For the ones that don't know me, 'Hi, I'm Jeffke, nice to meet you'.
I'm a 26 year old passionate dance instructor & choreographer, based in Belgium.
I live in a beautiful Miners' city called Beringen with Lisa, who has been by my side for the last 8 years, and my Daddy, who I can't imagine my life without and is always there if I need him, and who has been supporting me from the very beginning and my first steps on a dance floor.
During weekdays when I'm home, I try to find some time to go through my course books from university to get my LAW degree. Of course I need to prepare for my weekend events and choreograph too. Every Tuesday and Thursday night, you can find me in front of a group of lovely people, also known as my dance crew. Every week I teach 7 hours of NULINE dance classes to the most motivated crowd an instructor can dream of. I used to teach my own couple and partner dance groups on Friday and Sunday, but because of the growing career and the busy schedule during the weekends with all my travels, I unfortunately had to put them on hiatus. I had a nice group of dancers that wanted to dance in pairs but got wanted something more challenging, so I had to look for high level partner dances and choreographed lots of routines myself. I hope there comes a day I'll find the time to start again teaching my couples group.
During the weekends, you'll find me working on all kinda dance events in Belgium or abroad. I've been part of the crew at many events so far. From the smallest one day events to some of the most prestigious events or dance holliday events in our business. And blessed I am, cause more of this is planned for the next few years.
As you can see, my life looks quite busy, and I can only confirm it is. But I wouldn't want it to be different than that. I absolutely love the life I'm living and am blessed with every chance and opportunity I have to share my passion and do what I love. The very rare moments that I'm free or weekends at home, I like to spend with friends or family and prefer them not be dance related. At these moments, you can always find me in theatre, cinema, restaurants, attraction parks, zooparks, musea... because I think you can never get enough of cultrue and learning. And of course, I love to spend some time with my godchild Enora and her sister Hannelore.
When I was 14 years old, one of my neighbours asked me to join him at the line dance classes he was attending twice a week. It was a dance group full of senior dancers and I was the youngster. But even though there were no other teenagers, I really enjoyed learning my first steps and trying the traditionnal country line dancing. After weeks the instructor saw I picked up everything so fast that she asked me to help out with the classes and travel on the floor so people could watch me. I was offered my drinks and classes for free from then on. My school teacher 'French' was also a member of these classes. I guess helping her out on the floor gave me some better grades for France at school too..
Because of this neighbour, I met some other dance addicts who started taking me to country line dance festivals and events. Later I also started to join them for their dance classes to check out other courses. A new world opened as it were no longer only senior dancers attending. After a few months with trying several classes I was asked to become an assistent teacher in one of the dance clubs. It all went really fast cause I think I was only dancing for 6 months when they asked me. I was always looking for new dances on the internent and that was slightly different from how they choose the teaches here in Belgium. The Belgian instructors do focus on the playlists of the live artists more than looking for new things themselves. I was already different back then. I translated scripts I've found on copperknob, linedancerweb or kickit, so dutch speaking instructors would have a look at them too. Next to this, I also started experimenting with choreographing myself. While having a look at them now, I can't believe this crap stuff was the start of a blooming career as a choreographer and instructor. But every pro was once a beginner, right?
After I took several classes and both national and international instructor courses, I was asked to start my own dance group and classes. So after a few weeks of overthinking and looking for a good place to start, in October I started my own dance club and association. I hoped to get 15 to 20 people for my first class so I hired a small room in a conference centre, but there showed up more than 130 people for the first night. I was happy that there were bigger rooms so I could move into the bigger room that night. Lots of members of local dance clubs that had no class on Friday showed up to support and to have an extra weekly class when they had nothing else to do on Friday night.
I knew this was not the reason I wanted people to come to my class, I wanted to start my own so next to this and the big room not being available every Friday night, I decided after a few weeks to change the schedule of my classes and I started teaching Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The search for a room that was big enough was not easy but I new a lot of people that showed up for Friday night classes, were not able to attend the classes the other weeks. So I decided to go for quality in stead of quantity and was able to lower the numbers.
Most of the dance clubs in the area focus on what the live band plays that are performing every weekend at the dance socials here in Belgium. I wanted to offer something different than the usual dances being taught, just by someone else. So I started using the international dance databases to look for different things to teach and I ended up translating dances that looked great to me. Some organizations and associations in Belgium that offered monthly workshops asked me to join their workshop team because of this, and so I ended up teaching instructors workshops too.
My workshops were a great tool and had a huge influence on what was being danced later on cause artists asked me for recommendations and started to play lots of my workshop teaches in their setlists.
