So for those of you who don’t know who I am, my name is Jamie Body and I’m a freelance performer in London.
I graduated from Performers College in 2007 and have been fortunate enough to work consistently in the industry ever since, and by fortunate I mean I’ve worked extremely hard.
I’m a big believer in further progression and always try to grow both professionally and personally. You need to be a multifaceted performer these days who is constantly honing your trade and skill set. So over the last few years, alongside performing, I have been studying and working hard to pursue what I would call a ‘Parallel career’ – which is a side career as an entertainment journalist and reporter.
Through a fair few courses and hands on experience I am really starting to carve my ‘parallel career’ – which also happens to work in tandem with my life as a performer. The skills I have learnt as a performer combined with my increased knowledge and education in journalism have meant that I have a unique set of skills that seem desirable. This is something I never dreamt of doing at College but over time my goals and ambitions have evolved and here I am.
A form of confirmation that I was on the right path with this was when I was asked back as an artistic eye and reviewer for my old college’s third year dance course show, Destiny.
So first off a little history about the college. Performers college was established in 1987 and is still going strong. It is an independent further education college specialising in the performing arts. Founded by Brian and Jan Rogers and Sue and Mike Stephens this institute for the performing arts is one of the top ranked colleges in the country.
A little flashback to my time at college. I tried to find the least embarrassing photos I could…
And now fast forward to the present day…
So here I am at the current third year’s dance show ‘Destiny’. It was great to be greeted by some of the same faculty from my training and to also see some friends and fellow alumni at the show supporting the new talent.
The show had roughly 30 performers who took to stage in this 2 hour + production at the Kenneth Moore Theatre in Ilford. This was the first big change since my time at college. My year ended with 41 people, a lot who are still my best friends, so to see 30 people on one course was great. Theatre and the arts world in general are becoming more and more popular and it was great to see so many young performers wanting to pursue their passion. The students on the dance course combined with the students from the musical theatre course means that this graduating year stands strong at around 70 students.
The show was made up of several sections choreographed both by resident teachers and guest choreographers. Exploring themes such as childhood, love, loss and pop culture, the show was set to a variety of songs from current chart music to the classics of Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra.
I am sure most performers who went down the full time training route will agree with me when I say that although your fundamental training comes from your full time course, you learn so much and grow as a performer when you leave. Due to this I won’t review the show in the same capacity I would say for A Younger Theatre or one of the many other publications I write for.
Catching up with the faculty in the intermission it seems that with training nowadays there is the freedom within the course structure to pick up jobs while in third year. As long as you fulfil the criteria set out by Trinity you can graduate early for a professional job and still gain your qualification. We are in such a saturated industry that every little helps and being able to gain work experience while at college means you are able to leave with one foot on the professional ladder already and not just with a C.V of the dance genres you studied and internal showcases.
When I assist at auditions for companies such as Royal Caribbean and Disney you see so many C.V’s from fresh graduates partnered alongside C.V’s from professionals who have been in the industry for years. Graduates you need to make your C.V stand strong alongside theirs ( work on things such as the layout, font, is your headshot up-to-date etc ) and whenever possible start trying to fill up your C.V with credits and projects you are proud to work on.
Now onto the dancing. There was a lot of promising talent in the show both from the students and the choreographers.
The amount of choreography that these students had to learn around their usual timetable and contextual work is pretty impressive. Although they probably don’t realise it, this is a massive tool for when they graduate. In the ‘real world’ of performing you have to understudy several roles, go on at short notice and learn multiple shows at the same time. So while for the current students it may just seem like ‘another chance to perform’, this is actually laying the groundwork for helping the students to be smart and reliable performers.
A typical musical or dance company will very rarely have 30+ members, so in this case having a show with that many members meant that at times you could see that certain people’s skills were highlighted more than others.
Although it would be hard to sit here and list every element of the show, some numbers that really stood out to me were:
- Georgia Brown choreographed by Jo Darnell which was beautifully and effortless danced by Claire Lavender, Shauna Olley and Megan Spiers. These three women along with some other performers were standouts in the show.
- Bigger Than We Ever Dreamed. This tap number was brought to you by one of the faculty members Eilidh Ross. Tap is so underrated in mainstream theatre and although it is gaining more momentum this genre is only really showcased in the MGM style of shows such 42nd Street, Top Hat and Singing in the Rain. There was a great use of light and shade within the choreography and despite the stage not having the best floor for tapping, the beats were crisp and articulate and were delivered with great style. It also had the added dynamic of vocals from a few members in the cast.
- What is Written by Nikki O’Hara was dynamic, athletic and showcased the contemporary faculty very well.
- Peaky Blinders by Keeley East played homage to the BBC two drama series which was so stylised while also delivering a strong narrative.
- Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Emma Rogers beautiful showcased a softer side to the strong male ensemble.
Some rehearsal footage of the show by one of the choreographers Emma Rogers:
Of course there were some mistakes, but that comes with live theatre and as a performer, boy do you know when you have made a mistake! We are our own worst critics and when we go wrong we beat ourselves up about it, so I’m not going to write here about the errors when they put in a lot of hard work for a few days of performances.
The advice I would give the graduating year would be – Perseverance is key! Be polite, hard working and always continue to learn and grow. Don’t be afraid to follow your goals and passion, and if they slightly change over time or take you in a different direction just go with it. Enjoy the journey and don’t always get fixated on the end goal.
So there you have it – the flashback to my college days. I actually went to the junior dance school at Performers College so the better part of 11 years of my life was spent with this establishment. I look forward to seeing this graduating year out in the ‘real world’ whether it be auditioning alongside them, assisting an audition they are attending or reviewing them in future shows.