Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Helen Smith

Helen Smith

Helen Smith

After studying Art & Design, Psychology and Dance at A Level at 6th form, Helen went on to study BA Dance Performance at Middlesex University in London in 2008, and graduated in 2011 with First class Honours. After teaching in a range of community settings and exploring other work opportunities, Helen applied for and is now currently studying for a PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education) in Dance Teaching at the Royal Academy of Dance. 
Helen aims to qualify in July with Qualified Teacher Status, and hopes to secure a teaching role so she can complete an NQT year as a nationally qualified teacher. It has so far been a very demanding course but she hopes it will all be worth it.
 1. Can you tell readers how you became involved with dance?
Like most dancers I first became involved in dance by attending ballet and tap lessons at my local dance school from about the age of 4, from what I can remember. I continued with dance lessons there until I was 18 and moved on to study dance at university.
 2. What do you find you like best about dance class? 
Depending on the style of dance I enjoy different parts. I’m not a short dancer so really enjoy traveling sections and grande allegro where I can use my height to my advantage. I like feeling as though you are giving everything and have used all your energy and ability, only for your teacher to say “once more…”. You somehow find it in yourself to perform again because it makes you feel so good.

3. What is the hardest part about dance for you?

Whether it’s technique class, choreography or teaching, it is frustrating – as a perfectionist – if things don’t always go your way as quickly as you would like. However, when you reflect on it, it’s not something that sticks in the mind because the process of dance overwhelms the negativity.
4. What advice would you give to other dancers?
Don’t give up!
5. How has dance changed your life?
By studying Dance at Undergraduate level it gives you such a broad range of skills, many of which are transferable into other industries. Although I worked away from dance for three years, the passion still remained so I applied for my PGCE and I am now training to become a dance teacher. It is a very demanding course but rewarding at the same time.

Student Spotlight: Jasmine Wallis

Jasmine Wallis is 18 years old and from Essex, UK. She is currently in her second year of training at Central School of Ballet in London. Before joining Central, Jasmine trained in the Cecchetti method as a Cecchetti scholar. She is also a member of the Chelmsford Ballet Company.


1. Can you tell readers how you became involved with dance?Jasmine Wallis

When I was five my Mum started taking me to weekly ballet classes as a fun thing to do. At the time she thought it was something I would only want to do for a little while, not that 14 years later it would be such a huge part of my life! But I loved it from a young age and gradually got involved in more classes.

2. What do you find you like best about dance class? 

I like the challenges that dance classes bring. I think the best feeling is the feeling of improvement. This process takes time and can be frustrating when you don’t understand things a first, but when you start to understand it is a great feeling. I like that you can always push yourself because there is always more to learn and something else you can work on. Another of the best parts is being on stage and performing to an audience after all the hard work that goes into rehearsals.

3. What is the hardest part about dance for you?

For me the hardest part of dance is dealing with confidence. It is so easy to listen to the negative thoughts in your head, but doing this will only prevent you from achieving your best. I think it’s important to always try to look at the positives and to believe in yourself, otherwise know one else will !

4. What advice would you give to other dancers? 

The advice I would give is to always stay motivated. It can be easy to get upset when things don’t go right or to compare yourself to other people. So it is important to remember why you dance and to set your own goals so you can achieve the best that you possibly can.

5. How has dance changed your life?

From being involved in dance I have met such inspiring people, like teachers and choreographers who I have learnt so much from. Also, being involved in dance gives you the opportunity to met lots of new people and create so many friendships.

I think that even if you don’t want to pursue dance as a professional career your dance training will always benefit you, because it teaches you about discipline and dedication.

Student Spotlight: Genevieve Eveleigh

Genevieve Eveleigh

Genevieve Eveleigh is 16 years old and currently trains at English National Ballet School in London alongside 400 other candidates. Before ENBS, Genevieve attended a non-vocational school, but was allowed time away to pursue additional ballet training during Year 10. This resulted in spending time with Autrand Ballet in St. Raphael in the south of France alongside regular schooling in the UK.

Genevieve has studied the Royal Academy of Dance syllabi up to and including Advanced 1. She was a pupil at Milton Academy of Dance and also attended the Associate Programme at The Royal Ballet School in London and The Tring Classical Ballet Academy at The Tring School for Performing Arts.

In 2014, Genevieve was the winner of the Genée Dance Challenge Level 3 semi-final but, unfortunately, couldn’t attend the final due to injury. She was also a finalist for the Molly Lake Award. Having just watched the Prix de Lausanne, Genevieve has aspirations to compete in 2017, and her ultimate goal is to secure a contract with a classical ballet company.

How did you become involved in dance?

