What in your daily practise gets you really enthusiastic to find out more about?
I have just started a contract as a dance captain, this is a new role for me and I am really enjoying the challenge. I'm particularly enjoying working with the children. Each evening I plan out the warm up sessions for the team and try to rise to the challenge of making them innovative and exciting, as well as ensuring that the routines correctly stretch and warm the muscles preparing the team for the show. I've enjoyed selecting the music and working out little routines. I'm finding that working with children is such a positive and rewarding experience and I find their enthusiasm infectious. Feedback from children is usually instant and honest and I like that. I am doing this course to hopefully make me employable as a dance teacher and this experience has reaffirmed my belief that I'm on the right path with the BAPP course.
Who do you admire who also works with what makes you feel enthusiastic?
This is really easy for me. I admire my old dance teacher Miss Caroline Wright, Principal of Centrepointe Dance School and College: http://www.centre-pointe.co.uk
Miss Wright had a massive influence on me. I first met her when I auditioned for an associate place with Northern Ballet. I wasn't the best dancer in the room, not by a long shot: I had rubbish turn-out, rubbish feet and I was competing against some amazing dancers, but she said after that she saw something in me that reminded her of herself at my age. To this day I am so grateful for her decision to choose me. She is a strict and hard task master and extremely determined to get the best from every pupil. She expects respect and gets it, working relentlessly and always perfecting, correcting, challenging and encouraging. She is always honest, yet never judgmental.
Miss Wright started a small dance school in an empty room above a motorbike shop in a rough area of Manchester. She had trained at Royal Ballet herself and had been a ballet dancer. She began teaching associate classes in her spare time and soon realised that she had a natural aptitude for it so she took the brave decision to turn her back on her performing career and dedicate her time to teaching young dancers. However, her vision was not only to have a school that offered lessons in all the major dance disciplines, but also a vocational dance college. Four years ago she realised her ambition. I admire Miss Wright and hope that, if I can show the same ambition and belief as her, I may one day emulate her success and help teach the dancers of tomorrow.
What gets you angry or makes you sad?
I get frustrated with some of the arrogant, self-obsessed and false people that you meet in this industry. Although I realise that the industry is seen as a 'cut-throat' profession and people are encouraged to have a 'dog eat dog' mentality in order to survive, I believe that we are all professionals who have trained so hard to get where we are. Due to these shared life experiences, we should have a mutual respect for each other knowing that we share some of those experiences and have an awareness of the self sacrifices each other has had to make to be where we are. I've attended countless auditions where dancers will physically push you out of the way to get to the front, without any shame. Surely we should all be given the same chance and then be judged on our talent and our suitability for the role?
Who do you admire who shares your feelings or has found a way to work around the sadness or anger?
As I previously mentioned, my old dance teacher Miss Caroline Wright is someone who shared her passion for dance with me. She lives and breathes dancing. Whilst establishing her dance school she was treated so badly by other dance professionals who accused her, unjustly, of poaching pupils from their dance schools. This was totally unfounded; it was her absolute passion for dance and her exciting innovative teaching methods that attracted pupils. With great dignity, she ignored the accusations and allegations and put the matter in the hands of lawyers. The story even made the local T.V. and needless to say she came out of it with her head held high and all allegations dropped. Six years on and her dance school has gone from strength to strength, she now has a College alongside her school that rivals even the major London dance establishments. Royal Ballet have chosen to run their associate programme at her school and it is recognised for its amazing dance training.
What do you love about what you do? Who do you admire who also seems to love this or is an example of what you love?
'Then come the lights shining on you from above. You are a performer. You forget all
you've learnt, the process of technique, the fear, the pain, you even forget who you are, you become one with the music, the lights, indeed one with the dance' - Shirley MacLaine.
I just love to dance, plain and simple, I feel I was born to be a dancer. A quote by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche sums it up perfectly 'We should consider everyday lost on which we have not danced at least once'.
When I dance I feel complete, whole. I dance purely for selfish reasons and hope that the audience can see and feel the passion I have. I am basically a shy person but, when I'm on the stage, I feel liberated, confident and alive. Martha Graham once said 'The body says what the words cannot'. I love this quote as dance to me is my own private language. Hans Bos also puts it beautifully: 'Whilst I dance, I cannot judge, I cannot hate, I cannot separate myself from life, I can only be joyful and whole, this is why I dance'.
I admire great dancers, who feel as I do, the following quotes express my own thoughts:
'If I could have said it, I shouldn't have had to dance it' - Anna Pavlova
'Dance is music made visible' - George Balanchine
'The body says what words cannot' - Martha Graham
'If I could tell you what it meant, there would be no point in dancing it' - Isadora Duncan
What do you feel you don't understand? Who do you admire who does seem to understand it or has found a way of making not understanding it interesting or beautiful, or has asked the same questions as you?
I don't understand why as dancers/performers we seem to have such a low profile in the public eye. Everyday, it seems to me that another so-called reality 'star' has got a starring role in a panto or even West End, without any training. This feels insulting and humiliating and I wonder why the public are so fickle. A Premier League football team wouldn't put an untrained footballer onto the pitch and expect the team to rally round and support them. Is it fair that dance professionals have to? I understand that it is entertainment and the so-called 'celebrities' draw in the crowds, but at what cost to those of us in the industry who are just trying to get a break and trying to earn a living?
I am fortunate to be employed in panto by a Company who has chosen not to use celebrities. They have instead chosen to use talented actors, singers and dancers for their show. They held auditions and chose the best people for the roles, rather than those who have recently been on 'Big Brother'. The pay is excellent because they aren't having to pay celebrity wages. I admire their courage.
I read, with great interest, Michelle's blog and completely agree with her ideas: as artists we are treated badly. A few months ago I attended an audition for a West End show and it cost me £50 to travel from Manchester to London. I was thrilled to get recalled several times throughout the day and I gave it my absolute all. At the end of the day, we were cut down to a final 6. The choreographer thanked us all for coming and we left. I never heard from them again. I asked for feedback from my agent and was told that they didn't give feedback. Had I instead applied for a job at McDonalds, I would have at least been given feedback. I was one of the lucky ones - at least I got the opportunity to perform. One girl in particular had traveled overnight from Scotland, sang 16 bars and was immediately cut. With all that money and time wasted, it must have been a very depressing journey home. I appreciate that it is how it works in the industry, but it seems - at times - frustrating and unjust.
Carrying out this task has given me plenty to consider with regards to my inquiry, but, I am still not sure what direction to take. I am, however, looking forward to exploring further some of the issues I have raised in this task.