We had the pleasure of speaking to Matthew, a recent graduate from our Level 5 Diploma in Dance Teaching, who told us all about his experience on the course.
Read about the skills Matthew picked up and his advice for anyone unsure about whether to apply...
What is your dance background? Where did you train and which companies have you danced with professionally?
I began my training at the Royal Ballet School, where I completed the full 8 year programme from 2002 – 2010. I followed this by attending Northern Ballet for 5 years and then Scottish Ballet for 7 years. In June 2022 I finished my career as a professional dancer and joined Scottish Ballet as an Artistic Administrator, through which I teach outreach dance classes. In September 2022, I additionally joined the team of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) where I also teach on their BA Ballet programme.
How did you hear about the bbodance teacher training courses?
Around the time of my new roles with Scottish Ballet and the RCS I was doing a lot more teaching. Having danced professionally, I felt comfortable with my knowledge but I didn’t have a qualification/physical document to validate my teaching role. I was keen to develop my teaching practice and be able to show other people that my skills were worthy of a qualification.
It was through personal connections that I learned about the bbodance course and after further conversations it looked like the right option for me.
Why did you choose to do Level 5? How does it fit within your professional dance career plans?
I had already completed some training at Scottish Ballet, which was equivalent to the Level 4 qualification. Having already accumulated this experience, the Level 5 course looked like the best next step for me; alongside the course content being suited for my next steps in teaching!
What was the application process like?
I had an initial conversation with a bbodance team member to discuss my options and learn more about the course. This chat really affirmed my decision; it was the right course for me. It was also incredibly valuable to have contact with the bbodance team before enrolling. They appreciate that dance professionals have busy and sometimes unpredictable schedules, so allow plenty of time for the application process and make an effort know each person’s individual circumstances. For example, when you email or ring bbodance you know exactly who to speak to and have confidence they know you and understand your circumstances.
What was your favourite module/aspect of the course and why?
Before starting the course, I was anxious about some of the modules as they were surrounding areas I had no experience in. The choreography module especially was a concern for me; I am by no means a choreographer and had to really push myself out of my comfort zone for this module. However, I was surprised by everything I got out of the module. So many of the skills are hugely transferrable to other areas and provided me with confidence that I could do things I never would have thought of doing before. A lot of the content could feed back into my usual teaching practice; for example, shaping classes and appreciating the structure of lesson plans. I now have the skills to equip me for unknown situations; if I’m suddenly in a teaching scenario involving choreography, I know I can do it. Aside from this, I created a piece of choreography I am proud of, something I may not have done otherwise!
Having the course online initially made me think I wouldn’t be able to meet my fellow students properly, but I was wrong! By the end of the course, I had made strong connections with my peers and truly felt like I’d been working alongside them for much longer than I had. Don’t let the computer screen worry you; you’ll be mixing with people with similar interests so there’s no doubt you’ll meet a fantastic group of people. I still keep in touch with some of my course mates now!
Can you describe some of the main skills you feel you’ve learned from the course?
Completing the course has affirmed that my teaching practice, and the reasons behind it, is valid. We all teach in our own ways and want the best for our students. Once you learn and research further, you know you’re on the right path. The course isn’t structured in a way that tells you what to do; there are opportunities to be self-critical and reflect on what works, what could be developed and ways in which to continue being creative in teaching. It’s important to acknowledge that we learn just as much from our students as they learn from us. The course centres around empathy and self-reflection for the teacher.
Now that you’re a qualified dance teacher, are you planning to become a bbodance registered teacher?
Currently, I’m bound by current work but I hugely appreciate the freedom to know that if I ever wanted to become a bbodance Registered Teacher then I could! Work in this industry can change often, and I’m grateful to know I can still call on bbodance for support. I’m not afraid to say that I don’t know what the future holds but I know I have this qualification and the corresponding skills in my pocket.
Would you recommend our course and why?
Absolutely. Being online saves an incredible amount of money and time, as someone with a busy schedule and living outside of London, this is an amazing aspect of the course. The pressure to travel to training days and the extra costs that come alongside this are lifted.
I would recommend this course to professional dancers who have also had their eye on a university learning experience. The academic side of the course creates perfect meeting point for being able to continue dancing professionally while accessing that university style learning. It’s an intense few months but a very efficient use of time, the course duration works well with the slightly unpredictable nature of dancers’ work. Once you’ve completed the course, you’re ready for whenever you might need that qualification.
bbodance are a bespoke organisation. The team understand each students’ schedules, their circumstances and individual needs. The tutors on the course have a very personal approach and the course is tailored towards the students. They want the best for everyone studying and for each student to get out of the course exactly what will benefit their teaching practice. I would say this is one of the best and most flexible dance teaching courses out there.
Do you have any advice for professional dancers thinking about applying?
You will get a huge amount out of this course but you must be organised and plan your time. When you receive an assignment, start it straight away. You never know when your work and schedule will change, so utilise all available time whilst you can. Be proactive. Be open to what you’ll learn, even if you don’t think a module is suited to you, allow yourself to be surprised.