The day had finally arrived! One Dance UK’s Launch event took place at Yorkshire Dance, Phoenix Dance Theatre and Northern Ballet as a professional development day for recent dance graduates or those starting out in their career in the arts. I was invited by One Dance UK to be a guest speaker on the opening panel to discuss my career so far – read more about this in my previous post here.
The panel included Balbir Singh, Artistic Director of Balbir Singh Dance Company; Charlie Morrissey, Independent Dance Artist; Kenneth Tindall, Choreographer; Sam Vaherlehto, Dancer with Phoenix Dance Theatre and yours truly. These speakers are all much further ahead in their careers, if not fully established artists, whereas I am still in the early stages of mine. I was also the only female on the panel (flying the feminist flag as always).
With around 100 delegates, the opening chat-show panel brought everyone together at the start of the day to set the tone and introduce some of the key themes of the event. Co-chaired by Antony Dunn, Marketing & Communications Manager at Yorkshire Dance and Rachel Krische, Course Leader and Senior Lecturer at Leeds Beckett University, the chat-show was much more informal than I’d thought and was more of an open discussion as opposed to an interview (or interrogation – of course!).
We talked about how we got started in our careers, any people that we met that influenced our journeys so far and how we came to meet them, a highlight of our careers so far, any advice we could give recent graduates and anything that has surprised us or had unexpected outcomes. It was very organic and relaxed.
As part of the panel discussion, I spoke about my experience on a 30-week unpaid placement as part of my undergraduate degree at the University of Surrey. This sparked some debate about unpaid/voluntary work and whether it is a normal or expected route into the industry. I was able to speak very positively about my placement (thank you Sadler’s Wells!) and articulated that without my time there, I would not have the job I do now. It also led to a paid role at Sadler’s for three months after my placement ended so for me, the pros far outweighed the cons. It is a difficult topic as volunteering in this way relies heavily on generating income elsewhere and can be seen as a non-option for those coming from low-income backgrounds. In my experience, University Hardship Funds and other bursaries and grants supported me through this time and I would really encourage students to explore the range of help available before turning a placement down. All of the panel members were really insightful and honest about this and the other topics that arose, and I felt very privileged to have been invited to speak alongside them on such a platform.
All in all Launch Leeds was a very positive experience for me and allowed me to reflect on my career journey so far and what’s next. It was great to meet so many aspiring young dance artists, managers and teachers – I hope they left the day feeling inspired and armed with more knowledge ready to forge successful careers in dance.
Huge thank you once again to One Dance UK for inviting me to be a part of this great event; looking forward to discovering where my career will take me next.
Read more about the event here.