I met Emily not long ago, during one of my regular classes at Gymbox and I was instantly drawn to her likeable character: friendly, confident and cool! It soon became clear that she was a dancer and we hit it off, chatting about dance class, musicals and body image: staple discussions for dancers, don't you know?! Meet my new mate, Emily....
You've just left ArtsEd, which reportedly delivers the best musical theatre and acting for film and TV training in the business. That must have been an awesome place to go. Tell me about your course and what great things did you get up to?
ArtsEd is one of the most unique, special, incredible places, and I am honestly so lucky and honoured I was able to call it my home for 3 years. I did a BA hons in Musical Theatre and sadly I have just left. I spent 10 hours a day with 43 inspiring friends.
1st year takes you back to the beginning of every discipline and they teach you and give you the best ground to start on, then 2nd year is assessments, auditions, performance classes and running around the building from class to class, by far the hardest and most hectic year. 3rd year is based around your shows, agents and gearing you up for leaving. 3rd year as a whole will perform in 4 shows, 1 showcase and then a final show at the end of the year, which you do all together.
ArtsEd not only has incredible students, the teachers are some of the most inspiring people you will ever have teaching and guiding you. They go out of their way to help and encourage you throughout your 3 years not only in lessons but outside. Every teacher's door is always open.
We have lessons in all disciplines: jazz, ballet, tap, contemporary, commercial, acting, script work, speech and voice, private repertoire and tech singing lessons, ensemble singing, gym classes, TV tech. pretty much anything you can think, of we do it.
All of the teachers are lead by the head of MT (Musical Theatre) and Acting course and deputy head of ArtsEd Chris Hocking. Without him, the school wouldn't be where it is. He works so hard to teach us and lead us into the most incredible training and career. I think until you reach 3rd year you don’t truly understand how much work he actually does do. He and every teacher there really cares about the work they do and us as students.
Throughout my time there we were able to do the most incredible things, not just in lessons but performing at the most incredible places. The Olivier Awards, Friday Night Is Music Night for BBC radio 1 and Children in need. Opportunities you can only dream of.
I could talk forever about this place as it is truly something completely and utterly unique, its something that I know will stay with me forever and the bond I have with the people I trained with. Its incredible that 1 school can create such a tie with not only your friends who you trained with at the time, but people who have been in the industry for years. I will always be eternally grateful to every single teacher and friend that has been with me there.
Wow, I wish I had known I could have done Musical Theatre at uni. I would have loved it! Sounds like Fame!
You're a quadruple threat: you sing, dance, act and skate!! (Emily starts rehearsals soon for a new show called Xanadu in which the cast members are on skates!) Which one is your better talent or are you equally good at all of them?
Haha I would like to say quadruple threat but the skating is coming together with practice. I’m practising as much as I can before I start rehearsals for Xanadu at the Southwark Playhouse in September. I would like to say I’m a good all rounder, I think that’s what training gives you. I don’t think you can ever stop learning though so even though I’ve left college, I’m still doing 4 dance classes a week, gym everyday, singing and acting workshops. I think its hard leaving a place where you spend so much of your time training. Nothing can compare to what you do at college, fitness and training wise, so I’m just trying to keep it all up as much as I can.
What made you want to be in MT? Was it something that's drawn you from an early age?
I’ve loved MT since I can remember. I was 6 when I joined my first performing arts group back home. I was on the waiting list for so long because I wanted to start even younger but wasn’t allowed. I trained in all diciplines up until I was about 8 where I stopped dancing all together and just went to my MT group (which I regret all the time), until I joined Stagestruck Academy in Frinton at 16 and started dancing again which I loved. The teachers, Simone Castle and Leanda Shelton gave me so much support and allowed me to train as hard as I could. I think at one point I was doing about 11 lessons a week in different grades in every style to try and push myself and catch up on what I had lost for all those years.
What is your fave musical?
I don’t really have a favourite, but I think top 3 would have to be Ghost, Spring Awakening, and a good old classic West Side Story.
What would be your dream role?