Many times at socials people asked me why I did not enter competitions. I always replied with "I'm not really into competing and I don't like being judged". But later on, they talked me into it and so I started taking technique lessons to prepare for competitions. I did compete in line, couples, proam and choreography divisions. Most of my entries were in choreo-competition as this was what I liked the most. The dance was being judged, and not the way it was danced! I did not really enjoy competing in the other divisions that much, except in couples. I'm not that showman. Although I really enjoyed the private trainings from several Megastars/Superstars on the scene.
Not being that showman and with not having a lot of time to train and compete, I said to myself to start focussing back on the social aspects of line dancing. With teaching my instructors workshops and running my own events, in combination with a weekend job, my schedule was busy enough.
Every now and then I was still part of the competition scene as a member of the scoring theme and working behind the scenes.
Today, you can find me just socializing at some of the competitions and occasionally as a DJ for the party nights.
First, I started to receive more and more support and attention here in Belgium. Many local artists who are on stage every weekend at the weekly dance festivals, started to sing/play more of my choreographies in their playlists. They frequently recommended music tracks to choreograph a dance to so they could add them in their sets. Most of the dances I choreographed for the Belgian crowds are still being played and danced around the country, every weekend. Sometimes up to 10 dances a night. I must admit it still gives me goosebumps everytime I see one of my dances filling a floor, even if it's here in Belgium. Most of the dancers, instructors, artists in Belgium knew already who I was.
In 2013, one of the competitors in The Voice, the talent show on television, was Belgian country artist 'Robby Longo'. He made it to the finals and called me the week of the finals with the question to bring together a group of young dancers to dance behind him on the stage during the Final Show. We performed 'The World' to Brad Paisleys song on that big stage. A memory me and the other dancers won't foget. Sometimes I still get requests from other media channels for TV shows and other events, but they just don't fit in my schedule anymore.
Next to my dance related network, I have a huge network of social contacts in a lot of other branches to. People often asked me to be an instructor or do a demo at a lot of events. From bringing fun and easy workshops to bachelor parties, to Belgiums biggest insurance companies or banks organizing a Country and Western themed new years event for their employees. Events from 10 to 800 people.. I taught a lot of them their very first dance steps. Always good fun, but I admit, I prefer the workshops I teach nowadays.
It was not easy for a Belgian choreographer to become popular outside the country and get international attention at all. Belgium is slightly different when speaking of line dance traditions. As said, here (most of) the dance groups focus only on what bands play, and it does not happen often that a modern song or non country/newline dance gets picked up by the bands or instructors. So I saw when I wanted to please the other part of the community, I had to choreograph different than I was doing for Belgium. Today, when you have a look at my choreographies you maybe see the two different styles in my dances. I have lots of dances that were choreographed with the focus on what they would dance in Belgium, to please these crowds in my country, and there is the other part of dances that won't be danced in Belgium, but are being danced in many other parts of the world at the moment.
After I got popular in Belgium and the neighbouring countries, mostly because of my dances to country music, I started started to receive feedback and messages from many other countries in the world. It all started when the printed edition of the Linedancer Magazine started to publish some of my dances. When I started to pick different music styles for my choreographies, I started to please a bigger group with my choreographies. I started to get support from more instructors abroad that do focus on more modern line dance in stead of country line to. I can not describe how it felt to receive almost daily messages in my mailbox or on facebook from people I do not know, with feedback on my dances.
After teaching workshops all over Belgium, I started to receive invitations/bookings from events in Holland & Germany too. I think my first event I taught abroad was end of 2014. Later on events followed in Spain, France and the UK.. and then also the bookings out of Europe started to come in and I always travelled further away from home. When it was first just a few national workshops a year and two or three international ones, it did grow to a full event schedule of teaching lots of international events today. It does not happen that I can fit in smaller workshops in Belgium into my busy schedule, but I try to do at least 3 to 5 workshops in my own country a year, as I still love where it all began.
It means a lot to me to be the first Belgian choreographer that gets the chance to travel the world to please several line dance crowds. The opportunities to teach at all these events, worldwide, made me another person. I have been teaching at many events in Europe and over the last three years I have been part of the crew of events in Asia and America more than once to. All these travels offered me so many new friendships, not only dancers that were attending the events I was teaching, but also a lot of the other choreographers I had the chance to work with, that once were my idols, became very close friends. I feel so blessed to call them real friends and I was so touched when I started to find out that a few of my bookings I received because I was recommended by these idols, each a big name in our industry. Having friends in so many different countries of the world is a blessing, but it also hurts when you spend a lot of time together at an event and then have to say goodbye for weeks or even months.
