Merville Jones (a founder of Phoenix). It was hard (I had just graduated from Leeds Uni with a Politics & Sociology degree!) & I was so out of shape, but I loved it!

Next, I went to Brazil with one dream: to parade as passista in carnival. In 2006, I was the first gringa to do this & was featured on tv! I also discovered aerial silks!

In 2007, I began to crave an opposite style, so took up breaking. I wanted to be a ‘real dancer’ so moved to London for a masters in dance at LSCD.

In 2009, I was awarded a Lisa Ullman scholarship to train with Angel Ortiz (RIP) in NYC in On2.

When I got back, I was offered an apprenticeship with Upswing Circus which was a dream come true!

In 2011 I danced my first solo for Breakin’ Convention, then had to make a choice: circus or dance? Because I was offered a world dance tour with Russell Maliphant (which was actually really tough but that’s another story!).

The next few years I enjoyed perfoming and touring. Some performance highlights and diverse experiences included dancing for Uchenna, touring with Southpaw, guesting for Lea Anderson (The Chomondeleys) and being a dalmation in the Olympics Opening Ceremony!

In 2014, I set up my own company: Ella Mesma Company, to create something where the dancers wellbeing was a priority, & where all the styles I had learnt on my journey had a place and were valued equally.

EMC have been going strong ever since, commissioned by Sadler’s Wells, the National Centre for Circus, Dance City.

With EMC, I have been Associate Artist at Dance City (2017), Trinity Centre Bristol (2018), Slate World (2020), Pervasive Media Studio, Pavillion Dance South West (2020-2021).

The company make about one to two shows (Sometimes three) a year.

I also movement direct & choreograph for other companies (most recently Manchester International Festival: Little Amal & Bristol Old Vic: Anansi), and I coach over at Maya Gandaia Ltd, which is such a joy!

I was also a Dance On artist at Yorkshire Dance working with older dancers in 2019 & I created & toured Roots of Rumba Festival (2013-2018) which was epic!