Olivia Trevelyan-Richards from Cyncoed, Cardiff was accepted for professional dance training at one of Europe’s premier schools for professional dance training and education, Central School of Ballet (Central) in London, last autumn and will shortly complete her first year there.
Olivia, aged 17, has been dancing since she was six years old. Selected from over 400 applicants, Olivia was one of only 36 pupils to secure a place on this three year degree course, a BA (Hons) in Professional Dance and Performance (accredited by the University of Kent). Central is the only dance school in England to offer this unique ballet-focused qualification and is an affiliate of the Conservatoire for Dance & Drama.
Being accepted by Central School of Ballet is through challenging auditions held between October and March each year in London, Leeds, Glasgow, Japan and this year, the United States. The process involves performing for the school’s teaching staff, all of whom are ex-professional dancers themselves. The main focus of the course is Classical Ballet supported by Contemporary Dance as an additional subject, and also includes tuition in Choreography, Spanish Dance, Pilates, Jazz Dance, Drama, Singing and Contextual Studies.
Before joining Central on the degree course Olivia was a student at Cardiff High School, where she gained 9 GCSE’s and studied dance at the Mandy Shirley Morris School of Dance in Cardiff.
Olivia explains her progress so far at Central: “I have really enjoyed my first year at Central School of Ballet – it’s been hard work but fun too. We train at least six hours a day during the week and take classes on Saturday morning as well. You have to be dedicated to make it to the top of this profession and it’s my dream to be a dancer at one of the world’s leading dance companies when I graduate. The training is very challenging, similar to the training of the best athletes, but we are all motivated by the rewards of performing. Our year culminates in our end of year show which takes place onstage at The Stratford Circus Arts Centre on 12th and 13th July and gives us the opportunity to perform in front of friends, family and our fellow students, showcasing our progress and new skills”
Heidi Hall, director of Central and herself an alumna of the school, explains the competition for places at a dance school at this level: “Students typically join us aged 16 after GCSE. By this stage many of them will have been dancing since primary school. Only the most talented and dedicated students are accepted and must be determined to succeed. A career as a professional dancer is possible for all young dancers with talent. No longer considered to be an elitist profession, many of Central students are given some kind of financial assistance through the school to allow them to complete their tuition here. We have a long history of accepting students from a diverse range of social and economic backgrounds.”
Heidi continues: “Central’s degree course is one of the most comprehensive dance programmes in the country, and enables our students to enjoy sustained careers in classical ballet, contemporary dance and musical theatre. Central is working towards a move to a new purpose-built facility in Southwark at the heart of London’s South Bank dynamic dance and arts hub, where Olivia will have the benefit of completing her studies.”
During her final year, Olivia will join the school’s touring company Ballet Central. In 2018 Ballet Central’s annual nationwide tour will have visited 20 cities around the country. Touring with this unique student ballet company offers a professional performance experience that is not available through any other dance school on such a scale. Dancers live to perform so touring is a much anticipated part of Central’s three year curriculum. Performing a varied repertoire choreographed by some of the most renowned figures in the dance industry to ticket-buying audiences in a range of theatres and in different cities is an enriching experience for the students, enhancing their skills and development, making them particularly employable.
Graduates from Central go on to join the world’s premier dance companies. Recent Central students are currently employed with Birmingham Royal Ballet, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures Company, English National Ballet, Scottish Ballet, Ballet Ireland, National Ballet of Estonia, Ballet Black, Northern Ballet, K Ballet, Rambert Dance Company, Phoenix Dance Theatre, Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, Singapore Dance Theatre, Michael Clark Company, The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera and An American in Paris.