Student Spotlight

Student Spotlight: Julia Dinella

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Photo by Eduardo Patino, Courtesy of The School at Steps

How did you get involved in dance?

Even before I started dancing, I wore a leotard and tights every day. Once my mom realized my obsession with ballet apparel was more than just a childish whim, she promptly enrolled me in weekly “Mommy and Me” ballet classes at The School at Steps when I was four. A few years later, I began ballet classes of my own with the Technique Program at The School at Steps, and by the time I was eleven, I knew dance was my passion and joined their Pre-Professional Program. I started taking ballet, jazz, and musical theater classes, and have since been dancing six days a week.

What is your current dance schedule like?

I dance Monday-Saturday for 20 hours a week. I participate in ballet technique five days a week, as it is the starting point and foundation for all other forms of dance. I also take pointe and variation classes twice a week, partnering, hip-hop, jazz, and musical theater one to two times weekly.  My dance schedule includes a variety of styles, which combines aspects of performing and technique that have helped shape the dancer I am today.

What do you enjoy most about taking classes?

My favorite part is to learn variations or new choreography, because for me, these aspects of class are my reward. I work six days a week perfecting my dance technique, and variations and choreography allow me to take that technique and bring it to the next level. Here I am able to personalize my dancing and truly perform to my fullest.

What do you find the most challenging about dance?

I find getting frustrated to be the most challenging part of dance. When you get to the advanced levels of dance, you’re almost expected to look and dance effortlessly even when you’re in class. Sometimes I get so caught up and frustrated while learning new steps that I forget to really appreciate and enjoy what I love to do.

How do you think dance helps you with other areas of your life?

If dance has taught me anything, it has taught me to be passionate, focused, and dedicated—qualities that have become ingrained in me and have transcended into other important aspects of my life. For example, two years ago, I started volunteering at a program that helps autistic children develop basic life skills. While my volunteer work has been a rewarding experience, it has also proved itself to be both physically and mentally challenging. Dance instilled the understanding that true progress takes time and patience.

Additionally, I love school; I strive to achieve academic success. However, when I have innumerable assignments and don’t want to go on, dance helps me understand that I must persevere because it reminds me that with focus, I can succeed. Whether I’ve had a tough day at community service or received a bad grade on a test, I know I can come to class and dance away the stress.

Do you have any plans that include dance in your future?

I am currently in the process of hearing back from colleges. While I did not apply to any conservatories, all of the schools I applied to have outstanding dance programs. I plan to minor in dance during my collegiate experience and I hope that dance will always be a part of my life.

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.

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Student Spotlight: Dolly Williams

Dolly WilliamsDolly Williams, 27, currently works as Communications officer: PR and digital media at Northern Ballet. She is a former dancer and LIPA graduate. Dolly is also a dance writer and manages the ballet blog www.bulletinpointe.co.uk

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

I started ballet classes when I three but not because I wanted to be a ballerina but because my brother got to go to karate club and I wanted a club of my own, it was that simple. My mum was always amazingly supportive of my interests and I got professional training until I was eighteen and then went abroad to work as a dancer for a few years. Due to injuries and some family illness I came back to the UK and I decided that I wanted to go into dance management. I knew I wanted a degree but there are no specific dance management degrees, so I went to Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts in the UK and studied Music, Theatre and Entertainment Management. This was an amazing course and the perfect choice, it gave me a wide variety of experiences and through that I got an internship in the communications team at Northern Ballet. After graduation, I was invited back to Northern Ballet to work as maternity cover for a year.

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

When I am in class I completely zone out from everything else that is on my mind. I work full time and study in the evenings, so when I take class it is a little bit of me time to unwind.

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

I absolutely love working in the business side of dance now but I still find it strange and hard that I don’t perform anymore. I trained and performed for so long it just feels natural, but having been injured, I am restricted to what I can now do, I definitely miss it. When I watch dance, I end up twitching and looking like a crazy lady! I think it is that old saying: once a dancer, always a dancer.

