To start the week off we have a student spotlight to share with readers….
1. Can you tell readers how you became involved with dance?
I actually fell into dance whilst studying a Performing Arts btec at college in Cirencester. I’d always been involved in acting whilst I was younger but had never danced and so I found it extremely challenging to start with… but I guess that was part of the appeal. I worked really hard to try and gain a place at a dance institution and was lucky enough to receive a variety of offers, from which I chose to study at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts due to its varied programme. I gained a first class honours degree in Dance and Performing Arts and also won the LIPA dance prize at my graduating ceremony which for me was a huge achievement. Since then I have taken on a variety of different projects including choreographic work, workshop leading and dance performance across the UK, and I am one of the lucky few who is able to say they make a living doing what they love.
The main aspect which has kept me involved with dance and given me the determination to succeed is the handful of individuals who really believe in my abilities and want to see me do well, all of whom have helped me to get to where I am today.
2.What do you find you like best about dance class?
My favourite aspect of dance class is the feeling of achievement (mainly evident from the amount of sweat I produce) which comes from pushing yourself to achieve new things. I am constantly trying to learn and progress, always working on my technique and focusing on my expression as an artist, and when this gets recognised in class by a teacher, there is nothing quite like it.
3. What is the hardest part about dance for you?
The hardest part about dance for me was learning to come to terms with the fact that my body wasn’t going to do everything I wanted it to, and I wasn’t going to become an archetypal dancer. I spent a lot of time comparing myself to others which is just silly when you look at your own background and how far you’ve come individually. Now working within my limitations to be the best dancer that I can be is something which really pushes me and feeds me creatively. I feel as though expression is the most powerful tool in dance and if you can master this then the rest is all secondary.
4. What advice would you give to other dancers?
The best advice I can give to other dancers is remember why you fell in love with dance in the first place. Whenever you are knocked back or find the industry tough, just take yourself back to that place of positivity and creativity and use that to drive you forwards. The only person you ever have to compete with is yourself, be the best that YOU can be.
5. How has dance changed your life?
Dance has changed my life on so many different levels, it’s helped me to deal with loss and grief, its enabled me to explore a side of myself which I didn’t even know existed, it’s introduced me to some absolutely phenomenal people and experiences which have literally been priceless… and most of all it has helped me to become ME… and I am happy with who that person is.
BIO: Thomas Ashton (aka Thomas Wilkinson) is a 24 year old dancer and choreographer based in London but working across the UK. As well as leading workshops for aspiring young dancers and taking industry relevant choreography to schools outside of London, Thomas also works as a choreographer for UK commercial dance agency – Riven Productions. Thomas continues to train in lyrical jazz, commercial and contemporary dance styles and maintains his role as a working dancer alongside his other projects. Recent work includes Cha Cha Cha dance scratch night at Chisenhale Dance Space, dancing for ATD productions at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (2008, 2009, 2011) and Lyra Jay showcases across various London venues.