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We’re head over heels
Buy this photo » Swindon Dance group including Dickson Mbi, back row left, Carys Staton, back row second left, Russell Maliphant, back row far right, and students
BUDDING dancers have been put through their paces this week in an intensive training course by some of the top professionals in the field.
Students at Swindon Dance Youth Dance Academy, one of only nine advanced training centres around the country, have been put to their limits with a leading choreographer in a bid to boost their career prospects.
Russell Maliphant, who trained at the Royal Ballet School before going on to set up his own company, has been exposing the ambitious youngsters to some of his experimental techniques over a high intensity week.
He has been joined by Carys Staton, 23, a former student with Swindon Dance, who is touring with him as part of the company.
“I was on the same Central Advanced Training scheme as these students when I was here,” she said. “Swindon was the pilot scheme, and when I finished I trained for three years before joining Russell.
“Everything we are doing is new to them, and we are really pushing them to explore new things.
“That is a pretty scary prospect for some of them, but they have really grabbed the opportunity.
“We are working through a series of workshops which focus on unique ways of thinking about anatomy and the body.
“We work a lot with improvisation, and Russell has a knowledge of anatomy I have never delved into. We have seen a real improvement in the last five days.
“I think the really brilliant thing about Swindon Dance is it gives young people the opportunity to work with such a huge breadth of people who are making a living out of this.
“They give you a great foundation to open your eyes to what you can make of yourself when you leave.”
Sharol Mackenzie, 17, of the Exeter choreography programme, was selected for the intensive programme ahead of auditions for dance schools around the country.
“I have always loved dance, but I wasn’t really aware I could do it as a job, so it was never an aspiration,” she said.
“But when I came here they showed me I could go to dance school and it could lead into a career.
“It has been really amazing, and has really made me think about broadening my improvisation skills.”
Jodie Evans, 18, of Swindon Dance, said she had found the week very rewarding.
“I do the full time programme, so I am here from Wednesday to Saturday every week,” she said. “It is more like a second home to me, and I am hardly ever in my own house.
“I did not realise just how difficult it was until I came here. It is very hard, and not as pretty as everyone thinks it is.
“The training and techniques I have learned are really helping me to progress as a dancer.”
Marie McCluskey, director of Swindon Dance, said: “Dance is just another way of learning, so they get into careers they may never have thought of as a result.
“The funding we receive from the DfE means people from any background can access dance at this level. Students who may live in rural areas can have their transport costs paid for.
“We have an excellent team of dancers based in Swindon, because it creates the jobs to attract them here.
“That way we are able to bring in the equivalent of the top paid footballers in the world in terms of experience.”
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