Interview: Connor Scott - on BBC Young Dancer & beyond

Friday 22 January 2016 by Carmel Smith

Connor Scott, BBC Young Dancer of the Year, 2015. Photo: Guy Levy.

Last May Connor Scott won the first BBC Young Dancer competition. Next weekend he’ll be back on the main stage at Sadler’s Wells, from where the Final was broadcast live on BBC1, to take part in Sadler’s Wells Sampled – two days showing a selection of the wide range of dance styles on offer throughout the year. So what happened next for Connor?

Has your life changed since winning the BBC Young Dancer?
Without a doubt, since the competition it has been a whirlwind of a year which has opened up some amazing opportunities for me such as performing at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and in a gala for Sadler’s Wells at the St. Pancras Hotel. And I’m really excited I’ll be performing at Sadler’s Wells again this month in Sadler’s Wells Sampled

What will you be performing next weekend? It will be one of the solos I choreographed and performed on the show called Get Up

What was going through your head at that moment when Carlos Acosta was about to announce the winners name -and there was a delay in finding out?
To be honest, I can’t quite remember! I must have had so many emotions and thoughts at one time it was making me very sweaty and nervous – however I was surprisingly calm in the seconds leading up to Carlos announcing my name and it seemed as though everything was silent in my head…and then he said “Connor” and my legs turned to absolute jelly. As you can see on the clip I couldn’t find the words to speak!

Dancing on the Sadler’s Wells stage – and on live TV – were you nervous?
Strangely enough I was not as nervous as I thought I would be; in fact I was quite calm and collected. However on the day of the final in the tech rehearsal I began to get very nervous and overwhelmed, but when it came to the night I think everything just clicked and I felt extremely ready for it! I usually deal with my nerves by listening to some music and blocking everything else out of my mind so that I can focus on what’s happening and what mind set I need to get into.

What was the best thing about being part of the BBC Young Dancer competition?
I think it had to be gaining new experiences through the competition such as performing at Sadler’s Wells, interviews, TV exposure, travelling, meeting and working with amazing dancers and choreographers. Purely being able to just dance really…and the food!

Have you always been in to dance? Do you remember what first got you hooked?
Ever since I can remember, I’ve been dancing! I was three when I started and I just never stopped. I think I found a sensation of excitement, joy and passion all rolled into one when I began and it just seemed to grow more and more as I’ve grown up.

Is it right that you started with ballroom dance? How did you get in to contemporary?
Yes! I began dancing ballroom and Latin from the age of three and absolutely loved it – especially competing! Funnily enough, I started contemporary because of ballroom and latin. I was ten at the time and I was performing in my local dance schools annual showcase with my latin partner and the presenter of the showcase spotted me dancing and suggested I auditioned for Billy Elliot the Musical, so I ended up going to the audition and I remember absolutely loving it! However at the end of the day, even though I passed the audition, the casting director came and explained to me and my family that I was going to be too old for the part – but she suggested I audition for the CAT scheme at Dance City in Newcastle which I hadn’t heard about. I took her advice, auditioned and gained a place on the scheme. I wasn’t keen at first because I had no experience of ballet and contemporary at all and it felt like an unnatural way to move. However after a year or so I became hooked and I’ve never looked back!

Do you still find partner dancing useful in contemporary?
Yeah I do! In fact I just choreographed a piece at Rambert School with a close friend (Arielle Smith) entitled FOUR which is extremely latin based. We also incorporated some salsa.

You were a member of the National Youth Dance Company – what has that experience given you?
Yeah, I joined last year. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had – alongside BBC Young Dancer. I’ve met some of my closest friends through the company, had the pleasure of performing with them at Sadler’s Wells and on tour and worked with the incredibly talented Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, as well as his dancers! I would recommend any young dancer to audition as it was an experience I’ll never forget.

You are at the Rambert School now – how’s it going?
Really well thank you!, I joined in September so I’m in my first year and absolutely loving it! Being able to be in a studio environment everyday surrounded by dancers and friends who continue to inspire you and mentored by teachers who motivate you – it’s just immense.

What do you like best about living in London?
I think the thing I like the most about living in London is the variety of things you can do and the opportunities the city has to offer. I haven’t found myself to be bored once yet since I’ve been here. Also I love the fact that nearly all of the artists I listen to often come to London for gigs so that’s really exciting for me…also the shopping!

Are there any pressures in being the BBC Young Dancer winner?
Yeah there are I guess. I sometimes feel like if someone is watching me dance they expect to see a certain standard; especially now that I’m in vocational training. But sometimes that kind of pressure is a good thing because it keeps me on my toes. I also strongly believe that we as dancers shouldn’t be working to fit the visions that other have for us, therefore I remind myself that it’s okay to fail every now and then – because if we didn’t, we wouldn’t know how to improve and become stronger.

For the competition you had to make your own work – are you interested in developing your own choreographic skills, or is it being a dancer that drives you?
It’s both! There is no doubt that being a dancer is my passion but I would very much so like to choreograph in the future and I’m currently being given the chance to choreograph now at Rambert for our student choreographic shows in March, so I’m really looking forward to showcasing my work for the first time officially on other dancers.

Where would you like to be in five years?
I would love to be in a professional company, hopefully seeing the world while also continuing to learn from people! Simply just enjoying what I’m doing because as long as I’m dancing and I’ve got family and good friends I’m set!

Catch Connor in Sadler’s Wells Sampled, 28 & 29 January

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