The low-down on dance training
Why should I train?
Occasionally an individual may have enough raw talent to be ‘discovered’ by the media and launched into stardom, but in reality this happens very, very rarely. Proper training is essential to allow you to build the stamina, technical ability and range of practical and professional skills and contacts to sustain a long and satisfying career in the demanding world of the performing arts.
Full-time professional ‘vocational’ training for ballet dancers can begin as early as 10 or 11 years of age and in other disciplines such as dance and musical theatre from the age of 16 onwards.
The Council for Dance Education and Training ensures the provision of high-quality professional dance and musical theatre training through accreditation of full-time dance and performing arts schools. The organisation has provided the industry benchmark of quality assurance for professional dance and musical theatre training in the UK since 1979.
The term ‘school’ is commonly used in relation to these institutions, but the training they offer is highly specialised, designed to prepare you for a professional career in the dance and musical theatre industries as, for example, a dancer, a performer, a dance teacher or a choreo-grapher. Typically you will receive intensive training with a high level of teacher/student contact time in the form of daily classes, rehearsals, performances, professional studies, private study and so on. Most courses will lead to a nationally recognised qualification and throughout your training you will work with industry professionals as well as your regular tutors. This early contact with people already in the industry is crucial to your future as a professional artist.
Many vocational schools now also offer excellent degree programmes too. Degree courses have an academic focus in addition to practical content.
Preparing for vocational training
Many young people who go on to vocational training have already started to develop their skills in dance/musical theatre/acting/singing by attending part-time classes at private dance schools. Some will also have studied these subjects at secondary school through GCSEs, BTecs and A levels, and others may have been involved in competitions and festivals. This early background training is important, particularly at auditions, but it’s also wise to remember that careers in the performing arts are highly competitive and it is therefore worth working hard to achieve a good set of academic qualifications to complement your practical skills. Artists often need to look to additional careers as part of a portfolio of employment, or as a result of injury, illness or other unforeseen circumstances, so the acquisition of good formal academic qualifications will help to widen the choice of alternatives.
How do I choose a school?
Life in the professional theatre is about as exciting as a career can get. It sounds glamorous, but it is based on years of hard work, dedication and training, and it is also very competitive. You are going to need the best foundation you can get so you should start your research early – at least a year before you intend to audition. Think carefully about what skills you already have, what particular aspect of a career in the performing arts you aspire to and what kind of training suits your professional ambition. Each school is unique in what it can offer you and it is therefore wise to look at a number of websites and prospectuses and target a number of schools. Read all the information carefully and always try to visit the school, attend graduate performances, open days or summer schools so you can get a ‘feel’ for the kind of training that is on offer. You will also need to consider how you are going to fund your training at this stage.
Most importantly, you must remember that there are no guarantees of success at the end of your training, but you are much more likely to be successful if you have studied in a quality-assured environment such as a CDET fully accredited school or on a CDET-endorsed course.
You can find out about upcoming open days, shows and performances on the CDET-accredited schools events calendar. Accreditation is only awarded to schools and colleges that have successfully undertaken a comprehensive, institutional-level review of provision by a panel of industry experts.
The assessment of provision is made through documentary review, discussions with management, staff and students, observations of teaching and learning, scrutiny of graduate destination data and a review of the facilities and resources.
Accreditation normally lasts for four years, after which the school or college must reapply and undertake a full reaccreditation visit. CDET undertakes at least one monitoring visit annually during the accreditation period and maintains close contact through its Conference of Professional Schools forum, which meets at least three times a year.
CDET-accredited schools offer a huge variety of courses that vary widely in style, content and aims and qualifications. They cover a range of different disciplines including ballet, musical theatre, jazz, contemporary dance, commercial and street. Each school is unique and has its own curriculum specially tailored to meet the needs of its mission statement. Schools often hold open days where you can find out much more about the courses on offer and the funding routes available. Some have their own private bursaries and many have funding as part of the government’s Dance and Drama Awards scheme, which supports talented youngsters in training for the profession.
On successful completion of the course, most CDET-accredited schools offer the level five and level six Trinity College London professional performing arts diplomas as a qualification. Some schools also offer BA degree courses and others offer teaching qualifications. It is also possible to convert the Trinity College London level six professional diploma into a full BA Hons degree after graduation and while working in the industry.
In addition, graduates from CDET-accredited schools gain immediate eligibility for membership of Equity (the actors’ and dancers’ union) and immediate eligibility for inclusion in Spotlight (the industry casting service).
Quality-assured professional training is also available through the group of schools in the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama (www.cdd.ac.uk). These include Central School of Ballet, London Contemporary Dance School, Northern School of Contemporary Dance and Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance. In addition, professional training in ballet is available at the Royal Ballet School.
Who is accredited by CDET?
The following schools and colleges are accredited by CDET: Bird College; Cambridge Performing Arts at Bodywork Studios; the Centre Performing Arts College; CPA Studios; Elmhurst School for Dance; English National Ballet School; Expressions Academy of Performing Arts; the Hammond School; Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts; Italia Conti Arts Centre; KS Dance; Laine Theatre Arts; Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts; Liverpool Theatre School and College; London Studio Centre; Masters Performing Arts College; Midlands Academy of Dance and Drama; Millennium Performing Arts; Northern Ballet School; Performers College; SLP College; Stella Mann College; Tring Park School for the Performing Arts; Urdang Academy.
CDET Dance Careers Conference 2015
CDET will be holding its first ever dance careers conference and performance on May 10 at Elmhurst School for Dance in Birmingham.
The conference, which is aimed at teachers, parents and students, is a unique one-day event providing high-quality, relevant and up-to-date information and guidance about further education, training and career opportunities in the dance and musical theatre industries.