Is it wrong to say I don’t actually have a ‘dream role’? I love performing. There really isn’t anything in this world like it. I think if I was lucky enough to continue for a long career in this business performing anyway I could, I would be happy with life. It doesn’t matter what part, show, theatre as long as im performing I think that’s what I would love.
It strikes me as a tough industry to work in as there must be so many talented people and not many roles.
It’s a horrendously tough industry; so many performers and very few jobs and sometimes you question what the hell you’re doing, going for a job that requires 12 performers and they’ve got auditions for months for those roles, you don’t know when your next job is going to be, and let's face it, you don’t go into this career for the money. But on top of it all is when you do get a job and when you finally do perform it is the most magical feeling, which you can’t replicate anywhere and then it reminds you why you go to all these auditions and truly makes the hardwork pay off.
You came straight out of college into a role. Do you have a plans for what you might do between roles to survive in London?
Yes, I was lucky enough to still be in training when I was in Carrie:The Musical. What an insane experience that was, I was so lucky to have had the opportunity to be a part of that show. With such an incredible company. We had so much fun and I learnt so much. Right now because theres such a short time I have off its pointless getting a job because ill be in rehearsals soon. I think its so hard to find a job that allows you to be flexible with auditions and sometimes having to chose between going to a class or going to work. That’s the tough bit. Hopefully after Xanadu I can find myself a part time job that will allow me to do both classes and auditions at the same time.
You're training hard at the moment, you're full on in the gym. Your new role will be physically demanding so being at peak fitness is vital. However, you confessed to not being 100% confident with how you look. Tell me about your relationship with your body.
I would say I don’t have a great relationship with my body, I was a really skinny up until I was about 9 and then from 9-17 I just got bigger and bigger, I always hated my size, I ate way too much and had very little exercise. Then just before I turned 18 I decided I didn’t want to be the size I was going into adult life and went on a diet where I cut out all the bad food from my life, limited my calories and because I was dancing 20+ hours a week at my dance school Stagestruck combined with my National diploma in MT it shifted off me pretty quickly. I think having a good relationship with your body is vital, and I honestly don’t know if ill ever achieve the body I want. Still now I have a lot of excess skin: I couldn’t be further away from that dream flat toned stomach. Now I’ve got more free time I get to the gym everyday and on top of that do at least 1 gym class and dance class a day. Hopefully ill soon be in a shape that im happy with.
I ask the above question because your views on you body remind me of mine when I was your age (sound like an old fogey now) and part of the reason I do what I do is to stop young women wasting so much energy hating on themselves. How much does the MT world perpetuate your body confidence issues?
I think it comes up a lot in the career I’ve chosen. We are taught at college that it doesn’t matter what size you are as long as you are ‘show fit’ meaning, you need to be able to perform 10 hour rehearsals, 6 days a week and then after that 8 shows a week. I would say weight and size is a big part of what we do. Its not even a case of wanting to look good in this industry it's needing to. I also think a lot of it comes down to competition. You're always in competition with everyone in auditions, and I think for me it's hard not to compare myself to the others I'm auditioning with. Its vital that you don’t though and I’m learning that slowly. That focussing on yourself is absolutely vital and comparison does you absolutely no favours. In the end I think it comes down to you. You have to be confident in how you look and come across to a panel, to casting directors, choreographers, MD’s and Directors. They know what they want in a show, they know what they want the cast and show to look like.
Have you ever been told you're overweight by a teacher, by a casting director?
I think "out of shape" a few times during my first year. But that’s what happens. Your teachers are honest with you and they need to be. They are preparing you for an industry that they want you to thrive in. Fitness level is a big factor at college, going to the gym so you have the stamina to not only do all your training but once you leave. Self discipline during training and after is so important and if you don’t have it you just wont go anywhere. We not only have to have stamina but be physically strong, Pas De Deux work, you need to be able to hold yourself with a partner, having a strong core and be able to do anything you're asked.
All very valid points. Thank you so much for chatting to me, it's been fascinating. I feel like I want to wrap you in cotton wool and tell you not to listen to those horrible people as that's my instinct... but you seem like you have it under control. Wishing you the best of luck for Xanadu, I look forward to seeing you on skates!
If anyone has any questions for Emily or any words of encouragement, leave a comment below, like and share this page please!!