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First-class training for first-class sixth form: why demand is growing at Emil Dale

Above: Students at Emil Dale’s production of West Side Story in 2015. Photo: Tim Matthews Above: Students at Emil Dale’s production of West Side Story in 2015. Photo: Tim Matthews

So assured is Emil Dale’s founder that its foundation course offers the most competitive training around, he says that if you can find a like-for-like course with more contact hours and private singing lessons, it will waive its fee


Want to improve your chances of getting into your first-choice drama school? The Emil Dale Academy can help. Its two-year sixth-form foundation course in musical theatre has been created to give students the best chance of securing places on leading college and conservatoire degree courses with an intensive introduction to all the skills you’ll need.

“Deciding on the right training course for you is only one of the challenges facing students. Being prepared and ready for the audition is the real hurdle you have to clear,” says the academy’s founder and principal, Emil Dale.

Which is why, he adds: “We offer an extreme triple-threat course that gives equal attention to acting, dancing and singing to provide students with the broadest, most detailed preparation they need to make sure the next step they take into vocational training is the right one, the best one, for them.”

Students in search of a gentle introduction to vocational training are not what the Emil Dale Academy is looking for, says Dale.

“We’re aiming to give students more than just a foundation in performing arts: we want to provide them with a springboard to wherever they want to go to next.”

Successful students will graduate with a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Performing Arts (Musical Theatre) – equivalent to three A levels – and up to 160 UCAS points, giving them valuable leverage when choosing further training.

On the way, they will enjoy all the benefits of one of the UK’s most innovative training institutions with a track record of achievement and success that has seen demand for places growing significantly over its first 10 years in operation.

With up to 35 contact hours each week, the emphasis is on providing a solid grounding in the skills and disciplines needed to succeed in the industry, applying them to two full-scale productions each year accompanied by a full West End band.

“We offer classes in acting for stage and screen, in tap, ballet and jazz, in audition techniques, private one-to-one singing lessons, workshops with top West End performers every day – more than anywhere else – and even daily lessons in cardio and body strengthening,” says Dale.

A student performs in Legally Blonde. Photo: Tim Matthews
A student performs in Legally Blonde. Photo: Tim Matthews

There’s a small, academic strand, too – focusing on the business aspect of careers in the performing arts and the history of musical theatre – each designed to feed directly into the practical classes that form by far the majority of taught hours.

With year-group numbers limited to 43, students can expect to be streamed into smaller groups for each of the practice-based lessons, allowing more focused attention on their individual training and development. Classes take place in the academy’s impressive three-storey home in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, which boasts an array of 11 studios, seven 1:1 rooms (for individual teaching sessions) and its own 200-seat theatre.

But it’s not just the lavish bricks-and-mortar resources that makes the Emil Dale Academy an attractive proposition for students. Its teaching staff are among the most experienced West End performers working in education.

Heading the music department is Tim Evans, former deputy head of music at Arts Educational School and veteran of Matilda, Legally Blonde and Love Never Dies in the West End. His counterpart in dance is Laurie Scarth, whose credits include Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray, Jennyanydots in Cats at the London Palladium and Sister Mary Patrick in Sister Act, while actor-director Jason Marc-Williams brings substantial experience in the UK and South Africa and with the National Theatre to the helm of the acting department.

So confident is Dale of the quality offered by the six-term course that, he says, “if you can find a like-for-like musical theatre sixth-form course in the UK that offers more contact hours and weekly private singing lessons included in the fees, we’ll train you for free.”

Although course fees compare favourably with sector norms – a detailed break-down of all costs associated with the course is available on the academy’s website – prospective students also have access to bursaries and financial aid, not least through its involvement with The Stage Scholarship scheme.

Not surprisingly, students from all four corners of the UK and Ireland have been beating a track to Hitchin. And here, too, the academy takes a lead role in helping new students find affordable accommodation with its approved Host Family scheme, through which rental costs are payable only during term-time occupancy.

Conscious that the academy’s sixth-form course isn’t alone in the marketplace, Dale is quick to point out its value-for-money credentials. “We offer some of the highest weekly contact hours in the sector, more even than some of our larger, longer-established competitors for an all-inclusive fee, and students have the same access as our degree students to our state-of-the-art facilities and extensive industry contacts.”

The course, he says, is intended to be “a catalyst for developing talent and skills, discipline and business sense by encouraging students to realise their full potential”.

He adds: “Our results – in terms of students graduating into their first-choice schools for further training – speak for themselves. This year alone, 10 students secured places at the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, while eight progressed to Arts Educational Schools in previous years.”

Such figures make it clear why the Emil Dale Academy has quickly become a go-to place for students intent on a career in musical theatre. With full-day auditions taking place throughout the year, there is no better time to apply than now.

For further details, call the Emil Dale Academy on 01462 677 808 or visit its website, emildale.co.uk/eda

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