Deciding to study at Plymouth University three years ago was the best decision I’ve made so far! Undergoing a dance degree was always the path I had picked through-out school and sixth form, deciding which university to go to was incredibly important to my journey. I picked Plymouth because of the beautiful, vibrant city and its ever-growing student community. Although completely scared and uncertain about moving away from home, I came into an open and passionate year group, all with the drive to further their dance education (they are also pretty fantastic dancers too as you can see below!)
Alongside being in the student community, in my second year I found myself volunteering for Plymouth Dance in a huge dance festival in the city called U.Dance 2015. Taking part in this event allowed me to observe different choreographic work, learn from an inclusive perspective and most importantly be a part of a network of dancers and makers working in the industry. Volunteering for Plymouth Dance really kick-started the seed that is my career, preparing me with useful and informative training on Child Protection, Hospitality, Becoming Self-Employed, Time Management, Networking and Marketing! It doesn’t stop their either! Plymouth Dance also allowed me to become a qualified First Aider in addition to becoming DBS/CRB checked. I got to participant in all of these training opportunities for free in parallel to helping out with the biggest youth dance festival in the UK, a win-win situation if you ask me! I also had the opportunity to perform with Exim Dance Company’s youth company Adapt, getting the chance to perform on the Theatre Royal Plymouth stage was just the highlight of the festival for me! Here is where I really began to start networking with artists and volunteers from all over the country, slowly inspiring me start making my own work (although I didn’t realise at the time).
Moving into my third year I knew that my time a university would come to an end eventually, so I began thinking about what I was going to do after University. I had one particular conversation with an artist from Exim Dance Company that began to question the options I was giving myself and gave me a fresh outlook on my vision. Completely changing my original thought to studying further, working towards a master’s degree, just getting out there and doing it first-hand, which was probably one of the most important and influential conversations I have had! This is something important I have learned from living in Plymouth, having conversations can encourage your next step, and ultimately that is what we go to university for, a better understanding of the career we could have! This then started With Company. With Company is a professional student dance company for undergraduates and recent graduates to make and perform work to the highest standard. It is a wonderful company that circulates backwards, in that the company will always be handed down to the new third years of Plymouth University each September for those emerging individuals to begin to start making their work and reaching out into the community through performance or teaching.
Starting this company really gave me the confidence to believe in the work I was making, also having the support of multiple Plymouth organisations and artists coming to see our sold out show at Plymouth Fringe Festival in May. I had the opportunity to work with talented dancers, musicians and film makers, in a wonderful process that made the final month of third year feel complete. This company is now run by new third years, Artistic Director Samantha Mills and General Manager Kaitlyn Howlett, who will carry on With Company and continue to make work under the name!
Finally, what am I doing now? I have moved back to my hometown Folkestone in Kent and have been given the fantastic opportunity to work with Instep Dance Company as a practitioner, teaching, participating and sharing information on dance opportunities. Instep have allowed me to be a part of professional development opportunities with The Point, Eastleigh such as a Pitch & Mix day learning how to form a company and how to fund it in addition to Tim Casson’s Artist Development Day in November. I’m so lucky to have a wonderful company invest in me as a graduate artist and increase my learning in what can be a tricky first year out of university.
I also am still working with Plymouth Dance on their major project ‘Tea Dances with a Twist!’ once a month, which has successfully received funding to carry on through to August 2017! I’m excited to still be a practitioner working in beautiful Plymouth, Devon!
My future goal is to eventually have my own dance company, I recently submitted an application to be part of the Young Choreographers South West scheme and I have been super lucky to have successfully gain a place on the scheme for 2016/17! This is the most suitable next step for me as an artist to begin to learn from choreographers working in the industry and ready me for when I put in that first Arts Council England application! Without volunteering for Plymouth Dance to begin with I would not have had the training, experience or confidence to be able to do anything I have done so far, and with their support I hope we can continue a very strong friendship!
Check out my website and watch this space! www.rhiannonwilliamsdance.co.uk
Rhiannon Williams | Former Plymouth Dance Volunteer and Plymouth University Dance Graduate 2016