Graduate stories: Rachel the dance artist

A girl dancing in front of street art with her arm up and her head thrown back

Growing up in Hong Kong, Rachel felt a pressure to follow a traditional career path. However she decided to follow her passion and pursue dance as a career. Rachel came to Salford to study MA Dance and Professional Practices which she believed has helped her become a well-rounded dance artist. Read on to discover Rachel's story.  

A student in front of a graffiti wall dancing

Journey since graduating

Since graduating from my master’s, I’ve been working as a freelance dance artist in Manchester. I have had the opportunity to work on so many different projects collaborating with some of Manchester’s most exciting creatives. A couple of my highlights have been touring educational pieces about women’s safety and the importance of vaccines, working with Ruth Jones as an Assistant Choreographer for the Manchester Day Parade and teaching the next generation of dancers as part of the Lowry Theatre’s Centre for Advanced Training team. 

I really enjoy the flexibility that comes with being a freelance artist. Truly no two days are the same, and my weeks vary depending on the project I am working on. This type of career has allowed me to develop so many different skills and I know this has set me up for a fulfilling career.  

I am about to enter the busiest time in my career, as I start two of my most exciting projects to date. I am working as a movement director for a one-woman play called ‘I Dream in Colour’ all about her experiences navigating being blind down, showing in London in October. Then at the end of this year, I will be joining a ballet company and touring the Nutcracker at Christmas. I will be performing at my dream venue Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London and my parents are flying over to watch me perform for the first time professionally so that will be a big moment for me. 

Set up for success

The best part of my time at Salford was being part of the Emergence Dance Company. We worked with world-renowned choreographers and went on a national tour. Throughout this experience, we were treated as professional dancers, and it helped me to understand exactly what would be expected of me in the industry. I was given the discipline and tools to be ready to enter the professional dancing world.  

During the course, we were also taught a lot of the practical skills needed to be a successful freelance dancer. For example, one of our modules was focused on self-promotion and using digital marketing to promote ourselves. I still use the Instagram account and website I created, and it has helped me to book work as a freelance artist. 

Living my dream

Growing up in Hong Kong, it was quite common to feel pressure to have a professional career and become a doctor or a lawyer. When I was younger, I thought of dancing as more of a hobby than a career and so did my parents.  

However, this all changed when I was accepted into the Hong Kong Youth Arts Programme. Through the people I met during this programme and the opportunities I saw in front of me, I realised that there were people pursuing dance as a career. As I began to seek out more opportunities, I think my parents realised that this was what I wanted to do and have been fully supportive. I believe it took seeing other people following their dreams to make me realise that there were opportunities, and that I could follow my passion too.  

Challenges to overcome

I graduated just as lockdown was ending so the dance scene was a little quiet when I first entered it and I found this quite daunting initially. As a freelance artist, you don’t always know what your next project is going to be so there are moments where you must just keep persevering and doing the work, knowing that something is on the horizon. In the next six months, I have a pipeline of projects that I could only have dreamed about when I first started my career and I know this has come from my persistent hard work.