When Taiwanese student Chihyun Hsieh saw their first dance performance at age eight, they immediately knew it was what they wanted to pursue. From then, choosing a suitable dance school was the next logical step. After conducting some research, they decided on the BA (Hons) Dance (Contemporary) at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance (NSCD).
As the only conservatoire for dance north of London, NSCD has built a reputation for itself as a leading institution for contemporary dance, internationally. It’s situated in Leeds, a vibrant student city in the north of England. With its dynamic arts scene and rich culture, students at NSCD are constantly surrounded by an environment that is as inspiring as it is exciting.
Here are five reasons why NSCD is making waves as a pioneering place for dance education:
An intensive curriculum designed for success
The programmes offered at NSCD are tailored to ensure students are prepared for long-term success. At its core is a focus on developing a student’s individual artistic style and an independent attitude towards their craft.
“The training at NSCD is defined by its experimental and comprehensive nature,” explains Phil Sanger, a lecturer in dance at NSCD. “We offer not only professional-level training, but a broad education that prepares students to be adaptable and for the possibility of a versatile career.”
Part of this is the school’s emphasis on rigorous training. “Studying here is a very intense and consuming process,” says Sanger. “You can expect up to 30 hours of contact time per week, with further directed study in and around this.”
Students are supported by an impressive faculty of experienced arts professionals, most of whom are active in the dance industry. “This means that the training students receive is always current and relevant, and that students can be directly plugged into the industry via opportunities created by the faculty,” adds Sanger.
Students are trained by an impressive faculty of active arts professionals, ensuring their training stays current and relevant. Source: Northern School of Contemporary Dance
Opportunities to engage with the industry
NSCD is host to performances, projects, masterclasses, workshops, auditions, and career talks across the year, most of which are led by guest artists and companies.
For students like Hsieh, this provides valuable insight into the industry. “It is my dream to become a professional dancer,” Hsieh shares. “NSCD offers the chance to work directly with professional companies so we get to understand the life of a dancer first-hand.”
Students at NSCD are also actively encouraged to participate in external projects and commissions to develop their professional portfolios. Modules can require students to put on their own performance festival or produce educational dance packages for schools — at NSCD, the possibilities are endless.
NSCD is home to its own professional theatre which is often used in lessons and performances alike. Students are encouraged to put on their own informal and formal performances, all whilst learning the ins and outs of navigating a professional theatre on a daily basis. Lessons are also taught in local, off-site studios, allowing for the opportunity to experience more of the city.
Outside of this, students at NSCD are also treated to a number of dedicated spaces for individual and group practice. “The hub of NSCD is a beautiful synagogue conversion which features six dance studios, a lighting studio, a dedicated performance space, an editing suite, a brilliant state-of-the-art resource centre, bodywork and wellbeing rooms, and a cafeteria,” shares Sanger.
An emphasis on the student experience
At NSCD, student experience is a priority. “The faculty go to great lengths to make sure the ideas, concerns or needs of students are heard,” says Sanger. “We have employed face to face tutorials, text messaging services, digital portals and anonymised reporting surveys among other things.”
This means that students have a say in the school’s policies. “We let students guide the process because oftentimes, they will show us gaps in our support system,” adds Sanger. “In terms of how this impacts the students, it means that no one is disadvantaged by adverse circumstances.”
The result of this? A highly satisfied student community. Statistics show that NSCDis ranked high amongst all UK arts Higher Education Institutions for overall student satisfaction. It has also received rave reviews from students for its immersive and innovative teaching style as well as strong learning community.
A bustling international community
NSCD has attracted a myriad of talented and aspiring performers from over 25 different countries of various ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. This is largely thanks to the school’s active tours to dance schools across the world.
“Pre-COVID-19, annual visits to Europe, Asia and the USA have been integral to maintaining an international student cohort,” says Sanger. “It has also been essential to create a presence within dance houses and catalyst organisations around the world, including in New York, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Florence, Oslo and Singapore, among others.”
It’s clear that this has paid off. The school boasts a truly international community, with around 30% of students hailing from outside the UK, and are constantly attracting more. With this, NSCD is sure to produce dance artists who are set to shape the future of the industry in exciting, fresh, and unique ways.