'Work hard' West End dancer Jasmine Kerr reveals how she prepares for shows and more
Jasmine Kerr is a dancer and performer who boasts a string of amazing credits including ensemble work in West End hits 42nd Street and Wicked as well performing in regional runs of Hairspray, Barnum, Peter Pan, Street of Dreams - The Coronation Street Musical, We Will Rock You and Chess In Concert. Here she tells Mandy News how she started out, what the day in the life of a dancer entails and what aspiring dancers can do to launch their careers.
How did you get into dancing? Do you have a preferred style?
Growing up in Manchester, like many kids, I did after school activities, including dance lessons. In spite of doing mainly musical and creative extra curricular as a child, I hadn’t intended to become a dancer. I was going to be a lawyer and during my second year of A-levels, applied to universities with this intention. However, I was granted some time off college to dance in the pantomime at The Lowry Theatre. I think this was the first time I realised, by talking and spending time with working dancers and actors, that this could be an option for me professionally.
I asked my dance teacher Lynda Cardwell for advice. She brought me two prospectuses for the leading London colleges offering a BA (Hons) vocational courses in musical theatre training. 'Miss Lynda’ would joke that otherwise my parents would "never forgive her" for steering me away from academia. Where, in fact, they were thrilled and not wholly surprised!
I can’t say I have a favourite style because what I love most about this industry is the diversity of dance styles within shows. There are certain choreographers whose work feels really rewarding to do or I appreciate. But the joy is the creative variation this career offers, whether that be a futuristic rock musical or the revival of a glamorous classic!
What's the route you followed to get to where you are?
I began dance lessons at the age of three. Over the years I took exams in ballet, jazz and tap. By the time I was in my teens, alongside GCSEs and A Levels, I was probably dancing several times a week.
I auditioned for a three-year course in dancing, singing and acting at Doreen Bird College and London Studio Centre. I chose LSC because in 2005 its converted factory King's Cross residence, was something straight out of my romanticised notion of Fame!
I then gained an agent from the JazzCo 3rd year touring showcase, signed with them upon graduating and began auditioning in August 2008. My first contract was On The Town at Théatre du Châtelet, Paris, choreographed by Stephen Mear.
What is the audition process like for a professional dancer?
In musical theatre as a dancer you are predominantly employed in the ensemble. For these jobs, the audition process can vary in length but often, the bigger the show, the longer the process!
You typically start with a large group dance call (around 30 people per session). In this, you will learn a choreography combination and perform it in small groups of three or four, from which the panel of creatives will make a cut and only a selection of auditionees will get through to the next round. From there, this could mean further dance or singing rounds that day or return recalls. In these, you may be asked to prepare material from the show. This can go on for as many as eight different auditions, culminating in what is called a final – usually for a large panel including producers etc.
After that, it's one of the hardest parts of the industry; “the waiting game”.
What consists of a normal day for you, on show day? Does this involve strict practice and diet?
A “normal” day is often an anomaly as the only consistency is going to work. When there's only one evening show, the day can be filled with taking dance, acting or singing classes, rehearsals for extra gigs and teaching dance or workshops. Some people train alongside show contracts as instructors in Pilates, yoga and sports massage – really handy for physical maintenance when they need guinea pigs at mates rates!
Every person is different when it comes to diet and exercise. For me personally (as a food lover) it all comes down to how restrictive/revealing the costumes are in the show. Many a time I’ve got it wrong and suffered the wrath of a full stomach, a corset and a ‘dynamic' partner work!
My ideal time to eat a large meal is no later than 4pm. Giving plenty of time to digest fully by company warm-up at 6pm, followed by notes and the 7:30pm show!
Do you have any advice for up and coming dancers, and people trying to get into the industry?
Work hard, be humble and hold your nerve.
The audition process is 90% rejection – for every 10 jobs you go up for, nine may be no – but all you need is that one yes! You have to grow a thick skin. This translates to the "waiting game” mentioned earlier. Mentally practicing to let go and forget about a prospective job once you've left the audition room can be self preservation in this competitive industry.
Exhaustingly agonising and over analysing every second of your auditions won’t help you get the job any quicker and will just drain you emotionally, which becomes unsustainable.
Look after your body when you’re young and resilient and learn from injury. If you lay foundations of maintenance early on, your body will serve you longer.
If this is what you want to do, if it brings you joy and nourishes your soul, then it’s worth the investment!
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