Recent graduates working in specialist fields
While touring with professional ballet companies, graduates still value the importance of their versatile training.
Jaqueline Back in Kingdom of Back, choreographed by Morgann Runacre-Temple - Images Ballet Company 2016 (photo: Brian Slater)
Jacqueline Back and Sam Rodulfo, both recent graduates of London Studio Centre, have secured positions in professional Ballet Companies after completing LSC’s specialist Classical Ballet pathway. Jacqueline is currently dancing with Vienna Festival Ballet, and is touring The Nutcracker and Snow White and Sam who is now dancing with Ballet Theatre UK is touring Romeo and Juliet and Giselle in Theatres across the UK. Both graduates toured with LSC’s Images Ballet Company in their final year after choosing to specialise their training in Classical Ballet.
We caught up with both graduates to see how they were enjoying life after college:
LSC: How would you describe an LSC performer?
Sam: An LSC performer is above all else, versatile.
Jacqueline: Versatile. I am so grateful to have had such a broad spectrum of training that wasn't watered down for ballet dancers. Because despite being in a ballet company, I am still required to perform hip hop. Furthermore, when I am in need of grounding, I am able to customise exercises during pre-show class into more contemporary movements, which not only helps me get onto my legs, but also keeps dancing everyday fresh and interesting.
Above: Sam Rodulfo (photo: Alexander Yip)
LSC: What are you enjoying the most about your first professional contract?
Sam: I think the most enjoyable part of my contract with BTUK is having the opportunity to perform in full length ballets - taking the audience on a journey through the story is such a magical experience! And performing the same show over 50 times is really giving me a chance to explore the story in more depth and add more layers with each show - I'm learning all the time and that for me is so important. I also love the other dancers in the company - they're so professional but we also have such a laugh whilst on tour. It's also great to take class with them every day and watch them from the wings in the show - you learn so much from watching and it's always so inspiring.
Jacqueline: I am really enjoying touring the country and visiting places that I would have otherwise never found an excuse to travel to. Theatres by the coast are especially enjoyable, as they remind me of home. The sense of accomplishment and unity in the company during curtain call every evening is also overwhelmingly amazing, under the stage lights and roar of applause.
LSC: What skills did you have from your training at LSC that has helped you with your role in the show?
Sam: I think a key skill I learnt from LSC that has helped me with my role within BTUK has been responsibility. It is imperative in a professional company to be responsible in all aspects - from knowing and remembering the choreography, to setting quick changes and helping with the get out after every show. This came quite easily for me after my training at LSC. From the work we did on La Vivandiere in third year and Serenade in first year, another key skill I acquired from LSC has been the ability to stay in line and be aware of spacing. It perhaps doesn't sound that important, but it can make or break the professionalism of a show. I've also gained a lot of knowledge about my body from LSC, particularly from the IPD lessons and this has enabled me to take care of my body (being on tour and dancing on raked stages results in a different kind of physical strain). I've been able to apply my knowledge to ensure I stay on top of my technique (especially when there are no mirrors) and diagnose any niggles quickly to prevent injury.
Jacqueline: Being a part of Images Ballet Company really helped to prepare me for the life of a touring ballet dancer. It gave a big insight to being versatile and adapting choreography to new theatres. I am able to understand what my body needs and how to manage it, as a result of IPD lessons and the self-awareness that was strongly encouraged by the incredible ballet faculty at LSC. In general, LSC's encouragement to become independent, active thinking dancers prepared both mind and body for the professional world. Managing injury throughout my training at LSC has made injury management in the professional world less scary. Although the pressure to be healthy in the professional world is much greater, the self-patience I learnt at LSC enabled me to deal with injury in a calmer and more professional perspective.
Above: Jacqueline Back (left photo: Alexander Yip, right photo: Graham Reading)
LSC: What new skills did you need to learn and develop whilst in this new position?
Sam: New skills that I have developed during my time with BTUK have been stagecraft and artistic expression. One of the company's most important values is its commitment to storytelling. I have therefore had to really throw myself into the stories of Romeo and Juliet, Giselle and Alice and Wonderland and work on my characterisation. I have also had to learn to be consistent on stage - I have to remind myself of basic technical underpinnings to ensure that I keep my dancing clean and precise.
Jacqueline: Generally adjusting to the new work load was physically difficult on my body. Touring and working 6 days a week was the most extreme load I had ever pushed my body through. Mental discipline to maintain technique, as class is always on stage and so there are no mirrors to refer to. As well this, listening to the strength of my body everyday, figuring out what my goal for class is that day; to work certain muscle groups or to get centered whilst conserving energy for a double show.
LSC: What advice do you have for performing arts students following in your footsteps?
Sam: I think the best piece of advice I can give to future performers is to never listen to anyone who tells you that you can't do something, no matter how qualified they might be. You can achieve anything you set your mind to so work hard, work smart and never give up! And remember that learning doesn't stop after graduation.
Jacqueline: Leaving college is incredibly daunting, so try to overcome the fear with your hunger and love for dance. Every audition is a networking opportunity and lesson learnt, so there's never anything to lose. Each knock back and rejection will help you come back stronger and fiercer for the contract out there that has your name on it!
Click here to find out more information about our specialist pathway options, or alternatively, find out if Ballet Theatre UK or the Vienna Festival Ballet are visiting a theatre near you soon.