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Dokimi: empowering talent in the arts

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LSC alumni Cydney Uffindell-Phillips has had a successful career as a dancer, actress, choreographer and director, working on productions such as Cabaret, Wonder.land and The Wind in the Willows alongside other TV, film and commercial credits. She acknowledges herself; that having experience on and off screen has provided her with a broad knowledge of what the production team requires from the performers to efficiently achieve the client’s needs. Cydney is now putting this insight to pioneering new use, branching out and using her skills in a whole other area of the industry.

Dokimi is an online social network for those working in the artistic industry and is the brain child of Cydney. Pronounced as ‘Doo-Kee-Mee’, the network is described by its creator very simply as ‘Recommended Talent on the Scene’.  It allows professionals to connect and recommend other people for jobs and see who knows who in a safe and professional way. It provides an opportunity for people to put themselves forward for jobs that are posted, but also to recommend others, as well as searching for people with specific expertise. Dokimi‘s network boasts current members that include Directors, Casting Directors, Choreographers, Performers, Musicians, Producers, Screen and Stage crew, Writers and Photographers.

Cydney noticed that the value of an individual is hard to determine from a credit on a CV. And created Dokimi to allow its members to establish trustworthy working relationships by filling in the gaps on a CV through word of mouth recommendation and network connections.

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The Dokimi Aim is simple but effective:

“It is our mission is to empower valued talent in the arts and entertainment industry by connecting members through recommendations. The Dokimi Network strives to encourage diversity in the arts by introducing a new way to identify talent, and by broadening the current field of vision. We aim to provide a platform that can help launch new talent, as well as extending the opportunities available to established talent, at an accessible cost.”

We wish Cydney and the team behind Dokimi the best success, it is great to see our alumni utalising their skills to help further diversify and support the industry in such a positive way and from the reviews below we are sure the start-up network will go from strength to strength.

"The Dokimi Network has allowed me to access an instant and reliable database ofmulti-skilled professionals in the industry" - (Emma Brunton: Assistant Director & Choreographer)

"Finally a network of talents where people skills and personality are equally valued as craft and technique, and where you can trust that each individual comes highly recommended from fellow artists. Found some true gems on Dokimi" - (Marie: Assistant Director)

"Finally someone had the balls to create something the industry has needed for a long time, and they've done so with integrity, which makes it that much rarer and invaluable" - (Christie Lee Manning: UnCorked Theatre)

 

Priscilla returns to New Zealand

Celebrating its 10th anniversary and following on from its recent successful UK tour, Priscilla Queen of the Desert will be taking a trip to New Zealand this autumn, opening at the Civic Theatre in Auckland on 14th October. There for a limited time only; fans have been urged to sign up to the waiting list to avoid disappointment as the show sold out in record breaking time on its last visit to Auckland in 2008. The most successful Australian musical of all time, with 17 international productions, including West End and Broadway has already been seen by over 5 million people and continues to be a success across the world.

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Top: Adam Lyons, Bottom: Callum Nicol

Heading out to New Zealand with the international touring cast are LSC alumni Adam Lyons and Callum Nicol. We caught up with Adam, who has just finished the Pricilla UK tour along side LSC alumni Robin Mills and James-Paul McAllister, to find out how he is finding his touring experience so far:

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

Adam: Being a part of Priscilla is like Christmas every single day. The fun doesn't stop. The cast and crew make it a dream to work on as everybody is so lovely, passionate and we all want to be there doing what we love night after night. I am loving tour life and being in a different place each week and seeing the world. Travelling and performing is what I live for. I have such a passion for the show and I love how we never fail to receive a standing ovation, it really is over whelming. We are spreading such beautiful messages to audiences across the globe and I feel such a sense of love for the LGBT community.

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

A: I most definitely had the self-discipline required to tour and maintain a strong performance 8 shows a week. LSC truly taught me how demanding it is and how important it is to look after your body. If you can conquer a weekly schedule at LSC then you are on your way to managing 8 shows a week for sure.

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

A: The advice I always give for anybody wanting to pursue a career in the arts is to always stay true to themselves and never forget the passion and strive you have in you in order for you to want to do this. Times can get tough but when you love your job, the rewards are so fulfilling. Work hard, push yourself, keep your goals in sight every single day and open your mind to what you want in life and put it out in the universe. You are capable of great things. Be a nice person, work hard, share your talents and put smiles on people’s faces around the world doing what you do best. It is a beautiful thing to share your art. When you go in to college every day you should have nothing but positivity to spread around the building, rid any negative vibes. When times get tough in class, always go back to the root of why you are doing this. Never be afraid of rejection because everything will happen how it should and when it should. You have to learn to deal with it and not let it get you down. Constantly push push push!

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Adam (third from right) Robin Mills (far right), in rehearsals with Duncan James as part of the Priscilla UK tour. 

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Production shot from Priscilla Uk tour, Robin Mills (far left), James-Paul McAllister (second from left), Adam (far right) as part of the ensemble in the Priscilla UK tour. 

The Cohan Collective 2016

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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!