Wednesday 1st November 2017
Alumni Guest Blog – Catherine Wilkinson
To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of John Leggott College, we have asked different Alumni students from over the years to write a ‘guest blog’ for our website, to give an insight into their life since leaving JLC.
My name is Catherine Wilkinson and I was a student at John Leggott College from 2009-2011. I achieved A Levels in Biology, Geology, Geography and General Studies along with an AS Level in Dance. I also took part in the British Biology Olympiad whilst at College, achieving a bronze medal.
After finishing at John Leggott College, I went on to study for a degree in Dance at the Creative Academy in Slough, a course validated through the University of West London. I turneddown five offers to study Biology to pursue Dance. This was potentially one of the scariest things I have ever done! My time at Creative Academy allowed me to undertake a high level of dance training in many styles and, since graduating in 2014, I have been lucky enough to find work in my chosen field.
Finding work as a dancer is never easy and aspiring dancers often have to attend many auditions before finding a job. My first six months after graduating involved attending many auditions and performing in unpaid projects in order to build my CV. In December 2014, I undertook a month’s apprenticeship with the Balbir Singh Dance Company at Yorkshire Dance, in Leeds, which gave me insight into the running of such a company.
In that same month, the auditioning finally paid off when I was offered the position of FunStar Cast Dancer with Haven Holidays! Each year Haven has four to five different production shows that are performed by the resident show teams on their parks. Over the past three seasons that I have spent with them, I have danced a variety of these shows. This included Girls on Film, a movies based 1980s show in 2015, Carnaby West 1, a 60’s show in 2016 and 2017. The newest show Welcome to Glam Rock, showcased the glam rock music of the 1970s and 1980s.
Each year, Haven holds a talent competition for their entertainment staff called ‘Project Talent’. The first round is between team members on individual parks and, over the six weeks of peak season, the guests vote for their favourite act, which then goes on to the regional final. Last season, 2016, I reached the regional final for my area with my partner, performing to Sam Smith’s The Writing’s on the Wall. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to perform my own choreography for a variety of audiences.
Working for Haven as a dancer is also a wonderful opportunity to explore the UK. Whilst working for them, I have been based in Wales, North Yorkshire and Norfolk and have made the most of the chance to visit new places.
One unexpected aspect of my job at Haven was the way my scientific A Levels were put to surprising use this season. In addition to performing in the shows, the entertainments teams run a number of activities for the children. This year one of our activities is called ‘Experimental’. This is an interactive science session in which the children get to join in with a number of experiments on a number of topics. My science background from college has proved helpful in my presenting of this activity.
One of my favourite dance jobs that I have had took place last Christmas. The Duchess of Devonshire wanted ballet dancers to perform throughout Chatsworth House in Derbyshire (the Devonshire home) for their Christmas event The Nutcracker. Through the company Oddsocks Productions, I became one of those dancers and performed in some of the most beautiful rooms imaginable.
This winter, I am looking forward to undertaking some work in pantomime. I have been incredibly lucky so far to find consistent work in the field that I love most. It may not seem particularly connected to my A Levels but I will always be glad that I chose to get a strong academic background in subjects that I enjoy before I pursued dance full time. Besides, as with Experimental, you never know when your A Levels may come in handy, sometimes when you least expect it!
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