My Mum signed me up for ballet when I was probably three, thinking that it would be good for discipline – I think that I was quite strong willed. As I got older, I used to dread my once-a-week class and my Mum used to drag me along to my local dance school, telling me that “I would thank her one day.” I have to admit that she was right – as always!

Now I love the challenge; the ability to push myself through self-imposed boundaries, working with my body to master what it is I have been trying to achieve – it’s incredibly fulfilling when that moment arrives.

What do you like least about class?

My least favourite thing is choreography, which is where I am really out of my comfort zone. I find it really challenging.

What is the hardest part about dance for you?

Confidence and patience. Lots of people think that ballet is all about sparkles and glamour. The truth is that it is tough and brutal. I think that if art is your passion, it’s one of the many reasons that you fall in love with ballet. You do get knocks but you still have to hold your head up high and carry on with confidence.

Patience for me is a work in progress and I struggle with it. If I can’t achieve something I have a tendency to get frustrated and beat myself up. Things don’t get mastered with a click of your fingers… blood, sweat and tears is no lie. If you want it you have to work for it, but give yourself time and notice your improvements as well as recognising what you need to improve on.

What advice would you give to other dancers?

The dance world is competitive. Don’t be fazed by the girl next door on the barre or the one doing triple pirouettes – focus on you and compare yourself to the dancer you were yesterday.

How has dance changed your life?

Dance has made me stronger as a person – more focused, more disciplined, and more mature. Through ballet I have learned to express myself far more eloquently than with words and I have found a world of people to connect with. I love my life and, yes, I’m so grateful to my Mum for not allowing me to give up all those years ago.


Student Spotlight: Claire Joseph

How old were you when you first started taking dance classes and what did you think of them?

Claire Joseph in class. Photo courtesy of The School at Steps, taken by Eduardo Patino, NYC.

Claire Joseph in class. Photo courtesy of The School at Steps, taken by Eduardo Patino, NYC.

I started dancing when I was three, but I have loved to dance since I could walk. I always loved making up dances when I heard music and performing them for anyone around me. When I was in 5th grade (I’m in 10th now), I started at The School at Steps’ Pre-Professional Program, which turned my dancing from a hobby into a real part of my life. I always knew I loved theater and jazz dance but I never thought I would love ballet as much as I do now. Falling in love with ballet was something I discovered through my training at The School at Steps.

How many classes are you taking now?

I am currently taking 11 classes a week over the course of 5 days. I take ballet everyday, and, in addition, I take pointe, jazz, theater dance, Horton, and partnering.

What has dance taught you about yourself?

Dance has taught me a lot of discipline and control. It has not only helped me in the dance studio but has also taught me to manage my schoolwork and my friends. It can be hard to balance it all, I devote so much time to my dance and homework, yet still want to keep a social life. The key, I have learned, is to have a good work ethic in both my schoolwork and my technique in dance. In the studio, dance has taught me to stay focused and work my hardest each and every day. It has helped me understand what I want, that I may not be perfect at everything immediately, and to focus on particulars. Once I feel I’ve reached my goal, it is about enjoying myself!

What do you think is the hardest thing about dance?

The hardest thing about dance for me has being able to accept my body for the way it looks and is naturally made. I definitely don’t have the “ideal” body type, especially for ballet, and have bad turnout on top of the way I am built. I can honestly say that I haven’t fully overcome what I’m considering the hardest part of dance for me, but that is also what gives me strength as a dancer. I don’t think I am alone in this either, I believe that embracing the way you are made, taking those natural challenges and using them to be stronger and more unique, can create the best dancers.

What is the most enjoyable thing about dance for you?

One of the most enjoyable things for me is seeing the goals you created for yourself become a reality, whether it be perfecting an extra turn, picking up combinations faster, or emphasizing your expressions more. It takes a lot of work, focus, and time to achieve something, but the moment you realize you have succeeded is amazing.

I also think the best feeling in the world is being able to perform on stage in front of other people. The rush of adrenaline and passion that goes into any performance is difficult to describe — the moment when you get to give a performance everything, after working so hard.

Do you think you will stay involved in dance, and if so, how?

I can’t imagine my life without dance right now. That being said, I don’t see myself becoming a professional ballerina, nor did I ever, but I know that whatever I do in life, I want dance to always be there. I originally increased my dance training because I wanted to be an actress, and I knew dance was necessary to pursue my Broadway dreams. Now I have become very interested in choreographing, not performing in the pieces, but rather creating the art. I’m unsure how exactly I want dance to be in my life, but I currently dance so much, I know I don’t ever want to give it up entirely.


Claire Joseph performing ballet. Photo courtesy of The School at Steps, taken by Eduardo Patino, NYC.

What would be your best piece of advice for a new dance student?

