Next in our “Student Spotlight” series, meet Charlotte Jeffery…
1. Can you tell readers how you became involved (and continued to be involved) with dance?
The start of my dance love affair began with ballet. Like hundreds of thousands of little girls across the world, when I was four, my Mum asked me if I wanted to do ballet, I said yes and it spiraled from there.
I began my ‘training’ (if we can call it that) in a drafty school hall with good toes, bad toes and winning little silver cups for my brilliant portrayal of a Siamese cat. I took all my ballet exams, and jumped around from syllabus to syllabus, I even spent one summer school at the Royal Ballet School, at White Lodge and was a Junior Associate of the Arts Educational School in Tring.
I was a ballet girl for a very long time (and still am in reality) but started contemporary when I was twelve or eleven – this incredibly cool teacher came to teach at our school (where we had dance as part of the curriculum) and introduced contemporary to all of us.
It was only natural therefore that when I continued dancing into GCSE and A level that I would take it higher into degree level. I have just graduated from Middlesex University with a 2:1 in Dance Studies.
While I was there I had the most incredible opportunity to study abroad. I traveled to the east cost of the USA, to Goucher College, in Baltimore where I stayed for four months and continued to train. I can honestly say now, that although it was one of the hardest four months of my life, emotionally and physically, it was also one of the best!!
Training in the states opened up yet more options for me and more choices for career paths. I trained in aerial dance (very scary but amazing) took contemporary, ballet, pointe work, a very intense choreography course and even got to work with some underprivileged children in the poorest area of Baltimore helping them to learn how to read and write by using movement as a tool for learning.
Now as a recent graduate I have decided to take the freelance route. I feel that there are far too many options for me, and I want to do so much, that I’m going to try and do it all; I call myself a freelance teacher, writer, community artist, dancer, arts administrator, choreographer… and the list is growing!
This has meant that even since I’ve graduated I’ve written reviews for up and coming companies, am currently in rehearsal for the opening ceremony of the Paralympics (29th August 2012), I have taught workshops at primary schools, and as of this week (until about Christmas time) I am working at the Royal Ballet School as an Interim Development and Publicity Coordinator. (See I told you I was a real ballet bod at heart!) As of September I will add a new title to my belt, Artist in Residence, at a school in Buckinghamshire teaching lots of the extra curricular dance and some admin there too.
2. What do you find you like best about dance class?
I find huge release in moving. Be that emotional or physical I find huge solace and comfort in the familiarity and challenges presented as soon as you walk into a studio, no matter what style the format is the same and I find that the formulaic nature of it I depend on as a kind of constant in my life. I have used dance as a kind of therapy in the past and I’m sure I will in the future, being taken over completely by the joy and hardships that happen in the dance studio is something that I use to relax and subconsciously work through issues. Everything is better after you’ve moved!
I am constantly inspired by dance, and believe that inspiration and change in dance can only be a good thing.
3. What is the hardest part about dance for you?
The hardest parts of dance for me are actually two of the things that define it as a sector. I find the rejection and the ideals placed upon dancers are cruel though I completely understand why they are believed necessary. To promote high standards and excellence they are necessary evils and without them we would not have the amazing dance scene we have today. However, I personally could not my career a performance based one and deal with the constant rejections and impossible ideals placed upon dancers. I think dancers are very special and strong people who create beautiful art, I could not deal with what they do in the long run.
4. What advice would you give to other dancers?
I have been really lucky with opportunity, and experience so my first and most important piece of advice is to grab every single opportunity your offered. Never say no to anything you want to do because of other obligations, people will understand, retail or bar jobs don’t have to understand, they’re temporary and you can get another one – reshuffle other things you have lined up – once an opportunity presets itself it won’t again. TAKE IT!
My next piece is for you to get lots of experience in lots of different areas within the dance sector before you start your career. What I mean by this is while your training and don’t have any obligations and ties volunteer, get placements, make yourself useful, do things for free. The connections you make with people you meet while you do these things may well act as an inroad for future jobs. My relationship and current job within The Royal Ballet School stemmed from a placement I did within the Partnership and Access Department – from that I met some wonderful people, free-lanced within the school and have since bounced around various departments and landed in the Development department.
Finally – ASK! I have never once got a job in the dance sector by applying for it in any conventional way. Every single one has been from me being big and brave and asking if anyone I know wants a dance teacher, a writer, a choreographer, or if they have any placements. You have absolutely nothing to lose. Ask, the worst thing they can say is no!
5. How has dance changed your life?
Dance has touched everything I have done in my life and informed most of the decisions I have made. Dance has changed my life in many more ways than one, and in every way for the better.