Spirit Young Performers Company: a modern template for arts schools
Founded in 2013, the London-based Spirit Young Performers Company has quickly established itself as an innovative provider of vocational training to young dancers, singers and actors aged from six to 19.
Its pioneering approach offers a thoroughly modern template for performing arts schools in an era when the demand for talented dancers and performers – and the need for the very best training – has never been greater.
With classes in musical theatre, acting, singing and dance conveniently scheduled in after-school hours and at weekends, SYPC’s emphasis on its ‘real world’ approach to learning is showcased in regular live performances. Its contribution to West End Live in 2016, for example, was seen by 250,000 people.
Appearances at the O2 Arena supporting opera star Andrea Bocelli, on ITV’s primetime show Keep It in the Family and SYPC’s own flagship YouTube channel have raised its profile at home and abroad.
With specially produced performance videos added every week, its YouTube postings have proved hugely successful at a time when a social media presence for performers has never been more important. With almost 30 million views and subscriber numbers nearing 150,000, it places SYPC at the forefront of performing arts training.
For founder Sophie Boyce, SYPC’s internet presence is crucial to the company’s aims: “We want to attract a real, invested audience for our performers by making Spirit Young Performers Company a hub of creativity and productivity.”
She adds: “The students know exactly what it’s like to work fast and produce great results and have a constant incentive to make each performance better than the last, because it will be viewed by hundreds of thousands of people.”
Opportunities for professional work are considerable too, Boyce noting that “we currently have students in just about every West End show and touring production throughout the country”.
With average class numbers of just 15, students benefit from one-to-one tuition and guidance as well as learning to work as a cohesive company.
“They learn what it’s like to work in a professional environment to a professional standard,” says Boyce. “The emphasis is on learning by doing, much in the same way as any professional company would.”
They also find a fast-growing school that recognises and accommodates other commitments elsewhere.
Flexible training means students have time to attend auditions
“Students can enrol for three hours or up to 18 hours a week as suits them best. It means their education doesn’t suffer and they have time to go to auditions.”
The SYPC teaching experience is wide-ranging, with regular guest tutors making their own distinctive contributions. Recent visitors have included West End performers Carley Stenson and Strictly Come Dancing sensation Danny Mac, musical directors Daniel Bowling and Laura Bangay, and casting director Benjamin Newsome.
“We give our students the widest grounding in all aspects of contemporary performance. They do a lot of technique classes alongside rehearsal and training where they learn to give it everything they’ve got. What distinguishes them is their performance values.”
Boyce says she is looking for students “with the potential and determination to excel”. In return, she promises to “make the most of their individual talents and skills”.
Auditions are held four times throughout the year and successful students can expect to pay fees wholly competitive with schools of a similar calibre while also receiving more training weeks than most of SYPC’s competitors.
Now a member of The Stage Scholarships scheme, SYPC will in 2017 offer one student a year’s tuition for free with two others benefiting from a 50% reduction.
For long-distance students, SYPC also offers ‘Half-Term Intensives’ – week-long workshops culminating in filmed performances that have attracted young performers from as far afield as America.
“At SYPC, we want our students to become the complete package: ‘triple-threat’ performers who excel in acting, singing and dancing. Thirty million YouTube viewers can’t be wrong!”
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