I think my best advice for a new dance student would be to go into whatever kind of dance they want to pursue with a really open mind. They should understand that everyone is at a different place in their dancing, and, if they love it, the hard work will pay off. I would also tell them to go see dance, whether it is going to the ballet, seeing your peers perform, or even watching YouTube videos. So much of my inspiration comes from watching other dancers on stage, and finding a piece of myself in those dancers I look up to. When you watch other dancers you can notice things they do that relate to your training, and then take that into the studio the next day to better your technique.

The School at Steps cultivates young dancers, ages 3 mos. – 18 yrs., from their first step in a dance studio through their pre-professional training. Students discover their individual artistic voices in a creative environment with the guidance of an internationally recognized faculty. The personal attention the school provides encourages students to mature as dancers, grow as individuals, and enrich their passion for the art form. School at Steps graduates go on to dance with professional companies, study at top college dance programs, and perform on Broadway.​ 


Student Spotlight: Jemma Wilson


Jemma is currently in her third year studying Musical Theatre at Laine Theatre Arts in the UK. She writes for London Theatre Direct in her spare time and will soon begin teaching at a local theatre school, Tomorrow’s Talent.


Jemma Wilson

Jemma Wilson

1. Can you tell readers how you became involved with dance?

I remember attending my older sister’s dance classes when I was very young and wanting desperately to join in with what the older girls were doing! It didn’t take long before I began taking classes too, and it has just grown and grown from there. My parents are very supportive and have always encouraged me to do what I enjoy doing, which I am very grateful for.


2. What do you find you like best about dance class?

Dance classes are the best when you have a great atmosphere. Dance offers a sense of unity, both on stage and in the studio, that I have not found anywhere else – everybody works diligently and it is amazing to give and receive support from fellow performers. The feeling when you ‘get’ something better than you’ve got it before is really good- you might not nail it every single time, but if you get a tiny bit better each time then you are improving!


3. What is the hardest part about dance for you?

Pirouettes on the left side!!

The best and worst thing about dance is how it drains you – emotionally and physically! I love feeling like I’ve worked my hardest, pushed myself further than I did yesterday and consequently achieved more, but it certainly is exhausting! It makes you appreciate any quieter time you do have in life, although it is very difficult to shut off from it. Sometimes I close my eyes to go to sleep and can hear my teachers shouting “once more from the top, 5, 6, 7, 8!”. I have learned to value my weekends a lot more, and to give myself ‘me-time’: watching television with my housemates, reading a book, having a bath.


4. What advice would you give to other dancers?

It’s such a cliché, but make the most of your training. I am now coming to the end of my three years at Laine, and am growing increasingly worried about how quickly my remaining time is slipping away. Once I leave college I know it will be up to me to maintain my physical fitness, ensure I keep motivated, and make sure I don’t let my technique slip for auditions. Also remember how lucky you are to have picked the best job in the world (in my opinion!) – you are hopefully going to be paid to do the thing you love the most, which is performing on stage. Technique classes seem awful at the time, but all your teachers want you to be the best you can potentially be – that is why they nag you so much!


5. How has dance changed your life?

Dance has always been a huge influence on me, and now it is something that my life would not be complete without. I think every performer knows how exhilarating the feeling of being on stage is and I’m so grateful that I have discovered it. Changing dance from my hobby to my career choice was a scary thing to do, but I know that I have chosen an amazing, if impossibly competitive, industry to go into. I intend to learn as much as I can from everybody in the industry that I come into contact with, as I believe that you never stop learning.


Student Spotlight: Celia Tolan

dance student from STEPS

Celia Tolan at The School at Steps’ Holiday Performance, photo by Eduardo Patino

How did you first get interested in dance?

My older sister, Hannah, danced at The School at Steps. As a 2 ½ year old, I remember sitting in my stroller outside Debbie Roshe’s musical theatre class every Thursday night watching her dance. I loved watching the class and knew I had to dance too. Soon after, my mom signed me up for tap, ballet, and jazz classes where I discovered dance was my passion.

How many classes a week do you take now, and what kind are they?

Right now I take twelve classes a week. In addition to the five ballet, three pointe and two Horton classes, I take jazz and musical theatre. I hope to add in hip hop and tap if I can fit them in my schedule!

What is it about dancing that you enjoy most?

I enjoy the freedom, empowerment, and positive energy I feel when I’m dancing. As I enter the studio, my mind travels to an entirely different world, where I am able to express myself in various ways. When performing on a stage, I feel empowered, as though I could do anything! No matter what, when I dance I feel as though I am pushing away any negative energy and creating something positive. I love movement – it makes me feel so alive!

What is it that you find most difficult about dance?

