THEY’VE been with each other every step of the way and now they are moving on to greater things in the world of dance.
Eleven students from Priestley College have defied the odds by all securing places at the UK’s top dance schools – many the equivalent of Oxford and Cambridge to young performers.
Among them is Sophie Burrows who is heading to Stella Mann College and is one of only about a dozen students there to receive a DaDA Scholarship.
The award will pay for her education as she follows in the footsteps of West End performers and various television and film actors at the college of performing arts.
“I’ve been dancing since I was three-years-old so this is a dream come true,” said Sophie, a former pupil at Bridgewater High School.
“What I’ve learnt over the past two years gave me the confidence and versatility as a dancer to get through the auditions and secure this place.”
Another former Bridgewater pupil Joe Pimlott, who combined Dance with Drama and English Literature at Priestley, is going on to study contemporary dance at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Dance and Music in London.
He secured a place ahead of dancers from around the world despite an injury that left him unable to perform for several months of his course.
“It was hard watching classes from the sidelines, but it just made me even more determined to do well,” he said.
Most of the class of 2017 cohort caught the dance bug early. Some were just two when their love of movement emerged at various classes around Warrington.
At Priestley they honed their talent and built their confidence in preparation for the gruelling audition process at the colleges.
“First you have to be selected for an audition and then the audition can last eight hours and include solos, singing and a monologue,” said Molly Paterson, who is heading to LIPA, an organisation co-founded by Sir Paul McCartney.
During their time at Priestley the students were often in college for 8am to complete a full day of study, then took part in enrichment groups, before fitting in a meal, after-college performance classes and more theory work.
Their lessons also included circuit training to ensure the stamina required to progress to the next level.
They were left in no doubt about ‘what it takes’ to make it thanks to experiences with Rambert Dance Company, Russell Maliphant and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. They even met renowned choreographer and director Matthew Bourne.
“We’ve all become more versatile dancers at Priestley because we’ve studied everything from African dance to Contemporary,” said Danielle Burgess, who is heading to Kate Simmons Dance School.
“We’ve been pushed really hard and that helped when we got to auditions.”
As well as attending many professional shows with Priestley, the dancers have also staged their own performances in venues as diverse as Daresbury Church, a woodland in Grappenhall and Formby beach.
Tutor Rachel Leyland said a combination of the students’ dedication and the opportunities offered at Priestley had given them the best chance of progression.
“They have been a phenomenal year group and have inspired one another in ways I don’t think they even realise,” she said.
“I’m very proud of them and just pleased they’ve all achieved the success they deserve.”