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Skating in a legendary production

Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Starlight Express has had productions and tours across the globe, including UK, Broadway, Japan, Germany and Australia. In 2002 the show closed in the West End after clocking up over 7000 performances and the current production in Bochum, Germany has played nearly 11,000 times since it opened in 1988. A tally which would leave it just 2000 performances away from over taking the current longest-running musical in the West End, Les Miserables.

In Bochum, the cast is 41-strong, with performers speeding around a custom built skate track achieving up to 60 kilometers per hour and burning an estimated 4,000 calories per show. The creative team constantly develops and renews their work keeping the show fresh for returning audiences. Lord Webber has reworked the music throughout its history and Arlene Phillips; choreographer for the production has continually updated her work keeping the show contemporary for modern audiences. As a result of this, after 28 years in Bochum the show is still thriving, selling out to enthusiastic audiences eight shows a week. Chief executive, Maik Klokow commented in a recent article in The Stage that the venue is “more of a sports arena than a theatre” and that “the speed achievable on our tracks is ridiculously high and very dangerous… people very much appreciate being part of that sports-like, competitive extravaganza”. He adds, “the scale of the show is unlike anything you’ll ever see in the West End, and it plays to a hugely passionate audience who come back time and time again, supporting the show with unfaltering passion”.

Throughout it’s running history many of our alumni have performed in the production, most recently Leanne Groutage who graduated in 2013. Upon graduating Leanne appeared in Alan Carr's New Years Specstacular, The One Show, Salsa nights at the New Wimbledon Theatre, as well as the BBC show; So You Think You Can Dance. Her first musical theatre role was as a swing in the UK tour of Seven Brides For Seven Brothers before heading to Bochum to play Joule (cover Dinah, Buffy and Ashley) in Starlight Express.

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Above: Backstage pictures of Leanne Groutage in Starlight Express, Bochum 

We recently spoke with Leanne to find out how she was enjoying her time in Germany:

L: Performing in Starlight Express for a year and a half has been extremely physically demanding it has not been an easy ride but definitely one I will never forget. It is an honour to be involved in such an iconic Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. Taking a bow as Dinah gives me a rush, after seeing the UK tour as a child I always loved the role, so I guess it's a little dream come true!

What skills did you have from your training at LSC that helped you?

L: Having danced throughout my childhood with Harlequin Stage School in Worcester, I was lucky enough to join LSC to further my training as a dancer and singer. In 3rd year I joined the musical theatre pathway and gained performance experience with the Seedtime music theatre company. I learnt many invaluable things about working in this industry whilst still working on vital skills in all three musical theatre disciplines. Working with professionals and learning correct audition etiquette and building my repertoire whilst still at college, I feel really helped me to book jobs once I graduated and I will always be grateful for this training.

In Seven Brides For Seven Brothers you were cast as a swing, learning multiple roles. How did you find it having such a high-pressured position?

L:  I have been lucky to work with such great people already, on Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, working with Emmy nominated director; Patti Columbo was such a great experience. Being swing of all the brides was always going to be a challenge, but it was an enjoyable and an invaluable experience for me as an actress to try and portray all the roles how Patti had desired. Rehearsing for your own role is a very different process than being a swing, with Starlight Express being such an iconic musical, there is a lot of pressure to perform it in a certain way as many have done before and will continue to do so in the future. I tried to embrace this putting everything into Joule, even if it meant falling on my face a few times (literally!). Having previously worked as swing I found it quite enjoyable to work on my cover parts in Starlight Express! Although always being nervous the first time playing them, I thoroughly enjoy going on for Dinah, Buffy and Ashley now.

What new skills did you need to learn and develop for Starlight Express?

L: I was cast in the show from my skills as a dancer and singer, having never skated before, so becoming a professional roller skater in three months was a massive challenge! Michal Fraley (skating coach for Starlight Express since the late 1980s) and two skate coaches were a great team and helped the new cast members go from absolute beginners to super skilled roller-skaters ready to race and dance the famous show on four wheels. To learn a show in another language proved at first, quite difficult, but then after many hours of work and with phonetics classes to keep it up, it became quite fulfilling to understand and perform my lines and songs in German!

What advice do you have for performing arts students following in your footsteps?