What I find most difficult about dance is finding the confidence to believe I can learn new steps and routines. I sometimes think to myself ‘I can’t do that’ when learning new choreography, or trying to hit that triple pirouette. But when I doubt myself, or lose my confidence, I know I need to tell myself “Just relax, you can do it. Just go for it.” And I do!

What have you learned about yourself from dance?

Before I started dancing I felt as though I knew very little about myself or what I was capable of. Now that I have been dancing for 9 ½ years at The School at Steps, I have begun to understand so much more about myself. I have learned I am strong, passionate, disciplined, and focused. I use these four assets throughout not just my dance career, but in my daily life.

What advice do you have for other dance students?

There are two things I always tell myself. The first is not to worry about anything that’s happening in studio or out of the studio. Use dance to free your mind and body, and just have fun when you dance! And the second is when you think you have given it your all, when you feel as though you are done, dig even deeper within yourself and leave it all on stage – or in the studio! You will love the feeling it gives you! Most importantly, love dance as much as dance loves you!

The School at Steps is a training ground for students, ages 2-18, who are interested in exploring various dance styles, as well as for those students already focused on a particular discipline. The school offers an Academic Year and Summer Programs, with classes in ballet, modern, tap, jazz, theater dance, hip hop, and Pilates. Students at the school are also given performance opportunities, and workshops on dance and career-related topics. Beginning with the Young Dancers Program and continuing through the most advanced pre-professional classes, The School at Steps provides children with an opportunity to explore the world of dance, to learn and experiment with technique, and to enrich their appreciation for the various forms of the art.


Student Spotlight: Nathan Owen

Nathan Owen, originally from Essex, UK, is now a resident of Huntsville, USA. At the age of 19 he moved to the United States to obtain a Bachelor in Nursing in Keokuk, Iowa. However, Nathan changed his degree to Theatre in Denison, Texas where he gained an Associates in Theatre. He now attends Sam Houston State where he will earn his BFA in Musical Theatre.

Can you tell readers how you became involved with dance? 

Nathan Owen

Nathan Owen

I had not taken a professional dance class before the age of 21, but I had always had a love for dance from an early age. I have inclined towards musical theater since childhood but never been within the dance chorus, always just singing and acting. After moving to the United States at the age of 19 to pursue a career in nursing, I sat in on an open audition for the theater department, was persuaded to audition and was subsequently cast in a small role, but was told if I switched majors to theater I could receive scholarships! So naturally I went back to my first passion of acting at Grayson college in Denison, Texas.

When the next season came I was cast as lead, Luther Billis in South Pacific, and was awarded an Irene Ryan nomination for region VI. I traveled to Louisiana to compete and this is where I saw two productions from Sam Houston State University. Its production of Enron blew me away and I immediately knew this was the school for me. I auditioned in April 2013 and was accepted on my first attempt, even though I stopped during my dance audition due to my lack of training. Being accepted onto the musical theater program here has really expanded my horizons more than I could have ever imagined. Within my first year I have taken multiple dance techniques including ballet, jazz, tap, aerial and theater workshop where we learn stylized dance from within the theater work or whole routines from the stages of Broadway, West End or movies.

What do you find you like best about dance class?

When it comes to dance classes the thing I like most about them is the discovery you make about yourself and what you are capable of. If you go to math three times a week, you don’t have these moments of pure excitement like when you hit a 13 part riff perfectly in sync with your whole tap class, or the first time you do a 360 release from the aviator in aerial! I will never stop being amazed at what I can do if I just put my time and energy into it.

What is the hardest part about dance for you?

The hardest thing about dance for me, is walking in with 30 other musical theater majors and being taught a combination, then having to pick it up in 15-20 minutes and regurgitate it in front of all my extremely talented peers and professors!

What advice would you give to other dancers?

As a new dancer I would say two things; one, it’s never too late to start learning. I have met people who have been dancing for 15 years and come to university and tried a new dance style, and it has an impact and improves all aspects of their dance by gaining an even greater understanding of their body.

My second point would be, don’t let dance be a blood sport. Auditions and competition should never divide this community, we have enough people in our lives saying NO! Or that you can’t do it professionally. So I would say to you out there, let the love of the arts strengthen our ties. Let it create empathy for one another because we all know how hard a ‘no’ is, but also the elation of a ‘yes’. So why not be cast in a chorus of their happiness, instead of the lead of your sadness.

How has dance changed your life?

Dance has changed my life for the better in so many ways. I now have a much greater appreciation of the craft of musical theater and the depth that dance can have within it. From the portrayal of story with movement, to the understanding of dance’s influence within the art, such as Agnes de Mille’s Oklahoma or Bob Fosse’s Cabaret. Dance has broadened my horizons further than I could ever have imagined and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.


Connect With Us!

Visit Us On PinterestVisit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookCheck Our Feed