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National Photoshoot for Young Performing Students (Your News)

By Karen Keeman

Lights! Camera! Action! Students who attend a national theatre school franchise have been given the exciting opportunity to attend a professional photoshoot with esteemed performing arts newspaper, The Stage.

The photoshoot was part of the prize for the youngsters who entered a national competition in association with The Stage to win a year’s scholarship to attend their local Razzamataz Theatre School.
The selected students were (below, l-r) Avah Al-Geradi, age nine from Razzamataz Liverpool South; Harriet Silk, age twelve from Razzamataz Cambridge; Aimee Millward, age fifteen from Razzamataz Derby; Jessica Black, age fifteen from Razzamataz Medway and Georgie Mills, age fourteen from Razzamataz Sheffield.

To enter the children were asked to film a short demo of no more than two minutes long showing them performing either a musical theatre song and dance, street dance, pop song, drama improvisation or scripted drama piece. The demo did not have to be professionally filmed. Candidates also completed a short application form detailing why they wanted to take this opportunity.
As a professional performer, a photoshoot will be one of the most glamorous parts of the job. The students were incredibly excited to be given the opportunity to be styled by top make-up artists and hairdressers and then work alongside photographers to achieve a professional finish.

The Stage scholarship opportunity is open to all students within the Razzamataz network as well as anyone who has never had any training. Razzamataz has a number of scholarship opportunities throughout the year and has discovered youngsters who are now working professionally on the West End stage in hit shows such as Hamilton.

The scholarships also look to encourage young people to push beyond boundaries, such as Razzamataz Medway student Eloise Kemlo who has Type 1 Diabetes. This autoimmune disease affects the pancreas meaning that Eloise has to continually monitor her health to allow her to do the things she loves. Her Principal Emily Miller says: “Eloise was awarded The Stage Scholarship in 2018. There are times when Eloise can’t get involved through no fault of her own but she stays in the studio, she listens, she absorbs everything and comes back the next week knowing what she has missed and ready to embrace a new fresh week. She is a shining example of how when we are challenged, the human spirt can be lifted to achieve the impossible.”

The beauty of The Stage scholarships is that the judges are looking for potential so, by entering, it can be the start of a whole new chapter in a child’s life. “Some of our most talented students have come through scholarship auditions,” says Denise Hutton-Gosney, MD and Founder of Razzamataz. “It doesn’t matter if they have not been to any classes before, we are looking for a spark that we can nurture. Razzamataz offers training in both musical theatre and commercial genres in the disciplines of dance, drama and singing, so the students leave becoming ‘triple-threat’ performers.

any are accepted into prestigious performing arts colleges and are making a career in this highly competitive industry.”

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Inclusivity in Theatre Schools (Summer School)

Inclusivity in Theatre Schools (Summer School)

By Denise Hutton-Gosney, MD & Founder of Razzamataz Theatre Schools

I was born in Renfrew, Scotland in 1972. I was the youngest of four children and money was very tight. I was a very shy child, but I loved to dance and although it was a stretch financially for me to attend dancing classes, my parents often went without so I could continue my passion which included competing in lots of disco dancing competitions.

After my career as a dancer, I knew I always wanted to stay within the performing arts industry, so I opened the first Razzamataz in 2000 with the vision to make performing arts available to all young people no matter their background or circumstances. We want to give children everywhere the chance to attend classes taught by experienced performers, who can give them the perfect introduction to the most wonderful industry in the world. Being a shy child, the one thing that helped me was performing and I wanted to make this accessible to more children. Performing arts gave me an inner-confidence and improved my self-esteem and although I loved to dance, I lacked belief in my singing and acting so I wanted to make sure that Razzamataz would focus on all three disciplines, giving students an edge in this competitive industry.

I’ve always wanted to give back to the community by offering scholarships, which has enabled children to try performing arts for the first time. We have been working with The Stage newspaper since 2008 to offer a full year’s scholarship to attend one of our schools across the UK but, even before this, I understood the need to provide financial assistance. In fact, I recently bumped into Danielle Fiamanya at The Stage Awards party. Danielle was one of the first students to receive one of our scholarships as she explains: “Razzamataz was the first theatre school I stepped into and I just wouldn’t be here without you and my scholarships at the school. Completely indebted to you.” Danielle is currently starring in &Juliet in the West End.

It’s now really important to consider not just the financial barriers that prevent children from enjoying performing arts; theatre schools must also look at what policies they have in terms of supporting children with additional needs. Children come in all shapes and sizes and will look just as different on the outside as they feel on the inside. When it comes to little ones, there should really be no one-size-fits-all approach.

Razzamataz Theatre Schools. Photo: Razzamataz

Students at our schools have to cope with a wide range of additional needs. This can be anything from dyslexia, autism or health complications. I have always believed that we must try and include as many children as possible and work with their parents so they can enjoy rich and fulfilling experiences that will help to boost their confidence, which ultimately can help them deal with their condition in a more positive way.

One of the benefits of sending young people to a franchise with a good reputation, is that each school is under strict obliga-tions to adhere to a stringent set of audits to ensure they are as inclusive as possible.

The success comes from meeting with parents and talking through each child’s care plan and if necessary we will arrange to meet with their medical professional to get some training. We will do absolutely all we can to ensure each child can enjoy our classes and meet new friends in a safe and caring environment.

For all young people, it is critical that the theatre school really engages with them. Classes and performances must be relevant to what they are going through. At the moment, there are so many shows that really speak to young people and we have loved watching our students adapting them at their own showcases across the UK and at our gala performance at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End.

Performing arts has the ability to offer young people a safe haven and a chance to connect with others. To make theatre schools more inclusive, these are the messages that we must continue to spread. Ultimately, it is not about any individual’s talent, it is about the life skills that you will learn in a team of people all wanting to grow and have fun together.

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