Constantly Learning

Reflections from Phil, our Professional Placement Student


We sat down with our outgoing Professional Placement Student Phil and mentor Christian to chat about their time working together and to say a fond farewell to Phil!

Phil in the studio observing movement

Phil in the studio, they observe movement and mirror it in their body – one arm raised above their head and the other held poised across their chest. Phil is a white person in their early twenties, they wear a grey jumper and multi-coloured thick woollen scarf.

Hey, I’m Phil and I’ve been Stopgap’s Professional Placement Student for the past 9 months. I’m from Suffolk, which is in the East of England. I grew up there, danced there, then I went to London Contemporary Dance School for three years. Then I came and joined you wonderful lot! I started in September, and my placement ends at the end of May. It’s through Northern School of Contemporary Dance as part of an MA in Contemporary Dance Performance on their Professional Placement Scheme.

Hey I’m Christian, a Senior Dance Artist with Stopgap, and I am also responsible for Artist Development. I have had the pleasure of being a mentor as part of the relationship Stopgap has with Northern school. So, as a mentor I’m the go-between between Northern School and I’m also here to support our placement students like Phil.

Can you give us an overview of some of the projects you’ve been involved with over your placement?

Phil: At the beginning in my first term, I worked on Dance Tapes with Hannah and Lucy which was really fun. I got to see the whole process of what goes into making a dance tape and how it starts from a place of improvisation and then you tailor it to a person and what they want to create. Which was interesting to see. I also started with all the youth groups, which is great fun, I love being with the youth groups!

Then we quickly moved on to the creation of Lived Fiction (Stopgap’s new indoor work-in-progress) from November onwards. It was really interesting watching that process. I also learnt a lot about access throughout being in the process and supporting artists.
I got to then perform at Stopgap’s annual Winter Platform with Sg Troop, and both Guilford and Aldershot Youth Dance Companies.

I saw Frock as I went along to the last couple of tour dates. And then I got to learn the whole of Frock in March, and then I did that for one of my performances for my MA. So, my tutor came down from Northern School and watch me perform in Frock. It’s a really high intensity, high energy piece to perform which is great fun.

I’ve also assisted with a lot of creative learning projects including going into schools which has been great for my teacher development.

Black and white photo of two dancers

A black and white photo of Phil in a duet with another dancer. Close to the ground, they kneel as they lean back extending an arm to touch around their partner’s upwardly stretched arm.

A busy nine months! Had you done much teaching before now?

Phil: I’d done a bit of teaching before, but I’ve definitely done way more teaching this year than I’ve ever done! I’ve taught company class a couple of times as well. I’ve been a bit nervous going into teaching company class, because everyone really knows what they are doing.
Christian: Some of the time… rarely!
Phil: Haha! But it’s been good fun, creating exercises and trying to think what would challenge you if you were doing a class and delivering that. I think if I hadn’t had been on placement, it would feel like a lot more pressure, because I wouldn’t have that learning space, I’d just be expected to do it. Whereas I feel like here, even if I did it and it went awfully, at least I’m going to be supported to learn and progress! I’m given the space to develop.

Have there been any highlight moments for you?

Christian: I have many! One of my favourites was early on in your time with us, and we had an afternoon upstairs in a studio at the Maltings and we just jammed for a couple of hours. We had a chance to have a chat and just dance together. That was one of my highlights. As well as watching you perform the Winter Platform and then dancing with you when we did Frock.

Phil: I think for me, there was one week in Worthing during creation for Lived Fiction, unfortunately a dancer was injured but I got to step in and do Lived Fiction for a week, which was really, really fun. And I think for me it almost felt confirmation, I was like, “Yeah, I can do this, I’m actually keeping up and I can do it!”. And it was just great to be dancing all day, every day. That was definitely a highlight for me!

A dancer in the studio in a low backbend

Phil during movement, they crouch low as if ducking under something, tilting backwards to place one elbow behind them on the floor. They float their right arm up to catch the air as they look towards a dancer just out of the frame of the image.

Phil: I’ve definitely learned so much about inclusive practice. I was always quite interested it in it anyway and I’ve grown up around a lot of people who have access needs. So, I feel like I was quite clued up, but it’s been amazing learning about how to teach inclusively. Especially when considering dancers who use mobility aids and tools and how to work with those in a teaching sense.

And dancing with people who use mobility aids has been huge for me, it’s something you don’t get the opportunity to do a lot in training. It was wonderful being surrounded by so many different dancers and constantly learning new ways of moving and working. I think it’s always like a little bit of a puzzle. Just trying to make things click, working out different ways in, and you end up creating interesting stuff that you’d like wouldn’t have thought about before.

What’s next for you?

I’m moving to Leeds, which is exciting, I’m going to be there to complete my research project for my master’s degree. I’m going to be there over summer and then just sending out applications for auditions and hoping things come my way!

A black and white photo of two dancers hugging.

A black and white photo of Phil and Nadenh hugging and smiling. Phil leans down to hug around Nadenh, who is a manual wheelchair user. They are in a dance studio with white walls and a black floor.

Everyone at Stopgap is wishing Phil all the best in their future journey!