A teenager from Ashton-under-Lyne has become one of the youngest new students at top London dance school.
Nic Lee, 17, from Ashton, has been offered a place at London Contemporary Dance School.
He will now leave sixth form college early to start the prestigious three year course that will prepare him for life as a professional dancer.
But unlike most of the other young hopefuls from all over the UK who passed the highly competitive audition process, Nic’s childhood was not a privileged one.
Instead of weekends and evenings spent being ferried round to private classes in ballet, tap and modern dance, the Clarendon Sixth Form College student says before he discovered dance, he had no real hobbies other than ‘singing a bit of karaoke at home’ and used to often ‘get into mischief’.
For Nic, who describes his younger self as ‘a bad kid’, it all began when he was in Year 9 at Wright Robinson College in Gorton. When a local contemporary dance group called Company Chameleon visited the school to run a workshop, 14-year-old Nic was immediately smitten with their free and creative style of movement.
Chatting to the workshop leaders Juliana Fapohunda and Amber Calland afterwards, Nic discovered they were impressed with his natural ability to move and were keen for him to audition for their young people’s dance company Chameleon Youth.
But with no parental support at the time for his dancing, there was a question mark over how he would pay the subsidised £100 a year fee, and Nic missed the deadline. And by the following year the country was in lockdown and all classes were cancelled.
When Company Chameleon’s affordable Saturday morning young people’s dance sessions moved to Zoom, Juliana and Amber were delighted when Nic’s face popped up on screen one week. They remembered him right away despite it being 18 months since their visit to his school.
Taking part in the regular online group sessions ignited Nic’s passion for dance and throughout the lockdowns, he spent a further three to four hours each day self-teaching. Nic watched and imitated hours of footage of other dancers, did HIIT workouts to build strength and stamina and practiced yoga, copying free demonstrations on YouTube.
Once the country finally opened up again, Nic was able to audition for Chameleon Youth and won himself a place.
Through his membership of the youth dance company, Nic has performed at The Lowry, New Adelphi Theatre and Phoenix Dance Theatre plus outdoor festivals such as Manchester Day Parade, Green Space Dark Skies and the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Pageant in London.
Dancing with Chameleon Youth opened up other opportunities, which Nic grasped with both hands. The company introduced him to other young people’s dance schemes, including The Lowry’s Centre For Advanced Training (CAT) in Dance and the National Youth Dance Company.
Nic successfully auditioned for both projects, and has recently enjoyed taking part in a national tour with other young dancers.
Nic said: “The timing of me getting my place couldn’t have been more perfect and it feels like everything’s come full circle. Amazingly, I was on work experience at Company Chameleon when I got an email saying I’d passed my audition and interview.
“I was totally in shock as I didn’t think I did that well. And for a 17-year-old to get in is pretty rare.
“It was just perfect to be able to share this moment with Company Chameleon as this really is where my dance journey started.
“I was already doing a dance GCSE before I joined, but I would never have been dancing at the high level needed to get into London Contemporary Dance School, and I wouldn’t have known about other opportunities like National Youth Dance Company that have really opened my eyes to what’s possible.
“Some of my older friends from Chameleon Youth are already at London Contemporary Dance School and it is an absolute dream come true to be able to go and join them.”
Sam Broadbent, Learning & Participation Manager, Company Chameleon, said: “I can remember our workshop leaders coming back from Wright Robinson and telling us about Nic.
“They said not only was he an amazing mover, he was so confident and mature, even at 14. They still talk about how Nic came for a chat at the end of the session and totally impressed them and how they really hoped he would start to come along to Chameleon Youth.
“We are over the moon that Nic was eventually able to join us and being able to support him over the last few years with dance school applications and auditions has been our absolute pleasure. Nic very much deserves his place in London and we are excited to follow his progress and see what happens next. We are expecting big things!”
Company Chameleon’s drop in Saturday Sessions in Openshaw cost from £3 a week and are open to young people who love to move. Sessions are for 4-6s (9.30-10.15am), 7-10s (10.30-11.30am) and 11-16s (12-1.30pm).
Chameleon Youth (11-21) auditions take place once a year in July for Juniors (age 11-16) and September for Seniors (16-21). To be notified of upcoming audition dates, sign up to Company Chameleon’s mailing list.
To find out more visit companychameleon.com, email email@example.com or call 0161 223 6280