Next to sharing the stage at events with my heroes and idols, I share a lot of good memories beside the dancing to. The things we do don't have to be dance related all the time. I also enjoy to spend some precious friends/family time with some of them and go on a holiday together or have them at our guesthouse here at home. But of course, it's not only about sharing good times. We also share some good dances. These days I get asked to choreograph together a lot and I can proudly say this worked out in a lot of cases very well. I'm really happy that some of the biggest stars in our industry do think I am talented and want to work with me. These collaborations brought already a few floorfillers to the dancefloors around the world. Of course it feels amazing when you see your babies become succesful.
I can't do a write up about my career without thanking two persons that have supported me along the way and have been true mentors to me. First of all Robbie McGowan Hickie. Thank you for being you. I'm writing this with tears in my eyes as we sadly lost this ledgendary man this year. A multiple award winnning choreogapher and hall of fame member, that has been teaching dances I choreographed long before I even meant something in this business. He was there with feedback from the very beginning. Later we choreographed a first dance together when I was a little more popular. Our dance related relationship grew to so much more than collegues, we became friends, also with his lovely man Anthony. When Robbie asked me later to choreograph a dance for the Crystal Boot Awards and to join him on that prestigious stage for the teach, I was over the moon. Why did I deserve all this respect and support from someone who has been a true inspiration for me and so many others on the scene?
There is no what to thank him in the way he deserves, but we'll be doing the many beautiful dances he choreographed forever in our classes and at events, with a huge smile on our face, and a very warm feeling in our hearts! That's a promise Robbie. Always loved you, and always will.
The second person who believed in me and played a huge role in my career was Roy Verdonk, another awardwinning choreographer and hall of fame member. We often work together on new dances and I can always ask for any feedback if needed. Without these two true professionals, I wouldn't be where I am today!
In 2018 I was nominated for two Crystal Boot Awards. If you're a linedancer, you know for an instructor of choreographer this is pretty much the same as an oscar/academy award for someone in the movie circuit. It was very honored to be nominated in two categories: absolute beginner dance of the year & advanced dance of the year. I never imagined this to happen one day. I don't think I've even dreamt of being a nominee once. This was an amazing start of the year as we found out about the nominations not much later than midnight during our new years eve celebrations. Being a nominee was already so special, when I also won these two awards, it felt even more surreal. In 2020 I received another nomination for the Crystal Boot Awards in the beginner dance of the year category.
For two yeas I have unfortunately been in a darker corner. I had to deal with serious health problems that knocked me down, not only fysically but also mentally. I had to cancel bookings, and the bookings I did, even when suffering from a lot of pain, didn't feel as good as they used to. I felt like I was not performing as I should, and I felt very bad about not being the one I used to be. I faked to be happy as much as possible. Although I have so many friends supporting me in this crazy life I live, the moments when travelling alone or the nights in a hotel room far away from, made it even worse. I got into a depression. As a proud Linedancefoundation ambassador, I don't wanna keep this story to myself. It's okay not to be okay. From 2020, the LDF started with Reach Out. An awareness campaign about mental illness in our business. Something very personal to me, so I'm happy to put my shoulders under this project. The LDF has made a huge difference in my healing process too. The LDF team was there for me to have a chat, they told me to take as much time as needed to rest and they supported me financially too. Day after day I feel what pressure does to people in our business, next to the glamorous life we have. It took its toll for me too. With the help of professionals and the support of the LDF and many of my closest friends and dancers all over the world I got through this. I'm so happy that most of them stayed by my side and kept sending me love and strength. For people suffering in our community, the LDF is there for you. Just reach out!
I hope I can live the life I'm living for many years to come, because in this life, dancing is what I need to relieve the stress to. Also, there are still some places I've never been befor, I don't think I've seen it all. I know there are a lot more experiences waiting for me. But I don't have expectations, so every single message, every single dancer that's enjoying one of my dances, every democlip, every new friend, every moment one of my dances appears in the charts or gets shared online, every new booking & opportunity, it still brings a huge smile to my face and fills my heart with a warmth I can not describe. To feel to be loved and all the special little things this career has given, that's something money can't buy. I wouldn't trade it for the world. I really do love what I'm doing, and I really appreciate the support I receive from everyone. My students are my biggest support in this adventure, I don't know what I should do without my dance family at home, they make me proud every single day.
Thanks to every single one of you that has been part of my adventures so far. I hope to see you somewhere on or next to a dance floor very very soon, and thanks for reading all of this!