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03 Jul 2023

There’s only a month to go until The DanceEast Centre for Advanced Training (CAT) End of Year show and it’s nearly that time again to say farewell to our wonderful CAT graduates. They have worked incredibly hard these past few years, shown resilience, dedication, and enthusiasm throughout their time training on the programme. We look back at their individual journeys on the CAT programme, celebrate their achievements and share their advice to other students.

During their time on the DanceEast CAT programme, the students have had the opportunity to work with a range of choreographers, from different dance styles and backgrounds. In preparation for the CAT End of Year Show, students have two intensive weeks over the spring and summer to work with choreographers to develop their group pieces.

The intensives are a fantastic opportunity for the students to gain first hand experience of working with world-leading professional companies and artists, which is often the first touch point to working in the professional dance sector. It’s always exciting to see CAT alumni go on to join these companies and perform with them again in the future after their full-time vocational training.

Ali’s favourite memory was performing with James Wilton Dance in 2019, as it was her first year taking part in an intensive and the experience definitely stuck with her. Amber loved being part of Flexer & Sandiland’s piece Imagining Otherwise. The students reimagined the piece which featured interactive digital projections, exploring space and geography, continually responding to one another and the environment. Lily loved working on this piece and found working with not only company members but also other CAT graduates inspiring and an amazing form of encouragement.

“Performing, working and creating as a group was such an incredible opportunity and I will always be so grateful for these experiences.”-  Lily

Evie’s favourite memory was working with Jasmin Vardimon Company to create Park Road, as this was her first experience working with a choreographer. The CAT students also spend time working with their weekly tutors, who teach them ballet, contemporary, hip hop, creative and health studies, alongside skills in choreography, audition support and preparation for the wider world of dance training. Whilst studying on the DanceEast CAT, Olivia has realised there are no strict principles or restrictions in contemporary dance, and this has given her the freedom and confidence to pursue a career in professional dance.

“I enjoyed the creative classes with Tom Hobden, because of the good vibes and he taught me to enjoy what I was doing” – Isaac

Whilst on the CAT, students are also taught about health and wellbeing. They learn how to look after themselves physically and mentally including nutrition, anatomy, and mental wellbeing. They have access to physical and wellbeing support guided by the health team. Juliet has enjoyed learning how muscles work and how to use them correctly to enable her to be a better dancer and implement technique feedback from teachers.

On the CAT programme, students can join from as early as 10 years old and continue studying on the CAT until they are 18, when they graduate. They can also join at different stages in the programme, meaning that the new students have the opportunity to work with the students who have been on the programme for longer, enabling them to learn from their peers. Amber remembers their first performance in 2016 and looking up to the graduating group. Completing a full circle, now Amber and the other graduates can share advice for new students.

“The studio is the place to go wrong and make mistakes so you can improve.” – Amber

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions or try things you’re not used to. It might feel embarrassing, but you’ll get more out of the classes if you don’t worry about other people judging you.” – Juliet

“Find the joy in every moment whilst at CAT and make the most of every opportunity and experience you are given!” – Evie

“Allow yourself to feel silly and slightly out of your comfort zone as this is when you will grow and enjoy every moment.” – Lily

Olivia’s advice to new students would be to fully engage in all the different classes even when it pushes you out of your comfort zone. Ali adds that “making ‘mistakes’ in class is never a big deal and no one cares if you go ‘wrong’, what matters is the intention behind movement not the steps”. It’s good to be curious and inquisitive too, “if you don’t understand or agree with something in class, question and challenge it”.

“Every person’s own style and creativity is so beautifully different. I learnt that instead of comparing myself to my peers, I should use them to inspire me and therefore improve my individual dance practice.” – Ali

When you join the programme, you become part of a community, where you can make new friends and work collaboratively with each other. The CAT Audition Toolkit is a residential trip graduate students take part in on the final year of the programme and is a national project delivered by the National Centres for Advanced Training in Dance (CATs).

They visit some of the different dance schools and conservatoires they might apply to join once they graduate from the DanceEast CAT. Freya’s favourite memory was taking part in the Toolkit.

“It was such an amazing 3 days with so many incredible dancers across the country and it brought our year group even closer together.” – Freya

Lily mentions that one of her biggest takeaways from being on the CAT is the sense of community and friendship that comes along with it. Being part of the CAT programme has taught Lily to develop in confidence, build friendships and be open to new opportunities, noting that these skills will benefit her not only in further training but also in wider life away from dance.

“My advice to new CAT students would be to enjoy the process and take time to remember how special it is to be a part of the CAT community.” – Phia

Max has taken away a strong sense of self confidence, belief and the ability to overcome any challenge. Dance has helped bring him “a richer understanding of what makes me happy (dance) and how instrumental it has and will be in my life.”

“Trust what you brought here and immerse yourself in the environment. Make new friends bravely and without doubt. Love what you do and love doing it.” – Max

Evie’s biggest takeaway from her time on the DanceEast CAT is to always be open to new adventures, whether that be a new style, new choreographer or even new surroundings and people. Studying on the programme has also helped Evie be open minded to opportunities to take part in gaining experience of what it is like to work in the dance industry.

This year, the graduating students have lots of exciting prospects to look forward to, some of these include going onto study dance at Rambert School, Trinity Laban, Urdang, Performers College, and London Contemporary Dance School. We wish everyone the best of luck with the future and look forward to continuing to follow their exciting futures.

You can find out more about the DanceEast Centre for Advanced Training here.