L: My advice would be to believe in yourself as much as you can, it's so important! It can be quite easy to doubt yourself and your talents in an industry that is forever thriving, but when it comes to yourself, you have to believe great things and then hopefully others will believe in you too. Also to always try your hardest in everything you do, working hard is the key to success, when working in live theatre everyday of course there will be days that are not perfect, but all you can do is know that you are trying your hardest right there and then and that will help you to keep going at your strongest. And finally the best advice I was ever given whilst training was to 'enjoy the journey' I have to remind myself sometimes that there is always happiness to be found, not just at the destination! 'Keep confident, always work hard and enjoy the journey!'

For me, I learnt so much during my time at LSC and will always be grateful for how they helped me start my career, as an actress, you are always learning and developing new skills through time, as I said it's about the journey so enjoy it and best of luck!

Performing arts and entrepreneurship go hand in hand

Making the decision to train in dance and theatre performance to a professional level, does not only prepare you for a life on the stage, but provides with many transferable skills which can make you an ideal employee or entrepreneur. Through performance we not only learn, motivation and commitment, we also perfect collaboration and teamwork skills; creative thinking and problem solving. Numerous avenues are open for you when you’re a graduate; on top of your ability to utilise the multi-disciplined expertise you have learnt in the studio. Many of our students go on to become choreographers, directors, agents and casting directors within the industry, as well as teachers, designers, or even entrepreneurs or company managers. Success can only be increased by performers strong capabilities in communication, time management, teamwork, adaptability and working under pressure. 

Emily Evans and Jessica Evans have recently set up their own entertainment company with a twist, The Twin Swing. The Twin Swing are a professional dance act available for hire at corporate events, private events, festivals, product launches and much more, and pledge to bring something memorable with a touch of sparkle to any event. They are delighted to say that since beginning their start up business providing entertainment and dance tuition, they have performed their act at well established venues such Chessington World of Adventure, The Hilton; London, Intercontinental; London Park Lane and Shangri-La Hotel; The Shard.

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We caught up with Emily Evans and Jessica Evans who make up the double act to see how they were enjoying their new enterprise:

How did LSC prepare you for the professional industry? 

The standard of training at LSC is extremely high. The degree course creates a strong work ethic and the students that join are committed to succeeding not only academically but also in the dance performance side. Everything about LSC prepared me for the professional industry from the high standard of teachers to the academic lectures.

How did LSC provide you with the skills you needed to start the Twin Swing

The work ethic at LSC was so high and this is something you need to start a small business alone. Also, LSC instilled confidence to put creative ideas forward and present them in the most professional way. More than that however, necessary skills such as promoting, marketing and networking were a strong part of our training at LSC and these have been a vital part of the success we have had.

What motivates you?

We have always loved dance and that is something that motivates us both. Seeing other people genuinely enjoying what we do and now giving them the opportunity to have a go - and seeing positive results is really motivating! I guess when times have been tough; we are lucky to have had each other to keep the motivation high.

What new skills have you had to develop?

We have become social media marketing 'keen beans' as it really does create hype about your business, as well as help it get out there to the masses. Just getting people to see what you do! On top of that, we have developed skills in dealing with clients, event planning and much more!

What advice do you have for other budding entrepreneurs/theatre school alumni?

When you get a positive response about an idea you have had - run with it and be passionate about it. If you are not whole-heartedly in it, how can you expect anyone else to be? You will be the face of this business so stay positive, enthusiastic and motivated even when things aren't going so well as hard work does pay off.

Third Year Company Success

This year our third year companies have toured across the UK, from Yeovil to Luton, Brecon to Gravesend before bringing their productions home to London. Their final shows were held in prestigious theatres in central London; including The Peacock, The Place and The Lilian Baylis Studio Theatre at Sadlers Wells. Each company has worked with a series of professional creative teams to help direct and choreograph the shows, as well as coordinate costumes, lighting, sound, sets and logistics. The tours provide the students with a great opportunity to experience first hand what it would be like to be in the cast of a full scale production, gaining knowledge about theatre procedures, touring life and learning skills required from professional theatre performers.

