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Aspiring performers learn from industry experts

Posted: 07 January 2022

Hip hop dance moves, using the voice, and the art of stage combat were just some of the skills practised by aspiring performers at West Nottinghamshire College.

As part of the college’s performing arts ‘industry week’, it welcomed a host of specialists and practitioners who taught the next generation of actors, singers and dancers a range of techniques and abilities required for successful careers in their chosen fields.

The four-day event, which took place from Monday 13 December to Thursday 16 December, was enjoyed by first and second-year performing arts students on acting and musical theatre pathways.

It kicked off with a dance workshop led by Jasmine Eccles from choreographic and talent development mentoring programme Xzibit Young Creatives. Students were able to develop their creative dance skills and hear more about Xzibit’s new young dancer and choreographer mentoring programme, which will take place in Nottingham from January to April as well as several other cities across the Midlands.

Next up were vocal workshops by trained speech and language therapist Florence Wainwright, who showed students the mechanics of how the voice is produced, how it can be manipulated and the importance of looking after it, known as vocal hygiene. These techniques were used when the students performed a variety of texts in different accents and dialects while applying the theories showcased by Florence, who previously studied theatre at both further and higher education levels and now works as interim clinical lead for speech and language therapy at Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

The packed schedule continued with a talk and presentation by Christopher Neil, education manager at Mansfield Palace Theatre, who introduced students to the work placement and extra-curricular activities they can get involved with at the venue in Leeming Street. This includes the ‘Write Track’ project, which the college has delivered in partnership with the theatre since 2014. Thanks to an enthusiastic response by students, the college has plans to hold auditions this month and full-scale performances of several pieces of new writing at its own Create Theatre, at the Derby Road campus, Mansfield, in April.

Dr Tom Payne, course leader on the BA (Hons) Acting and Performance degree programme at Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) and co-director of UK/Australian performance company Dopplegangster, led a creative session on how to make original new theatre around a particular topic. Students devised the beginnings of their own work in response to themes of climate change taken from the book How to Save Our Planet by Professor Mark Maslin, with everyone receiving their own copy after participating in the workshop. Tom also gave a brief run-down on the acting and performance courses at SHU and took questions from students about university life.

Professional performer-turned-business teacher Nikita Bridgeman drew on her vast experience in theatre by leading two dynamic sessions exploring stage combat – simulated fight scenes with only soft physical contact. Students experimented with fight choreography techniques, which they applied to scripts from films and TV shows before putting them into practice.

Nikita began learning dance at the age of three and as a teenager she appeared in stage shows across the UK including London’s West End. She went on to train in professional musical theatre at Bodywork Company Dance Studios in Cambridge before injury cut short her performance career and she now teaches business, another of her passions, at the college.

The week concluded with the performing arts department's 'Star Awards' – a celebration of achievement that saw many students recognised by their peers and tutors for their hard work during the term. Certificates were presented for 100% attendance as well as awards for the best vocal and physical performances and the most supportive group member. Students from the art and media departments were also recognised for their technical and front-of-house support for the public performances in the Create Theatre earlier in December.

Simon Watt, programme area leader in performing arts, said: “It was fantastic to have industry week back again after being unable to host visiting professionals last year due to Covid restrictions. The chance to work with such a variety of people in a short space of time was hugely beneficial to our students’ industry knowledge.

“This range of practitioners and activities gives access to specialist sessions that aren’t always covered by the curriculum and is also a fun way to reward students for their hard work. We wholeheartedly thank all the people and organisations who gave up their time to come and work with them.

“Our Star Awards rounded off this very successful week, with 31 certificates presented to deserving students, ending the term in an incredibly positive and rewarding way.”

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