Anna Holmes joined the Centre for Advanced Training programme at Northern School of Contemporary Dance in 2010. During her time on CAT she has worked with artists such as; Phoenix Dance Theatre, Retina Dance Company, Random Dance, Gary Clarke, Candoco Dance Company.
How did you discover the CAT scheme?
My first introduction to the CAT scheme was during my time spent taking youth classes at Northern School of Contemporary Dance. I was always intrigued and wanted to be a part of the CAT community that often filled the halls of NSCD, and it wasn’t before long that I finally had the chance to join them.
What had been your experience of dance before the CAT scheme?
Prior to the CAT scheme, I had spent a lot of my formative years performing extravagant dance routines in my parent’s living room. Desperate to take my moves out of the house, they took me to the local dance school where my love for movement blossomed. I was fortunate enough to experience dance at my local high school, a class which has now unfortunately been taken off the curriculum. My expressive arts teachers were fantastic and inspiring and encouraged me to never give up on my dreams of being a dancer.
What has the CAT scheme taught you?
The CAT scheme taught me determination and commitment. It taught me that dance was a lifestyle and not a hobby, that it required a level of maturity to succeed that my other outreach programmes did not. I loved this responsibility and the platform that that independence, through guidance, offered me. I discovered that dance is clearly an outlet for creativity, but it’s also massively academic and that tested me to consider my view on what intelligence really means both personally and in society. Alongside the techniques and experiences that I gained through CAT, the scheme really opened my eyes up to the support system that dance creates. Through dance, your fellow dancers see you at your most vulnerable and your most powerful and by doing so, a bond is created that many other people will never experience.
Where has the scheme led you so far?
My journey at NSCD began when I was 13 years old and fast forward 11 long years and I have spent much of my dance education on the community, CAT and BA strands of NSCD. Post-graduation I was fortunate enough to work with esteemed artists such as Jasmin Vardimon, Marilena Dara and Snow Patrol. Most notably with Jasmin Vardimon Company and JV2 at the ‘Gala for Grenfell’ at the Adelphi Theatre, London. Following my passion for creation as well as performance, I and fellow NSCD graduate Sam Ford created Yorkshire-based company Northern Rascals. Entering its second year of development, Northern Rascals has been described by its audiences as ‘the best new dance company that they’ve seen in years’. We believe that the unique ingredient in our work as Northern Rascals is the diversity in our repertoire; every piece is created for a different audience, performed in a different setting to heighten the impact that we have on the public.
What are your future aspirations?
As the name of my company suggests, I am passionate and enthusiastic in both bringing the performance of and keeping the creation of first-class performance art ‘up North’. Fundamentally, it is where the foundations of all my work as an artist and as Co-Artistic Director of Northern Rascals began. Inspired by its contradictions, i.e. the vast freedom of the moors aligned next to the close-knit communities of the valleys, I have always felt that Yorkshire has been the ideal place to offer me the challenges, the respect and the space to breathe that I feel is much needed to create work of substance. Alongside the devising of our productions, I work frequently with hard-to-reach rural areas of Yorkshire and Leeds, allowing a route of expression to those that might otherwise not be able to access it. I believe that creative expression is a vital to our personal and social growth and shouldn’t be a privilege but rather the ‘norm’ to all. Perhaps that sense of growing with your community is the Yorkshire in me. I endeavour to continue this work to reach other communities in these areas, providing regular opportunities with first-class facilitators.
What advice would you give to a young person who is interested in auditioning?
My advice is to try and just be yourself. It’s easy to compare when faced with a mirror reflecting 100 different people that are all after the same dream. After everything I’ve learnt from the industry, I whole-heartedly believe that the most successful and powerful dancers are the ones that are confident within themselves and their capabilities. At the end of the day, you can work to better your technique and have as much experience and knowledge as possible, but you can’t change who you are and the way you appear. Embrace your individuality, have faith in your uniqueness, convince the panel that they don’t need another replica of what they already have, but they need something that they haven’t already got, and that is you.
Photo by Josh Hawkins.