In January I was lucky enough to be in the UK and caught up with Aussie dancer Adam Scown who now calls London home. So just what is it really like to be living and dancing abroad? I had a chat with 25 year old Adam to find out!
Christine: So Adam – how long have you been living and working in London now?
Adam: I moved to London in May of 2007 – so in total 2 ½ years now (with a couple of visits back home for a month or so).
Christine: What made you decide to leave Sydney and try your luck in the UK?
Adam: I recall visiting a friend in the UK back in 2003 and knew that I wanted to come back and work here. But at that time I didn’t know if it was something I really wanted or a spur of the moment thought. So I continued to work extensively back home in Australia in all aspects of the dance industry. Then there came a time when I wanted the feeling of being challenged more – so I packed up and made the move to London.
Christine: Had you done any professional gigs before leaving Oz?
Adam: Yeah I had done loads of jobs in Musical Theatre including Boy From Oz (with Hugh Jackman), Oh What A Night, Aloft and Grease. I also did some film & tv including Bootmen, Oscar and Lucinda (with Cate Blanchett), a role on Home and Away and worked with choreographer Kelley Abbey on Happy Feet. As well as that I did a lot of commercial gigs, working with different choreographers which proved a bonus for me when I moved to the UK as I was able to adjust to all different styles of dance.
I would have to say that moving to London with so much previous experience definitely helped!
Christine: So what have you been up to over here?
Adam: Well when I first arrived it was extremely daunting. I couldn’t believe I had finally made the decision to move and that I was actually here. In the past 2 ½ years my career has focused mainly on musical theatre and I’ve done shows such as Dirty Dancing, High School Musical, I played the lead role in Oh What A Night, and was part of the original cast of a brand new musical called Hell-sing. I’ve also done a few things on tv including a spot on a show called Octavia, as well as being a choreographer on Don’t Tell the Bride. I’ve done lots of photo shoots for upcoming swimwear labels/designers, as well as editorial shoots. So there’s definitely lots of variety! Commercial gigs are also happening for me too so I guess there’s a lot of opportunity over here in all aspects of the industry. But there’s just as much competition too.
Christine: You studied at Brent St Studios in Sydney for many years, how do you think the training there has helped you find work over here?
Adam: I did train at Brent St for a number of years and all in all I would say the most beneficial aspect that aided me more than anything was the amount of male teachers I got to learn from. Their influence was huge! I think these days it’s so important that men dance like men and Brent St exposed me to so many strong male choreographers. I learnt a great deal from them and have used it to my advantage over here in the UK.
Christine: How did you go about getting the appropriate visas to work in the UK? Was it difficult? And how did you find an agent?
Adam: I was quite lucky actually in regards to the whole visa issue. Many Australians who work in the UK seem to have problems with it and their time here is limited. Being half Italian though, I managed to obtain an Italian/European passport, which allows me to work for the rest of my life both here in the UK and in Europe. It definitely is a luxury. It took a little while to obtain the required documents from my parents and their parents but it was definitely worth the hard work!
In as far as getting an agent, I had a few friends who were already in the industry over here and they gave me a short-list of great agents who were worthwhile being with. There is a book titled ‘Contacts’ which is available in the UK which lists all of the agents in film, tv, commercial dance and musical theatre. It provides lots of helpful information, but knowing who’s good or not is a hard task. Here in the UK you can have as many commercial dance agents as you want, but in musical theatre only single representation is allowed. This allows the agent to focus on you solely as an individual and to push you for auditions in the genres of dance you’re strongest in.
Christine: What do you think are the biggest differences working in the UK to working in Australia?
Adam: One of the major differences I’ve noticed, especially in regards to musical theatre is that in Australia you go for an audition and if you’re perfect for the show talent wise then you get it. Whereas here in the UK, each show requires different and specific looks etc and with the wide array of people around they can be a lot more picky! If they want a blonde haired blue eyed person then they will get one -no matter how talented you may be. I guess you have to fit the mould as they say.
I’ve also noticed that here in the UK they can take quite a while to cast shows. They can take months. It can be quite nerve racking waiting to find out if you’ve got a show over such a period of time!
Christine: What advice would you have for someone wanting to pursue a career in the performing arts in London?
