Amanda Britton: Looking for students who have that hunger in their eyes

Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance. Photo by Jack Thomson.
Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance. Photo by Jack Thomson.

Amanda Britton, Chief Executive, Principal and Artistic Director of Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance, UK is coming to Australia in February on an international audition tour. Starting in Sydney on February 12th, before visiting Melbourne, Auckland and Brisbane, Britton hopes to meet Australia’s talented young dancers in a series of auditions for the School’s FD/BA (Hons) Ballet and Contemporary Dance programme. She also welcomes aspiring dancers, aged 14-19 years, who are currently considering their next steps in dance training to join the auditions as a valuable workshop experience. 

Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance. Photo by Jack Thomson.
Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance. Photo by Jack Thomson.

Fuelled by innovation and creativity, Rambert School plays a key part in the international dance sector. Inspirational teaching and a finely tuned curriculum of ballet and contemporary dance, coupled with the creative talent and individuality of students, make Rambert a world-leading, renowned and beloved centre for dance training. Graduates can be seen across the world in international dance companies including Rambert, Akram Khan Company, BalletBoyz, Ballet Black, Danish Dance Theatre, Hofesh Shechter Company, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, Nederlands Dans Theater, Phoenix Dance Theatre, Wayne McGregor and more.

Rambert School is also gaining more notoriety in Australia due to the recent release of the popular new Rambert Grades contemporary dance syllabus, launched in Australia in collaboration with the RAD last year.

Here, Dance Informa speaks with Britton about the Rambert School experience and what dancers can expect during the upcoming auditions. Chookas, dancers.

Can you tell our Australian readers more about Rambert School and the life and culture of the school?

“Rambert School is known for its 50/50 combination of ballet and contemporary dance training. Our dance training really is 50/50 – I literally count the hours! But perhaps what we’re less known for is the creative components of what we do. The technical base is really, really strong here, and we do really want to promote that technical excellence, but that’s not all it’s about for us. We’re very much about wanting to allow our dancers to develop their improvisational skills, their creative skills and also their professional skills, so that they leave the school versatile and employable.

Amanda Britton. Photo by Teresa Walton-Smith.
Amanda Britton. Photo by Teresa Walton-Smith.

We have strong connections with the profession. We are lucky. We’re here in London, and there’s a real stream of professionals coming into the city to perform, and we try to grab them wherever we can. We have a weekly workshop for our second and third years. And our improvisation classes are taught by external professionals. So, we have a constant stream and interaction with the profession.

I’m happy to say we’re a really international school. We have students from 24 different countries at the moment! For me, what’s so brilliant about that is the cultural exchange that goes on. The cultural life of the school, the student choreography, the creative sessions they share. It’s as much about sharing their backgrounds and learning from one another as it is learning from the professionals who deliver classes.

Finally, our student support is really exceptional. We have a 360 degrees student support system that really embraces the physical (we have a resident osteopath here), but also the pastoral. Our pastoral support is a real focus. We have external counsellors and therapists, but we have a triage staff member who’s also a trained counsellor. She’s also Head of Admissions, so she really gets to know all the students right from when they first come to the school, and we have a very open environment here. So, we often find disclosures happen quite soon after students come, and we’re able to support students with all sorts of issues in the school. And we, of course, provide academic support as well.”

For students (or their parents) nervous about the prospect of moving to the UK to train, why would you encourage them to step out of their comfort zone and study overseas with you?

“We really look for the students who have that hunger in their eyes. They want to come to Europe, they want to meet other people, they want to explore different things that take themselves out of their comfort zone a little bit. I have to try and look for that hunger in them because that’s such an important part of coming here. Of course, it’s about the dance training, but it’s also about wanting to experience moving overseas, coming across the world and having that openness. I suppose to some extent, that means I’m looking for people who are ready.

Because our Head of Admissions is our Head of Pastoral Care, she will start a conversation with the students from before they arrive. She’ll help them find accommodation, place them in a home-stay with a family, if that’s what they want, etc. And then we’re in touch with them all day, every day. This is not a faceless organisation; it’s a cozy house with some studios built on the back. It feels like a family home, and we’re very much like a family environment where we can pick up on things quickly.  If a student is really homesick, they need more academic assistance or if there’s other things going on in their lives, then it’s not very long before we find out and do something about it to support them.”

What else do you look for in an auditionee? How can dancers be best prepared for your audition?

“I think there’s a perception that technical excellence is the most important thing, and for me, that’s not necessarily the case. Coming into first year, we might have a group of people who have a lot of ballet training, but maybe not so much contemporary, or maybe no improv experience at all. And then we might get another cohort of people who come from a hip hop or jazz background. Or maybe they’ve done a lot of creative work with some renowned choreographers but not very much ballet. It isn’t just about the technical experience and technical excellence, although that’s a part of it.

I’m looking for a feeling of wanting to move. I can tell if a dancer has a feeling of rhythm, dynamics, intensity, presence, and that hunger for travel and use of space. Those kinds of things can be so innate. And then performance-wise, I’m looking for that authentic spark.”

What can dancers expect when they come into the audition?

Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance. Photo by Jack Thomson.
Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance. Photo by Jack Thomson.

“There will be a complete ballet class with some pointe work. We will then do a contemporary class, which will just be contemporary phrases. We’ll then do a little creative phrase with creative tasks, that will be based on some of the material taught. We will finish with viewing solos. We ask for the solos to be a minute long. The solo can be in either genre, but choose something that’s going to show yourself as an individual.”

When a dancer graduates from Rambert School, they are…

“My overriding educational goal is to see graduates who are confident and happy in their own skin, have a good level of self-understanding, and feel able to go out into the world and bring something to wherever they find themselves. Of course, most of our graduates will go on into dance, but they’re not all necessarily going to be in companies with a structure, a hierarchy and a repertory; some of them will make their own work. Some of them will work more in the commercial sector, music videos and/or fashion. But I aim for them to graduate with a sense of purpose, a sense of their own direction and what they want to achieve, and feeling confident and happy personally with where they are with their professional practice.”

Rambert School auditions will be held on the following dates:

SINGAPORE – Wednesday 8 February, at the Singapore Ballet
SYDNEY – Sunday 12 February, at Bangarra
MELBOURNE – Tuesday 14 February, at The Space Dance & Arts Centre
AUCKLAND – Thursday 16 February, at the Wellesley Studios
BRISBANE – Sunday 19 February, at the Thomas Dixon Centre, home to Queensland Ballet

Select your audition location and apply here: tinyurl.com/rambertschoolinternational.

The sessions will also be open as workshops to aspiring young dancers, aged 14-19 years, who are currently considering their next steps in dance training and would be interested in auditioning for the School in the future. Participants will gain an insight in to the ‘Rambert School Experience’ in a unique workshop led by Amanda Britton, Principal and Artistic Director, herself an alumnus of the School and company. The workshop will include contemporary class and creative tasks led by Britton, and ballet and pointe class with a special guest teacher. There are a limited number of workshop places that will be assigned on a first come, first served basis, after all the audition places have been filled. Workshop places are strictly subject to availability. Visit the website to sign up: tinyurl.com/rambertschoolinternational.

Dance Teachers – to find out more about Rambert Grades, see our recent article here.
RAD Registered Teachers exclusively in Australia can enjoy discounted membership of Rambert Grades.

BREAKING NEWS: Rambert Grades will be at Vitality Teacher Day, by VDF, on April 14 at the Victoria Pavilion, Melbourne Showgrounds. Come and take a class and experience Rambert Grades – exclusively for dance teachers and studio owners. www.VDF.com.au/teacherday

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