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Manchester’s Centre of Advanced Training in Dance

Manchester’s Centre of Advanced Training in Dance

Centres of Advanced Training in dance, or CAT Scheme for short, specialises in helping young, gifted dancers the chance to benefit from world class teachers in a broad and well rounded dance curriculum. Their aim is to identify young people, from any background, who have the talent and drive, nurture them and help ready them for a sustainable career in dance. I was invited to the CAT Scheme at The Lowry, Salford Quays, to find out more.

The CAT Scheme was initially founded back in 2004, and are now held nationwide in 12 different locations! The Lowry in Salford Quays is home to Manchester and the North West CAT group. Aimed at preprofessional level, children aged between 10 and 18 receive up to 10 hours specialist dance training a week, working around school and other dance activities. Perfect for those wanting a non residential option to further dance studies. The scheme focuses on 5 key areas – technique, creative dance and choreography, performance, health and wellbeing and cultural activities. Each centre varies slightly, depending on it’s area and students, but the foundations of the scheme are based in contemporary dance, with tuition also in ballet, urban, South Asian dance and even circus skills. On top of their weekly scheduled classes, CAT students also gain access to weekend intensives, and visiting company workshops from the likes of Phoenix, Akram Khan, Wayne McGregor and Sir Matthew Bourne.

Entrance to CAT Scheme studies are by audition only, but the programme endeavours to make the process as relaxed and informal as possible, enabling the children to dance their very best and let their true potential shine through. Centres usually hold up to 8 open days throughout May/June time, which are free of charge. This creates a gateway through to the audition day, usually held in mid June, by invitation for the open classes, or by application process. The audition itself has been set up to feel more like a workshop day. CAT Scheme understand nerves can get the better or students, so they’ve created a very comfortable environment in which the students can relax and hopefully enjoy the process. The day usually entails technique work, creative sessions and group work. CAT look for students that are adaptable, potential over current technical ability. They look for passion. On the whole, CAT scheme accept around 53 grant places per annum’ similar to that of University grants, of those, 55% are full grants. Advice and additional funding is also available for those who are in need the most.

Upon acceptance, each student is provided with a uniform consisting of ballet tights, leotard, contemporary tights, ballet shoes, and CAT branded hoodie and t-shirt. They receive 1 to 1 tutorial support as well as IPT sessions (Individual Training Plans) This allows the tutors to access the needs of the individual dancers, their aspirations, and discuss career pathways. Once those things have been distinguished, a clear plan of action is devised. These sessions also include written corrections received from classes, with clear steps on how to achieve success in those areas, monthly and termly goals, and sections where the students complete with their own evaluations on their dancing. Students receive ITP sessions every term in groups and with their parents to ensure everyone is up to date and informed. In this respect, CAT also have private groups set up on social media channels, to help provide quick advice, sharing of vital information, as well as connecting everyone. If all that wasn’t enough, students also receive classes in body conditioning such as pilates and yoga based elements, nutrition, audition advice and appreciation sessions, where the students are free to share with the group their feelings and kind, encouraging words towards each other. They also have performance opportunities in participating in community projects as well as an end of year showcase.

Speak to anyone involved with CAT, students, parents, teachers, and they will all say that the CAT Scheme is like one big family, it is almost their ethos. Even after leaving CAT, past students regularly visit, to reconnect or even give a talk to current students on their time and how it has helped them achieve success. CAT is a wonderful example of building sound, solid foundations for our young dancers of today, after all, they will become the professionals of the future. To know that those dancers have been lovingly nurtured and provided with the skills and mindset to tackle all that career in dance and performance entails, is both refreshing and comforting.

This year, The Lowry are celebrating their 10 Anniversary of hosting the CAT Scheme, and are putting on a showcase to honour all past and present students, including works they have done with professional companies and talks to engage and inform more people in the scheme. tickets are already on sale, and can be purchased here https://thelowry.com/whats-on/cat-showcase/

More information on the CAT scheme at The Lowry can be found on their website using this link https://thelowry.com/get-creative/young-people/dance/

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