Adam: I would absolutely say go for it. Whether I was going to succeed or fall flat on my face – at least I had the guts to say I tried. My advice would be to gather every bit of information needed before you head over. Like agents details, know who you want to have meetings with, sort out your bank account( which can either be done in Australia before leaving or done here in the UK) and most importantly know what you want to set out to achieve and trust that you can achieve it. I won’t lie, it definitely takes a little while. You don’t just land a job straight away. It really depends on how patient you are and how much you’re determined to succeed.
Having said that – now that I am here and working, London has given me more confidence and enabled me to know within myself my strengths and weaknesses as a performer.
Christine: Do you think it is important to be able to sing?
Adam: If you want to come over and concentrate on commercial dance, then no, it’s not that important. But if musical theatre is what you’re after then being able to sing well is definitely a bonus. I have found that the UK has overall stronger singers. I guess you don’t have to have the most amazing voice, but having confidence in your own abilities vocally would be a plus for sure.
Christine: I have been told that there is a much broader range of work available in the UK – for example trade shows, hair shows in Europe etc – have you found that to be the case?
Adam: That definitely is the case. Trade shows, bridal shows, hair shows and other corporate events are a big part of the commercial dance scene. These pop up on a regular basis and offer dancers a lot of work. These jobs happen in the UK and all around Europe so it offers dancers a great way to travel across Europe and discover different places whilst being paid to do it. So it’s a bonus for sure.
Musical theatre provides the same as you have plenty of shows in the West End which are always casting at different points in the year. You also have touring musicals which travel around the UK as well as internationally, giving dancers and actors a chance to see different places.
In comparison the Australian market/industry is quite small and limited. The UK provides an expansive array of work opportunities, so you can potentially have a better chance of work in all aspects of the industry depending on what you want to pursue.
Christine: What qualities do you think make one dancer more employable than others?
Adam: I think these attributes can vary depending on the job and what’s being cast. All in all a dancer with personality and an individual warmth makes a unique performer. Obviously being technically great at your art is necessary but having that something extra like being able to flip or break dance or having an individual flair can separate you from the crowd.
Christine: What advice would you give about going to auditions? How can you stand out and get the job?
Adam: Auditions are always daunting no matter what they are for. I still hate them to this day. But the one bit of advice I’d give is to know your own ability and to go out there and bust out. Having confidence in yourself definitely shows and it helps big time. One of the worst things people do is check out the competition within the room and compare themselves to others. Stay focused on yourself and use each stage of the audition process as a stepping stone to obtaining the job!
As far as standing out amongst the crowd, just be strong and be likeable. No-one wants to wok with unprofessional people.
If you have confidence in yourself then the people judging will grow to have confidence in you as well.
Christine: What do you love the most about living and working in London?
Adam: I absolutely love the lifestyle more than anything. The constant hustle and bustle and fast pace has made my time here fly by. I love the opportunities that are given here for dancers and the amount of work that’s available at your finger tips. It’s up to the individual to get out there and grab the jobs.
Another perk of living in London is the fact it’s so close to Europe and traveling can be quite cheap and not that far. In between jobs I’ve managed to get away on holiday a few times and visit places I’ve never been to. Traveling is one of my favourite things to do.
Christine: What do you miss the most about being away from Australia?
Adam: Wow where do I start? There are so many things I miss. Obviously my parents and family. As I come from a close knit family being away gets difficult at times as your parents aren’t around the corner. Being half Italian I miss my Nonna’s cooking and all the Italian food she makes. And I miss my friends and just the usual people I work with back home.
One of the biggest things I miss is the sunshine and warmth of Australia. The quality of life is a lot better back home and to just wake up in the morning without having to put loads of layers of clothing on would be nice. Hopefully I will be able to come back home soon enough to visit and enjoy all the comforts of Aussie life. I definitely wouldn’t change a thing in regards to moving to the UK though. Regrets I definitely don’t have any!
Christine: Well thanks so much Adam for taking the time out to have a chat today. It has been great to catch up! Keep me posted and perhaps we can chat to you again in the future and see what you are up to next!
So – there you have it guys. The low down from someone living and working in London.
If you have any questions – drop me a line and I can find you an answer from Adam or one of the many other Aussie dancers taking on London!
Till next time!
Christine Denny