Feature: So you want to be a dancer?

Friday 11 December 2009

Mirjam Student @ Laban Centre London Photo: Lara Platman So you want to be a dancer?

You reckon you can stomach getting up at 6.30am, for a gruelling day of sweating
it and training in the studio? You’re creative, you’ve been told a thousand times
that you’ve got loads of natural talent…with the right kind of intensive, dance
training you’ll go far…you’ll be a star.
Hold up for a second – who’s paying the bill? When you sit down and add it up, it all starts to look a bit scary. Not only do you have to cover your college fees, but you’ll probably need to pay rent, buy new kit and maybe even books and equipment. Oh yeah and there are those little things like eating and more importantly going out with your mates! Wouldn’t you be better off going to study a University subject, like Maths or Engineering? After all, apart from a tiny amount, the government pays your fees if you go to do a University course and you can get a student loan that you don’t have to pay back until your ancient. Even if you get offered a place at one of those private dance or drama colleges, you probably won’t be able to take it as there’s no money available to help pay the fees.
Ben Student @ Laban Centre London Photo: Lara Platman Or is there?
If you haven’t heard of them already, listen up: The Dance and Drama Awards. Yes, they do exactly what they say on the tin – they award money for dance and drama students. And we’re not talking a measly half your fees or a bit of cash for new ballet shoes. The awards cover almost all of your fees, leaving you with a small shortfall to pay (this is the same situation that friends who go to university will find themselves in). Not only that, but you can apply for student loans and depending on your personal financial circumstances you can also apply for means tested help with living costs from your Local Education Authority. This makes a real difference when you think that a lot of the full time dance training colleges are based in and around London where student life can be very expensive.
Ballet Central [performance group, Central School of Ballet] Photo: Bill Cooper The Dance and Drama Awards
are now in their third year and have already made a massive difference to the lives of hundreds of dance and drama students who thought they would never be able to afford to enter full time arts training.
Check whether the dance college that you have in mind is part of the Dance and Drama Award Scheme. Another option is that some colleges are what is called ‘maintained’ and can offer their own grants, either because they have public funding or because they’re attached to a University eg Northern School of Contemporary Dance. But do note that not many dance schools fall into this category. (A list of dance colleges and their funding schemes is available through the CDET – details below). Think about applying to a college that’s part of one of these schemes in order to broaden your chances.
Ballet Central [performance group, Central School of Ballet] Photo: Bill Cooper

There is also a chance
that as more colleges enter the scheme, the same number of awards will be divided between more dance and drama colleges (there are currently only 820 Awards across the whole country). This could mean that if you’ve really got your heart set on a particular college, there may be fewer scholarships available at that college in a few years time. For this reason, think twice about deferring application as it may be more difficult to secure an award in the future.

Ballet Central [performance group, Central School of Ballet] Photo: Bill Cooper If all else fails
you can try applying to grant giving trusts and foundations, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to find all your fees and living costs in this way. Also, unfortunately, if you haven’t been given an award of some kind then you can’t apply for a student loan. You may be eligible for a Career Development Loan (freephone 0800 585505 for an information pack) dependent on which course you’ve been accepted for, but do bear in mind that these kinds of loans require you to start repayments almost immediately you finish at dance college. There’s no guarantee that you’ll find paid dance work straight away so going for one of these loans can be quite risky.
There is lots of information out there to tap into
Check out www.dfes.gov.uk/iyc/moneymatters.shtml, or call 0114 259 3612 for more details of the Dance and Drama Awards and funding advice.
The Council for Dance Education and Training have also produced a very useful leaflet offering helpful hints to students hoping to train in dance, available at www.cdet.org.uk,
Also have a look at the BBC’s new BLAST! Website, which offers information on how to get involved in dance activities and dance training and also has a specific ‘Ask an Expert’ section answering your questions and offering young people advice on getting into different types of dance.
And check out the londondance.com directory, for details of London based colleges
read more
Kayoko Student @ Laban Centre London Photo: Lara Platman The future
is actually looking a lot rosier than it did for dance students a few years ago, so go on, bite the bullet and take your chance. You never know, you could be a lot richer for it!
Kerry Chappell

Article Published 2002

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