Being a Dance Performer seems to be a rather simple role. That is until you have had a true experience of working in a professional setting like the one created in the Trinity Laban MA Dance Performance programme. Upon being asked to write a blog post about the course and its Transitions Dance Company tour, my fingers itched, eager to give a behind-the-scenes, first person account of the year – without sounding like a forced advertisement that says “Hey! You should audition!” …But you should really audition, and I am about to tell you all the reasons why.
Like so many of my peers towards the end of our time at Leicester’s De Montfort University, I had very few ideas about what to do after my Bachelor’s degree. I knew of only two things that I wanted to continue: developing my dance technique and making my own choreographic works. I had career development options in mind, but none that allowed me to work with three international choreographers over one year and witness their creative processes from the inside whilst simultaneously developing my technical abilities, as was prevalent in the Trinity Laban MA Dance Performance programme. This course was the perfect opportunity to – excuse the pun – transition from an educational setting into one that withheld a more professional outlook.
Two auditions later and I was in.
Whilst I knew that the course was going to be challenging, there were many things that surprised me during my time in the programme. All the company members of Transitions came from totally different backgrounds, and although our tutors wanted to get us all up to the same standard of technical ability, they did not squander our own artistic nuances that made us successful in the auditioning process in the first place. Alongside our regular training in Limon, Release and Cunningham technique, realigning my body and making me feel like I have legs for days, we had regular tutorials in which we could focus on the areas of performance that were most important to our own unique experiences within the programme. I quickly realised that we were all valued as individual artists, and that this was about our own intellectual development as intelligent active/proactive dancers before that of using a pre-determined formula to get the top marks.
The choreographers selected to work with this year’s Transitions cohort were Christian Duarte, Oded Ronen and Charles Linehan, and we began the creative process with them after the first two weeks of the course. Working with the choreographers has been deeply investigative, tiring, humbling, but always entertaining. Together, the choreographers and the company embarked on an exploration in which the choreographer doesn’t always know what they want or where the work is going. This caused us all to experience a sense of dis-location at some point during the creative process, but it allowed us to experience the realities of the professional experience. Days consisted of long hours offering movement ideas and content creation, much of it rejected, some elements accepted, but all of it valuable. We were practicing being consistently engaged and creative contributors, which is a skill I very much look forward to now using throughout my future dance career.
Six months later: three juicy works made and we were on tour.
Now, don’t simply think that once you are on tour the choreographies are all completed; to this day we are still developing our understanding of our place within the movement and our own individual narratives that can assist our performance. Lots of experimentation within the fine boundaries of the choreography make for incredible variations of the work both for us dancers and our audiences. We have our artistic director to thank for that. And alongside all of this, the actual touring process itself is in fact an incredibly challenging experience. It is one that is disorientating as you travel up and down the country being neither here nor there, confronting different performance spaces but, always returning to the same choreographic works to re-perform. It has allowed us to understand how as a professional dance performer, you must maintain your mind and body to ensure optimum performance. As well as this, are all the exceptionally fun moments: bonding with your peers over too many coffees on long train journeys and the thrill of interconnected dancer unity when performing on stage together.
Eight months in and coming towards the end of the Transitions tour, we were starting our thesis papers and yet again the sun was setting on another chapter of our dance careers. Due to my experiences in the MADP course, I now intend to further develop my technical training and will be auditioning for The Lion King West End this summer. Their training programme in advanced contemporary and African Contemporary dance styles are world class, and I hope that working with them will enrich my own choreographic processes and movement vocabulary before I create more of my own choreographic works.
Transitions Dance Company has produced some outstanding alumni, and to be a part of this history has been an invaluable part of my dance career. I have transitioned from a dance student into a dance artist with a matured understanding of the professional company setting and am now prepared for a long-term performance career.
If you’d like to keep in touch, do check out my online journal here.
Image: Chris Nash