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Vocal rehab coach Dane Chalfin: ‘Successful theatre practitioners need stick-with-it-ness’

Dane Chalfin. Photo: Miz De Shannon Dane Chalfin. Photo: Miz De Shannon
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How did you start off in theatre?

I went to performing arts high school and drama school in the US. Shortly after moving to the UK, I realised that I was more interested in the therapy and rehabilitation side of vocal performance than in performing myself.

What is your best advice for students?

Question everything you’re taught. If something feels physically uncomfortable, it’s either the wrong exercise or not being performed correctly. Either way, you have to be strong enough to say when things don’t feel right.

What would you change about training?

Students have become customers, so managers have become more interested in customer satisfaction than education. It’s easier to tell people they are wonderful and take their money without actually improving their skill set. This lack of care is why I left higher education teaching.

What is the best part of your job?

Helping people who have suffered a vocal injury get back to work.

And your least favourite?

Dealing with the unrealistic expectations the industry puts on the bodies of the performers. Also the way performers are treated as being ‘disposable’ by production companies.

Who should students look up to?

Janice Chapman, Ron Morris, Barbara Houseman, Joan Lader, Ed Blake, Tori Burnay, Sara Harris, Nick Gibbins – there are so many.

What skill should every successful theatre professional have?

‘Stick-with-it-ness’: unbreakable passion, dedication and commitment to self-care.

What’s the secret to long-term vocal health?

Training, getting back to basics and having a great multidisciplinary voice team including a laryngologist, voice-specialist speech therapists, vocal rehabilitation coach, physiotherapist/osteopath and counsellor.

Dane Chalfin teaches low-cost workshops run by the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine. He was talking to John Byrne

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