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The Cohan Collective 2016

Cohan Project 2016 4

The Cohan Collective is back again for another year of creative development with more LSC artists taking part. Cohan Collective offers artists a rare opportunity to collaborate, experiment and create. This two-week residency brings together composers, choreographers, dancers and musicians and allows them to explore their working methods in a supportive environment alongside peers and mentors. In 2015; Yorke Dance Project, which is founded and directed by LSC alumni Yolande Yorke-Edgell, worked with choreographer Robert Cohan and composer Eleanor Alberga on the pilot of the project. It offered choreographers Jonathan Goddard, Phil Sanger and Charlotte Edmonds, and composers Rolf Hind, Donna McKevitt and Andy Kyte the opportunity to be mentored through this uniquely supportive project. Professional dancers and recent graduates also gained valuable experience working with a range of artists in an environment of reciprocal learning. Supported by LSC’s validating body, Middlesex University, the Cohan Collective is set to become a well-established platform for emerging artists as it’s reputation grows. This year Robert Cohan and Eleanor Alberga will direct the residency whilst choreographer Kim Brandstrup and composer Gary Carpenter will take on the role of mentors. LSC alumni Michael Naylor will be participating as a choreographer along side other LSC alumni Edd Mitton, Amy Thake and Ben Warbis who are dancers in this year’s workshop.  

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Photography by Pari Naderi

 For more information about the Cohan Collective please click here.

Wicked International Tour

Last week Wicked began its worldwide journey that will span from now, until 2018. The international touring cast kick started their travels by first visiting the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford, which is the only UK city to host the musical outside London in 2016. The show will stay in England for 5 weeks only ahead of opening in Singapore on 29th September 2016, before traveling on to Hong Kong and Manila.

Many of our alumni have previously danced in the West End and UK tour cast of Wicked. This year; setting off with the new international production is James Davies-Williams (Ensemble) Tom Mather (Ensemble) Paul Saunders (Swing /Dance Captain) and Hannah Toy (Dance Supervisor). 

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Top row: Left: James William Davies, Right: Tom Mather. Bottom row: Left: Paul Saunders, Right: Hannah Toy


We caught up with James, to see how he was finding the experience so far:

What are you enjoying the most about being part of the Wicked cast?

J: Wicked has always been my favourite musical. I remember seeing it ten years ago and wanting to be in it so badly! It's just a dream come true that I have been able to fulfill that dream and I feel I have to pinch myself everyday! Working on such a huge show is so great and to be a part of the massive family of Wicked is everything and more I could of ever have imagined.

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

J: London Studio Centre has set me up so well for Wicked. The show has very stylised choreography and every move is so specific, I feel that my jazz lessons at studios have taught me how to pay close attention to detail and to pick up on the dynamic movement of the choreography.

What new skills did you need to learn and develop while in Wicked?

J: I have learnt a lot about being a strong ensemble member and working as a team to create something so special. It is a demanding show and a lot of hard work but the reward you get performing in such an iconic musical is indescribable.

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

J: My advice to students is to always keep going. However how many no's you receive; always walk away with your head held high. If you get cut from auditions or don't get the job after having a final audition, it isn't necessarily your downfall there are so many factors that add up to booking a job. Train hard, try your best, smile and keep going! All the no's only make the yes' better!

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