4. What advice would you give to other dancers?

Dance for yourself and don’t give up. I had several people throughout my training tell me that I would never make it but they were wrong and I have some amazing memories and friends from dancing. No matter if you end working as a dancer or just doing it as a hobby, if you want to dance you should, dance is universal and for everybody.

 5. How has dance changed your life?

I definitely think it has made me a more disciplined person. Having such a strict dance schedule as a child kept me focused and as I did dance training at least four to six nights a week, I didn’t have time to get in trouble. I am always very grateful for that.

Interview courtesy of Jessica Wilson

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Student Spotlight: Sophie Holt

dancer

Sophie Holt

Our latest “Student Spotlight” features Sophie Holt…

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

I first became involved with dance when I was 8 years old and went to a friend’s house for dinner! She had a ballet class that night and I went with her. After that I started classes, dancing maybe once or twice a week until I was roughly 13. I auditioned for Hampshire Youth Dance Company (in the UK) because it seemed like a good opportunity to try something new, and I had never really auditioned for anything before. I got into the company, where I found my love for contemporary dance and choreography.

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

I really enjoy learning new phrases and exploring new ways of moving. I find it is helpful to apply what I learn in technical exercises to a phrase of movement. I think this also shows you what you really need to work at, it challenges you as a dancer to think about several things at once, and introduces more performance to the movement.

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

I find lots of things hard about dance, but enjoy the challenge. I am continually working on improving my core strength to improve my control of movement. With me, I seem to be in control in technical exercises, but begin to lose it when I do choreography. I am currently trying to find the right balance, which is taking me some time, but with studying dance full time at Chichester University, I am able to keep focus.

What I found particularly hard in previous years has been the auditioning process. I really enjoy the actual audition, I like the competitiveness and the structure, however, receiving rejections is something that I had to get used to. I have now built up a tougher skin and know that I am in the best place for me, but when applying for vocational schools, there were definitely some hard times!

4. What advice would you give to other dancers?

To always receive feedback with a positive attitude! If someone is telling you something constructive really listen and take it in because it means they see something in what you are doing.

5. How has dance changed your life?

Dance has introduced me to plenty of new people and opened my eyes to new ways of thinking. I think studying dance at university really makes you look at things in new ways and appreciate what it is that you are seeing. I honestly don’t know what I would be doing if I wasn’t dancing!

BIO: Sophie Holt is a second year dance student at Chichester University. She began dancing aged eight and went on to perform with Hampshire Youth Dance Company in the UK after discovering her love for contemporary dance.

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Student Spotlight: Lizzie Croucher

Lizzie Croucher

Lizzie Croucher

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

I’ve always been dancing – I began with baby ballet aged two! I suppose the age in which I became serious about dance as a career path would be when I was 16 – I was offered a place on the CAT Scheme at Laban. I had originally auditioned on order from my dance teacher who insisted I give it a go – and now I look back I can’t thank her enough for it! The CAT Scheme inspired me to be more inquisitive in my creativity and gave me the drive to push my technique further and as a result I have recently completed my degree at Laban.

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

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Student Spotlight: Luke Bradshaw

Luke Bradshaw

Luke Bradshaw

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

My involvement in dance began with a trickle and soon became a torrent.

By chance I saw Billy Elliot and it immediately grabbed me. After realising quite how much stretching can hurt and thinking of the associated stigma of being a male dancer, I dismissed the idea, as being “for girls”. However I still harboured a want to know more. I began to ask a few of the girls at school about the basic positions of ballet. They showed me once, twice, three times but before long grew frustrated as I continued to ask questions. The poor girls eventually gave up and with exasperated sighs, told me to come to their class. I do not think they expected me to.

The week after, I did my first plie. I remember it distinctly. Knowing that dance was what I wanted to do with my life, even as I plie’d. After moving through a few dance schools in my quest to learn as much as I could, I eventually auditioned for Laine Theatre Arts and Bird College, two musical theatre institutions. Having always been told, “it’s easy for guys”, I was confident I would get into both. I did not get into either. It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I just wanted it all the more. I did A-level exams and went to a ballet school in the evenings. I then auditioned for and went to London Studio Centre the following year.

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

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