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Images Ballet Company photography: rehearsal photos by Adrian Hobbs and marketing photos by Pari Naderi

Images Ballet Company have worked with choreographers including:

  • Morgann Runacre-Temple (choreographic credits include: Ballet Ireland, English National Ballet and Ballet Central)
  • Jonathan Watkins (choreographic credits include: Northern Ballet, Ballet Black and New York City Ballet)
  • Sally Marie (choreographic credits include: Protein Dance, Jasmin Vardimon and Tilted Productions)

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INTOTO Dance photography: production photos by Fiona Whyte

INTOTO Dance, contemporary dance company have worked with choreographers including:

  • Eleesha Drennan (choreographic credits include: National Dance Company Wales, recipient of the prestigious Sky Academy Arts Scholarship culminating in the creation of a new dance production: Channel Rose)
  • Gemma Nixon (choreographic credits include: Rambert Dance Company, Goddard Nixon and New Movement Collective)
  • Freddie Opoku-Addaie (choreographic credits include: Ballet Boyz, Siobhan Davies Dance, Random Dance and Royal Opera House)
  • Luke Brown (choreographic credits include: Luke Brown Dance)

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Jazz Dance Company photography: stills from video by Joseph Edwards

Jazz Dance Company have worked with choreographers including:

  • Matthew Cole (director and choreographic credits include: West Side Story UK tour, Footloose UK tour, Never Forget UK tour)
  • Kane D. Ricca (choreographic credits include artist such as: The Wanted, Pharell William and Bon Jovi)
  • Matt Flint (choreographic credits include: Tell Me On A Sunday at The Watermill & UK tour, West End Heroes at The Dominion and Brass Leeds City Hall)
  • As well as Kevan Allen, Ryan Francois, Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, Jono Kitchens, Dax O’Callaghan, Regan Shepherd and Nikki Trow

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Seedtime photography: production photos by Mark Douet 

Seedtime, music theatre company have worked with a creative team that includes:

  • Director Luke Fredericks (directing credits include Bat Boy: The Musical at Southwark Playhouse, Carousel at Arcola Theatre (nominated for four 2014 Off West End Awards and nine 2014 Broadwayworld.com Awards), The Revenge Of Sherlock Holmes! at Hoxton Hall and Jekyll And Hyde at the Union Theatre)
  • Musical Director: Lee Freeman (musical director credits include: Miracle on 34th Street UK tour, Jewish Legends UK tour, Cool Rider: The Cult Musical Sequel [West End] and Copacabana UK tour) 
  • Choreographer: Chris Whittaker (choreographer credits include: Through The Mill at the Southwark Playhouse, Gatsby at Arts Theatre, Leicester Square. And at Christmas this year Chris will choreograph Anything Goes upstairs at the Gatehouse)

 

“The thing I most enjoyed was seeing the progression of the show from opening until closing night and also as a company our confidence grew along the way. Performing in different sized venues helped me take on notes quickly and the fact that our pieces were so different to each other made me a more versatile performer” Stacey Walsh, Jazz Dance Company 2016

Congratulations and good luck to the class of 2016!

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Today is the final graduation day for our third year students as they collect their degree certificates from Middlesex University this afternoon. Last Saturday we celebrated the work and achievements of our graduating year group in a ceremony at the New Wimbledon Theatre. Staff, students, family and friends gathered together first to watch Dance Overture, a first and second year performance; before third years were called up to the stage to collect their award certificates. This year the students were greeted and received their awards from LSC alumni Daniel Crossley, who is known for his roles in Singin’ In the Rain, Hello, Dolly! and Mary Poppins to name a few.

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[LSC Graduates: Daniel Crossley, right (Cosmo Brown) Scarlett Strallen, centre (Kathy Selden) with co-star Adam Cooper, left (Don Lockwood) Singin' in the Rain, Stage Entertainment. Photo © Manuel Harlain]

 

As well as being presented with a certificate of their achievements, the following students also received special awards:

Terilee Christiansen – Most outstanding performance in INTOTO Dance

Michelle Rose – Peter Brinson Award (awarded for achievement in Contemporary Dance)

Jessica Keable – Lia Williams Cup (most outstanding performance in Seedtime)

Gabrielle Pemberton – Sheila O’ Neill Award (awarded for achievement in Music Theatre and Dance)

Jacqueline Back – Most outstanding performance in Images Ballet Company

Demi Aldred – Founders Cup (awarded for achievement in Classical Ballet)

Nolan Robba – Most outstanding performance in Jazz Dance Company

Emma Cooke – Gillian Lynne Award (awarded for achievement in Jazz Dance)

Hannah Tunnicliffe – Vic Ray Shield for Tap (awarded for achievement in Tap Dance)

Heidi Dilley – Espinosa Award (awarded to the most accomplished student of the year)

Georgia Homewood – Hilda Coleman Trophy (awarded for the most progress achieved)

 

Congratulations to all third year students on your achievements. Remember to check out our Alumni Association page, keep in touch with us and up to date with your all endeavours.   

