We’ve been finding out what some of our CAT alumni have been getting up to since graduating…

and now we have talked with Heather Birley about her studies and experiences.


What did the CAT scheme teach you? What were some of your experiences on the scheme?

CAT is where I was first introduced to contemporary dance. I experienced many pivotal moments whilst on the CAT scheme and continue to be influenced by my time on the program. Through artists such as Kip Johnson, I was first introduced to the idea of using voice and movement which, at the time I found quite unusual and challenging. However, it is something I have continuously practiced and now thoroughly enjoy and have greater ease with. Also, CAT gave me many opportunities to perform which I feel was of great vitality as, it allowed my confidence, skill and presence to grow with fluidity and joy. The regular morning classes and visiting artists such as, David Micheal and James Wilton planted new seeds of body knowledge and ways of moving which have influenced, effected and shaped my current daily practice. In addition, CAT enabled me to meet like-minded people with similar interests and passion, I keep in contact with many of the friends I made here and have gone onto train and work with a lot of them.


What has been your progression since leaving the scheme? Where did you go on to train and what are you doing now?

During my last year of Dance4 CAT I was also a member of the National Youth Dance Company, these programmes positively supported one another in aiding my personal growth. I then went on to train full time at London Contemporary Dance School at The Place. I am now studying an MA apprenticeship with Cullbergbaletten through The Place. Also, I am continuing to make my own work in collaboration with composer, James Ratcliffe.


What was the audition/recruitment process like for the role with Cullbergbaletten?

I travelled to Stockholm to audition for the Cullbergbaletten apprenticeship. It was a day long audition consisting of a morning class, two repertoire performance practices and an interview. The Cullbergbaletten apprenticeship is not exclusive to The Place therefore, I am grateful to have their support.


What are you enjoying about your new role?

I am growing both personally and artistically through working with the Cullbergbaletten. Due to living in Stockholm I am able to immerse myself into a new culture and, expand my knowledge of artists and practices. I am enjoying learning with, and from the dancers and rehearsal directors of Cullbergbaletten, who each have a wealth of experience they are willing to share with me. The company has a busy and ever changing schedule which, is encouraging the development of my mental and physical ability to maintain and change as and when necessary.


What advice would you give to young dancers still at the start of their training?

I would encourage young dancers to continuously search for enjoyment within their training and practice. To follow their instinct whilst remaining open to feedback and advice. Remember, you ultimately know what is best for you! To find importance in the time outside of the studio, your personal development has a massive impact on your artistry. Remember, there is time, do not panic about being perfect now (you’ll never be perfect). Stay true to you; you are all that you need.