Interviewing Rhiannon has an air of Moulin Rouge about it; a showgirl and cancan dancer at La Nouvelle Eve cabaret in Paris, this is one lady who seems to be living the film set dream (minus a singing Ewan McGregor of course). Swept into the dance world at the age of six with her hair in ribbons, eleven years later she auditioned for the National Youth Ballet of Great Britain and has never looked back. From the stages of London’s Sadler’s Wells, to six nights in Paris, it immediately becomes clear that dancing is far more than Rhiannon’s job, it is her passion. Despite her hectic schedule and slightly nocturnal lifestyle in Paris, I managed to catch up with Rhiannon back in London after hopping off the Eurostar earlier this week. For those hoping to piqué or pirouette into the industry, this is an en Pointe expert worth listening to.
Where did your journey begin, when did you learn to dance?
I started dance when I was six at an after school club where we learnt ballet and tap. To be honest, I only went because my best friends at the time went too. We eventually got put forward to do our exam, I loved getting shiny new satin shoes and having my hair done in a bun with a little ribbon. From then on, I was hooked.
When did you realise you wanted to dance professionally rather than just as a hobby?
When I was 17 I auditioned for a professional pantomime and got offered a place as one of the child dancers. Working with professional performers was a real eye opener – before that I hadn’t really realised performing was a career. I had so much fun doing the pantomime I realised it was something I wasn’t ready to give up. That year I also successfully auditioned for the National Youth Ballet of Great Britain, which gave me the opportunity to perform in some amazing theatres such as the Birmingham Hippodrome and Sadler’s Wells. I learnt so much about performing and working as part of a larger company that I knew I had to pursue dance as something more than just a hobby.
How has your career progressed?
I was fortunate enough to get into the dance school of my choice, London Studio Centre, and after three years of professional vocational training there I worked and performed in and around London for two years. I had some amazing jobs in London and got to experience working in TV and film, as well as corporate and stage events. Almost eight months ago I moved to Paris to start working as a showgirl and cancan dancer at La Nouvelle Eve cabaret. I completely fell in love with Paris and with cabaret, and being a showgirl is a real dream come true for me. The shows are hard work and doing two shows a night, six nights a week for six months is completely exhausting, but I absolutely love it and made some incredible friends along the way.
The dancing industry is notoriously hard to get into, what would your tips be for getting in?
Work hard and be a nice person. The dance world is so small that everyone knows everyone. If you’re the sort of person no one wants to share a dressing room with, after a while people just won’t work with you. Working hard goes without saying – you have to keep learning, keep improving, keep up your technique classes and also keep remembering why you decided to do this in the first place. There’s nothing more compelling to watch than someone on stage who is clearly enjoying themselves.
What is the best part of your job?
That’s a tough question! There are so many things about my job that I love. Meeting and working with different people all the time is great. The fact that is allows me to travel is awesome too, I doubt I would have spent seven months living in Paris otherwise. Seeing progression and growth in kids you’ve taught over the years is also wonderful. But nothing will beat the feeling of being on stage – when you’re waiting for the curtain to open, with your make up and costume on, your friends around you, with the lights on you, a packed audience waiting to see you dance. It’s an amazing feeling. I loved watching people’s reaction to the cancan at La Nouvelle Eve. I think a lot of people don’t know what to expect, seeing the shock and amazement in their faces reminds me just how lucky I am to be part of their Paris experience.
What is the hardest part?
Definitely the rejection, for every job you book you will inevitably be turned down for another. And it’s not unusual to get more rejections than bookings. Don’t let success get to your head and don’t let failure get to your heart. Learn from it, don’t take it personally and move on – a better job will be around the corner.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
I don’t have any one person that I particularly look up to. I’ve met so many people on dance jobs over the years that I’ve taken advice or inspiration from, I think you can and should learn from everyone. If you see something that impressed you then you can try to apply that to yourself and your work – someone’s positivity, their work ethic, their technique, the way they freestyle, the way they use their face during a performance – anything. Watching can sometimes be the best form of learning.
Where do you see your career going?
I want to stay in Paris for a while; I’ve completely fallen in love with cabaret, and with being a showgirl. I’ve booked a few more jobs out there to keep me busy over winter and I’ll be back working at La Nouvelle Eve and with another company next season.
What advice do you have for people who might be starting to look at pursuing a career in dance?
Make sure you really want it. It’s an incredible career, but it is hard. If you aren’t prepared to give it your all, to work long days, miss birthdays and anniversaries, face rejections, leave behind family and friends to go away for jobs then it might not be for you. But if you’ve decided it’s for you, choose your training course wisely – check out all the schools and all they have to offer. Work hard, train hard, make good friends, have fun. And remember why you first started dancing. Don’t lose that love. Because it’s so visible when someone is performing from the heart, and so disappointing when someone is onstage just going through the motions.
Left feeling a little in awe, I leave Rhiannon to go back to the job of her dreams. If she has inspired you to follow your heart and take the plunge, why not sign up to a dance class and learn from some professionals – who knows where it might lead you?