The amount of people working in the creative industries is rapidly growing, and for many has provided an outlet for individuals to connect with friends and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. BTEC courses in dance give learners the chance to combine a love of dance with choreography, cultural history and arts administration with management skills, which is vital in a sector where one third of the workforce is self-employed.
We spoke to Charlotte Penny, a BTEC Level 3 in Dance student from Exeter College about her course and what her ambitions are for the future.
Why did you choose to do a BTEC in your chosen subject?
I chose to do this course because dance has always been my biggest passion and something I have wanted to pursue a career in. However, I also wanted to take other A-levels to keep my career options open and to help me narrow down what I actually wanted to do, so being able to take dance as a single BTEC rather than a full-time course was a real advantage to me.
Were you influenced by anyone to study a BTEC?
Yes, my parents were very supportive when I was choosing my options, and agreed that the National Extended Certificate in Dance would suit my personal career aspirations best.
How have you found your course alongside studying A levels as well?
I have found my BTEC course to be a part of my day that I usually really look forward to. The subject is something I really enjoy considering my extracurricular interests, and it has also been such a relief to break up long days of intense A level learning with practical dance lessons. The nature of the course has also meant that I have had less revision to do for my A-levels because a lot of the final grading comes from written coursework and practical assessment, so that has taken away a lot of pressure for me!
What is the best thing about your BTEC course?
The best thing about my BTEC course has definitely been the friends I’ve made from it. My class isn’t oversized, being made up of about 10-14 people over the two years, which has meant that everyone has been able to make friends with each other and we are all a close group. This has also made practical teamwork so much easier, because I knew that I could always rely on my group.
What was the most challenging thing about your BTEC course?
For me the most challenging part of my course was getting through the lockdown phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, because it meant having to adapt to dancing at home through Microsoft Teams. It occasionally made practical work quite frustrating and challenging, as we had to begin choreographing our final performances online, however I was surprised how quickly I adapted to this new way of working and also how dancing at home created lots of new scope for creativity that we otherwise wouldn’t have discovered if we had been working in the studio.
"I was surprised how quickly I adapted to this new way of working and also how dancing at home created lots of new scope for creativity that we otherwise wouldn’t have discovered if we had been working in the studio."
What’s the most interesting thing you learnt in your BTEC course?
I think for me the most interesting thing I have learnt is the range of contemporary techniques and other styles the course has taught me, for example. Both my teachers trained at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, so are experts in the field of contemporary dance, and they have therefore been able to sharpen my technique and broaden my knowledge of this style, which I am extremely thankful for as this is something I have always been keen to improve on.
What do you plan on doing after you complete your course?
I am planning on taking a year out to gain my Level 3 qualification in Sports Massage Therapy, which I am hopefully planning to use alongside a career in the dance sector. I have also received five unconditional offers to study dance at university, so I am planning on going away to complete my degree once I finish my gap year.
I would definitely say my BTEC course has prepared me for my next steps because the mixture of coursework, practical assessment and exams matches the assessment modes for my massage course and my dance teachers at college have also given me so much support and encouragement to help me gain my university offers.
Do you know what kind of job you’d like to do in the future?
I’m not yet certain which area of the dance sector I would like to progress into, however I have always been interested in dance teaching, so I’m hoping that my dance degree will help me decide whether this is the right career path for me. However, I can confidently say that my BTEC course has prepared me well for a possible career in dance teaching, because whilst we get taught a lot of technique classes by our teachers, we also get the change to teach others during group work and choreography projects, which has certainly helped me to nurture my teaching skills.
"I can confidently say that my BTEC course has prepared me well for a possible career in dance teaching"
Can you tell us about any exciting projects or events that you have taken part in?
Despite COVID-19, we have still been able to take part in some amazing opportunities. For example, going to watch Rambert perform at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth, which was so inspiring and being able to take workshops with the likes of Richard Alston’s Charlotte Eatock and ex-Exeter College students, Kirsty Fuller who has performed around the work and in London’s West-End musical 42nd Street. These workshops have given me a fuller sense of life in the dance industry, with plenty of opportunities to ask our visiting professionals questions. A lot of the workshops we did were also in different dance styles such as jazz and street, which therefore helped provide more variety to the course.
How important do you think the Creatives sector is to students in times of COVID-19?
The COVID pandemic has certainly made me realise how important performing arts are to both me and other students, and despite not being able to dance in a high studio during lockdown, knowing that dance was something I would always have as an outlet was really comforting in times of uncertainty.
Would you recommend a BTEC to other students?
I would definitely recommend a BTEC to other students, particularly if you have an idea of the vocation you would like to progress into. A lot of BTEC courses are career-specific and can give you more practical information into how to progress into your chosen industry that perhaps an A level course couldn’t. For example, my BTEC Dance course had a whole module on different dance practitioners, which allowed me to research into possible careers in dance and to then find out how to get there, which was very eye-opening.
If you are someone who prefers coursework over closed-book exams, a BTEC course would also be perfect for you as a lot of the assessment comes from written coursework and practical in-class assessment, with less stress on exam assessment. Lastly, I would recommend a BTEC to anyone who prefers learning over theory, because although in my course there was still a substantial percentage of learning theory, the high percentage of practical learning meant that I was able to learn whilst actively doing something I loved rather than just passively listening to a teacher in a classroom.