Rottingdean Local Spotlight
Solomon Berrio-Allen from Rottingdean, Brighton is 17 years old and has dedicated his life to dance from an early age. He has just been offered a place at P.A.R.T.S. Dance Conservatoire in Brussels, Belgium (http://www.parts.be) from Sept 2013 – 2016 after they had auditioned 1032 dancers in 23 countries over a four month period. The selection process included a gruelling 6 day final audition in Brussels (in the middle of AS exams!) with 180 dancers competing for 50 places. This only takes place every three years and Solomon has been offered this place one year early as their minimum age requirement is 18 years old. As Solomon will be studying outside the UK he is not entitled to apply for a UK student loan via Student Finance England which means we are looking for financial support to fund this opportunity for him. Solomon’s talent has been nurtured here in Brighton and London and after his training in Belgium he will return home and contribute significantly to dance in the UK. After trawling through the internet for hours, following links of possible funding sources suggested by people in the dance industry as well as send numerous emails and make phone calls to charities, sponsors and funding organisations I have found nothing that Solomon is eligible to apply for. I am therefore writing to ask you for help.
Solomon embarked on his journey in Dance at 10 years old when he joined a boys’ breakdance group with JP Omari of Streetfunk in Brighton. He loved it from the beginning and enjoyed working in a group, being creative, learning new moves and performing. Through this group he was given the opportunity to audition for the local satellite Centre for Advanced Training scheme via Laura Woods, the Dance Development Officer for Brighton and Hove Music and Arts. He spent one term on this scheme and was introduced to contemporary dance with Jason Keenan-Smith. Contemporary dance was completely different from breakdance and took a while to get used to and understand. On the scheme the dancers were taken to see a Richard Alston performance at The Dome as well as attend taster days at The Place and Laban dance conservatoires in London.
As a result of this scheme and at the end of year 8 when at Longhill High School in Rottingdean, Solomon gained a place at Laban (www.laban.org) in London. He took part in two auditions and an interview to gain this place. It is part of the Centre for Advanced Training in the Performing Arts and is funded by the DCFS. It offers young people with exceptional talent and potential in dance the opportunity to access high quality dance training and work with professional dance teachers and choreographers. For the last 4 years Solomon has attended Laban every Saturday from 10am to 5pm and intensive courses in the school holidays. At 13 he started travelling up to London by train on his own. During his first year at Laban he was selected to work on a short dance film and worked with the professional choreographer Raquel Meseguer from Lost Dog Dance Company at the Southbank Centre. They also worked in collaboration with young people from Trinity College of Music to create the music. It was shown at both The Southbank Centre and Laban, and I believe was aired on the teachers’ TV channel too.
The following year he secured a place at The Brit School in London (www.brit.croydon.sch.uk) to study Dance full-time. In order to pursue this he had to leave Longhill and friends in Brighton and commute everyday to London. At that time he was travelling from Rottingdean to London six days a week. (Solomon gained his place at The Brit School whilst being out of catchment. As the school can only legally take 10% of applicants that live out of catchment, Solomon was competing for just 1 of the 2 out of catchment places). During these 2 years we were financially supported by The Pebble Trust here in Brighton to meet the cost of train travel up to London. Their Talent Grants Scheme provides assistance to local young people to allow them to develop exceptional talent.
In his 2 years at The Brit School he achieved the equivalent of 14 GCSEs with a distinction star in BTEC First Diploma in Performing Arts (Dance), gained the gold award in jazz after starting from scratch at the beginning of year 10, worked as assistant choreographer on the end of year 11 production and won the Modern Foreign Languages prize for Spanish.
Solomon is now in year 12 and opted to take his A levels and Dance at Sussex Downs College in Lewes. Thinking that he would be freer and relieved of the 6 days of travelling from Rottingdean to London, he soon filled up all the gaps and became even busier! During this academic year and on top of college he has been travelling up to London 4 times a week. At Laban he attends additional ballet and contemporary classes on Monday and Thursday evenings after Lewes, the all day Saturday Centre for Advanced Training classes and the intensive courses during the school holidays. He then auditioned for and became part of Shoreditch Youth Dance on Sundays with Lee Smikle where he works alongside professional choreographers and students already at full-time dance conservatoires. All this means that he has no weekends or holidays and gets home 2 nights a week at 10pm from London!!
Last year he was part of the Hofesh Shechter Nomad Land dance/film project here in Brighton for the festival and worked alongside one of the company dancers. He also auditioned for and gained a place in the National Youth Dance Company after a countrywide search for 30 dancers. They work with the choreographer Jasmin Vardimon and perform around the country at venues such as The Lowry, Salford and Sadler’s Wells in London.
We are overwhelmed by Solomon’s achievement in getting into P.A.R.T.S. whilst daunted by the prospect of him leaving home a year early. However there is added pressure on us now, and in a short amount of time, to raise money for the course fees and living costs amounting to £15,000 for the first year alone. We would appreciate it if anyone would like to sponsor Solomon or indeed guide us to find viable sources of funding for him. The Performing Arts Research and Training Studios is training in contemporary dance providing a thorough technical training to dancers and choreographers and helps them to develop into independent and creative artists. Solomon’s aim is to become a dancer in a professional dance company in the UK and this training will equip him with the skills and experience needed to do so. He has recently been inspired by Ballet Boyz after watching them at The Dome in January this year as well as choreographers such as Hofesh Shechter, James Wilton and Akram Khan.
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Mother – Margaret, teacher
Rafael – Musician, artist and builder
“I feel as if i have got a golden ticket to attend one of the best dance schools in the world and i am delighted and honoured to be selected after a worldwide audition process however this unfortunately does not mean anything without getting financial help and funding to allow me to attend my dream dance school. After being there for the week long final audition I got attached to the school and I knew that’s where I wanted to be. In that week alone I learned so much. It was enriching and inspirational. I can’t imagine what 3 years of training there will do to me as a dancer! In addition it’s soul crushing and such a shame to be deprived of this opportunity even though I got in if I am prevented from this rare opportunity solely down to no financial backing”
“Dancing allows me to express myself through means other than academia. Learning has always been important to me but as I have dyslexia it doesn’t come easily. Dance has served as a platform for me to challenge and conquer these difficulties and a reason to work even harder to be the best I can. As P.A.R.T.S is such a nurturing environment with a holistic approach to dance and the dancer I feel this is the perfect place for me to develop”