LSC alumni soar into the wizarding world of Harry Potter

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child artwork

The frenzy around Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is beginning to rise as the productions cast and creatives work on the finishing touches before opening night in less than a month's time. Based on an original new story by J.K.Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a new play by Jack Thorne will receive its world premiere in London's West End at the Palace Theatre this Summer. The play is based 19 years later after the original well-loved story finished and will be the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. 

The cast brings together a mix of actors from various performing pathways and includes two LSC alumni; Nuno Silva and Joshua Wyatt.

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Above: Nuno Silva (left) and Joshua Wyatt (right) 

Nuno's career has credits from a wide spectrum of theatre; including The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe for Birmmingham Rep, The Merchant of Venice at Shakespeare's Globe, Little Shop of Horrors at the Royal Exchange Theatre. He has been in The Light Princess at the National Theatre, Cabaret at the Savoy Theatre, Maria De Buenos Aires at Cork Opera House. As well as appearing as a dancer in Dr. Dee at Manchester International Festival and the ENO, The Crane Maiden in Yokohama, Japan, An Anatomy in Four Quarters and The Most Incredible Thing at Sadler's Wells and God's Garden at the Royal Opera House. 

Joshua graduated from LSC and went straight into the emsemble of Matilda at the Cambridge Theatre, London. Later appearing in Tommy at Blackpool Opera House and Loserville at Union Theatre, London. Joshua is making his debut in his first acting based role in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

We recently caught up with Joshua to see how excited he is about his new venture:

Joshua: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has undoubtedly been completely different from anything else I have done since leaving college. However, at the same time, the sheer scale of the production makes it feel like a hybrid, almost a brand new genre of theatre altogether.

What has made your experience in this rehearsal period so different from other productions?

J: When in the cast of a musical theatre production I was used to a patterned process, a dance warm up and a singing warm up, then onto learning and rehearsing the production numbers. In my previous jobs, the productions were mostly set and only varied slightly during the rehearsals. In one day of rehearsals we would learn a whole song and dance number and then the creativity involved was more concentrated to an individual putting their unique spin on a character. At the moment each day is different for me, we still have a physical warm up in the morning, but because this is the premier of the play, there is an infinite creative process going on. The challenging part for the whole cast  is keeping up with the huge amounts of changes and rewrites, constantly learning new adapted lines and cutting old ones, it really tests you as a performer.

What have you enjoyed the most about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child so far?

J: Being able to observe the progression and development of the production is one of the most appealing parts of doing a piece that is brand new. Compared with a musical where you can have a text, song and dance to convey the storyline to the audience, this is one of the first times I have gone into so much detail with a script and character. You bring your body, character and ideas with as much detail as you can to rehearsals and the director works with you once you have interpreted the text. It is a very interesting process and I enjoy the flexibility and freedom it brings. You get to use so much of your imagination; it's very exciting.

How did London Studio Centre prepare you for different genres of theatre?

J: LSC provided me with the skills to be able to adapt to pretty much all scenarios and jobs out there. The training was intense with a heavy dance schedule. In a normal day we could be running from ballet in your tights straight into a singing lesson; still glistening in sweat, then throwing on your tap shoes before being given some papers on how to do a northern accent for your acting class. The training was so diverse, which is what attracted me to LSC in the first place.

What advice would you give to other eager performers?

J: LSC instilled in me the idea of being a 'thinking dancer', which is such a valuble message for when I was out auditioning in the industry, it reminded me to not fall into the habit of being a clone. If I could give any advice to others it would be to never turn down opportunities and if none come your way, create some! Keeping your skills and talents at an employable level is one of the hardest tasks when you've finished college because as soon as you stop doing class everyday it's like an hour glass, unless you keep going, improving and maintaining skills, then when the time comes you won't make the grade. Treat everything like a muscle. It needs to be worked to be maintained and strengthed. And always be polite!