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Talented performer sets the stage for students

Former student Michael Brown led a performing arts workshop at Sunderland College

A former Sunderland College student who is making leaps and bounds in the performing arts industry returned to the classroom to share some of his skills with aspiring starlets.

Talented performer Michael Brown is now studying at the prestigious Laine Theatre Arts where he was awarded a £65,000 scholarship to complete a three year dance and musical theatre diploma.

The Surrey-based international dance and drama training school has produced stars such as Victoria Beckham, actress Hayley Tamaddon, and West End stars Ruthie Henshall and Kerry Ellis, to name but a few.

Michael is following in their footsteps and hopes to see his name up in lights in London’s West End and New York’s Broadway one day.

The 19-year-old returned to Sunderland College’s Arts Academy, where he studied BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Dance and A-Level Drama and Theatre Studies, to run a masterclass for current performing arts students.

Michael said: “It was fantastic to be back at the college and to see both new and old faces. When I studied here I received lots of support – the lecturers tried to get the most out of me and pushed me in the direction of where I wanted to go, so I wanted to come back as a thank you and do something for them.

“I led a contemporary dance workshop, including elements of jazz and commercial dance, which will go towards the students’ final major project at the end of their course. The students seemed to really enjoy it and I hope they got something out of it, especially as the style of dancing is something they wouldn’t have done before.”

Michael also spoke to the students about the expectations and pressures on performers in the industry and what it was like to attend a specialist performing arts training college.

He added: “There are lots of long and hard days when you’re training and I don’t think people quite realise how many hours you have to train for. I go to Laine five days a week, starting at 8.30am every day and some days I finish at 9pm. My earliest finish is on a Friday when we leave at 6pm, so you have to be prepared to put in a lot of hard work and be completely dedicated.

“As well as taking part in dancing, musical theatre, singing, acting and voice lessons, we are also given advice about the industry, how to audition for roles and how ‘castable’ we are for certain parts. You’ve got to be adaptable to all elements of the industry, and I think it’s really important to share this with people who want to perform and do it as a career.”

Before winning the scholarship to Laine, Michael regularly performed in the North East, appearing in a variety of both professional and amateur shows, including ‘Scrooge’ at the Sunderland Empire and Northern Ballet’s production of ‘The Nutcracker’.

He has also worked as an extra in the TV and film industry, including the crime drama ‘Inspector George Gently’ starring Martin Shaw and the British film ‘United’ featuring David Tennant, Jack O’Connell and Sam Claflin.

Michael, from East Herrington in Sunderland, said: “I haven’t performed in any external shows since starting at Laine as we are there to learn in first and second year, but in third year we are encouraged to audition for parts and I’m looking forward to getting an agent and showcasing my skills to professionals in the industry. I feel so lucky that I’ve been given this opportunity, and even though life at Laine is normal to me and hard work, I never take it for granted.”

Lauren Robinson, dance lecturer at Sunderland College, said: “It was an honour to welcome Michael back to the college after two years. The workshop he led for our dance and musical theatre students was inspirational and very beneficial to them as they now have a greater insight into life in a professional performing arts school. Michael’s talent has shone through since his first day at Sunderland College and we are confident we will see him on the West End stage very soon. We’re grateful he found the time to visit us and we’re looking forward to welcoming him back in the future for more workshops.”

For more information about performing arts courses at Sunderland College’s multi-million pound Arts Academy, call 0191 5116000, email info@sunderlandcollege.ac.uk or click here.

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