Emma Pendle

Current employer: Plymouth School of Creative Arts, Exim Dance Company

Current job title: Head of Dance (PSCA), Dancer and Practitioner (Exim)

Current location: Plymouth

“The course at Plymouth really opened my eyes to different areas of dance and also different areas within the industry, many of which I never thought existed. It has given me my passion for inclusive dance and how to work with absolutely everyone within a dance setting.”
Tell us about your career path since graduation.

Since graduating in 2011 I have been on a huge journey. I immediately began to look for work experience opportunities in dance with local dance companies and venues. Exim Dance Company was set up in Plymouth in 2011 and the company directors were graduates from the same year as myself, so I offered to help them with their marketing as this was one of my areas of interest. I went from making posters for the company to building a website, and soon became their marketing manager – managing their campaigns and strategies following training. This was my first paid work.

I then began teaching company classes for Exim because one of the teachers had left, and I discovered a new passion within my area. I auditioned for a position with Exim as one of their professional company dancers in 2012 and got the job. Since then, Exim Dance Company have provided me with an amazing amount of training and opportunities which has allowed me to develop in areas of marketing, performing, and most importantly teaching. I worked with Exim for three years as one of their lead practitioners, during which the company evolved as an inclusive enterprise in Plymouth. With our community and school work growing, I developed a lot of teaching skills that eventually helped me to be successful in a job application for the Plymouth School of Creative Arts. I began work there in 2015 as a teaching assistant in PE and dance, and will next year be leading dance within the school as well as a GCSE Dance.

Has your career path changed since graduation?

Yes. Originally I wanted to go into dance journalism and reviewing. I had no previous experience of teaching or working as part of a professional dance company.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

There have been some really challenging moments whilst teaching where I have had to cover or run classes in which I’ve had no experience or in which I was very nervous. Overcoming these were the reasons for my success, being stretched has really developed my confidence and my coping capabilities as a teacher. Making the change from working freelance for the dance company to working full-time in a school was also a difficult decision for me as I was uncertain that I would be able to maintain my own professional work and training.

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

There have been so many amazing moments so far from receiving our first round of funding from The Arts Council England to go on our first ever tour as a company, to all of the many breakthrough moments with the young people that we teach where they have been able to grow so much in confidence and overcome barriers in life (barriers they may not have been able to overcome without our support). A stand out moment for me was when our inclusive Youth Company ADAPT performed as part of Dance Plymouth Dance, an additional performance evening for U.Dance 2015 on the Theatre Royal Stage. Seeing how excited they all were after working incredibly hard as a group on their performance was very rewarding.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could?

I would have undertaken a lot more work experience at university. I also would have gone out more to see more dance companies and how they work. I would have also tried to gain some teaching experience as well before I left university and taken more advantage of the professional classes and opportunities that are provided there.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

Don’t give up. Pursuing a career in dance is hard work but if you really love it, stick with it and the rewards will come!

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

The course at Plymouth really opened my eyes to different areas of dance and also different areas within the industry, many of which I never thought existed. It has given me my passion for inclusive dance and how to work with absolutely everyone within a dance setting. It has also given me really strong performance skills for when I am on stage, and also creative and improvisation skills which are so valuable to any choreographer.

Did you undertake a placement during your degree and if so, how did this benefit you?

I took work experience at The Barbican Theatre in Plymouth where I worked on some of the marketing for their up and coming shows. I wrote press-releases for them to send out to the local paper and helped with any other marketing jobs that needed doing. I benefitted hugely from this and acquired a lot of knowledge in regards to how to market and write about performances, from which my initial interest in marketing for dance came.

What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?

One of my favourite memories was going to Dame Hannah Rogers to do a dance workshop led by Adam Benjamin with their disabled students. We had so much fun and this was my first experience of inclusive work: I absolutely loved it! This has fuelled a lot of my passion for inclusive dance through my work now.

Do you stay in touch with other University of Plymouth alumni or lecturers?

Yes, the dance company that I worked for, Exim Dance, are very well supported by the University. It was set up by four Plymouth University graduates, not including myself, and the theatre and performance staff at the University have continued to support and mentor us over the last five years.

Would you recommend undertaking a course with the University of Plymouth, and why?

Yes. Plymouth is a really nice place to study. As well as thoroughly enjoying the course content and the university campus, I also enjoyed living in Plymouth itself. Being so near to the moors and the coast makes it an interesting place to live and with the city continuing to grow with the amount of arts happening here, it makes it a really exciting place to be working, especially as a dancer.

I really enjoyed the dance theatre course: it is very performance-based and the skills that I learned during my studies I feel are unique compared to what other dance students at other universities are learning.

Is there anything else which you would like to share with our current students?

If you are looking for work experience or have an interest in doing dance internships, professional classes, apprenticeships, then contact Exim Dance! We are a next step dance company, and with our strong links with the University we are always looking to help current and postgraduate students develop their careers in dance – even if it’s a bit of mentoring or advice.

BA (Hons) Dance Theatre