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Lucy Jo Disney 2

Former Dance student Lucy Jo lands 'dream' performer job in Disney and College teaching role

Former Performing Arts Dance student Lucy Jo Munro has credited York College with providing her with the skills and resilience needed to land a “dream” job at Disneyland Paris.

Lucy Jo studied the Level 3 vocational course from 2015 to 2017 and now teaches the same qualification on Campus having returned to College and completed her PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education).

She was given a sabbatical earlier this academic year, however, to work as a professional performer in the world-famous theme park and it was an experience that proved as magical as you might expect.

“My contract with Disney entailed everything I had dreamed of,” Lucy Jo declared. “I was performing to large crowds in both the parades and on sets. The sharing of my passion and talents through performing has always been a dream.

“I know it sounds like a cliché, but the biggest thing I enjoyed about the job was making people’s days and putting a smile on their faces. Some children would cry from being so overwhelmed when meeting characters and even some adults were just as delighted. It was honestly magical, and the best feeling was seeing the guests’ faces light up, knowing that I was a part of something so special.

“I love performing for any audience but, when you’re performing at Disney, it’s another level of pride. You truly are making people’s dreams come true.

“When I walked in my first parade it was an unbelievable feeling. I was a pole-carrier, which entails walking at the back holding the sign that closes the parade and this moment took me back to being a kid.

“It was extra magical, as the final float in the parade was Elsa and Anna from Frozen and snow blows into the air off the back of it.

“It was floating onto myself and the other pole carrier, while people were waving at us and we were waving back.”

Securing a performer’s job with Disney is no easy process.

The competition is fierce with auditions held across the world and applicants needing to get through four rounds that include demonstrating their acting and dancing ability.

Lucy Jo travelled to Manchester for her audition, which lasted from 8am to 6pm – a testing selection process in a highly-competitive industry, but also an environment that she felt College equipped her with the mental strength to succeed in.

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“College definitely helped me build up my resilience and that prepares you for a career in the industry,” Lucy Jo explained. “I’ve had five auditions for jobs as a professional performer and I’d had four Nos before I got a Yes from Disney. Some people have 50 Nos before they get a Yes and you just have to stay determined and keep going.

“As students at College, we worked incredibly hard and were pushed to our limits. The staff also worked incredibly hard, getting physically involved in all the lessons and motivating and inspiring us.”

Lucy Jo points out that all the hard work never impacted on her enjoyment of the course, as she was following her biggest passion in life and, as a teacher, she now advises students to do the same if they are certain what career pathway they would like to follow.

“When you’re doing a vocational subject, sometimes parents may think their children should be taking A Levels to give them more variety or more UCAS points but, if you really know what you want to do, then a vocational course is the best option to motivate students and a good grade is the equivalent of three A Levels,” she reasoned. “I’m a big believer that students need to do courses they are interested in. They need to choose a subject that is going to get them out of bed in the morning.

“There’s more determination to do well if you’re doing something that you enjoy. I never had feelings of not wanting to come into college or miss lessons because I was on a course where I loved the subject.

“My dream was always to become a professional performer when I was younger. I never wanted dance just to be a hobby.

“I had a friend three years older than me who did Dance at York College and spoke very highly of the course. I heard a lot about the amazing opportunities they had, the great trips they went on and shows they watched to gain experience.

“I knew that students had previously gone to Disneyland Paris to compete in the European Championships, and I also loved the feeling of the place and the staff when I attended a Taster Day and the audition for the course.”

College’s Deputy Head of Performance and Production Emma Fawcett quickly proved a positive early role model for Lucy Jo, who also loved her new surroundings as a post-16 student and the variety of tuition.

“The facilities really impressed me when I was a student,” she recalled. “We’ve got an amazing theatre and a lot of colleges don’t have the luxury of one on site.

“We’ve also got teachers that are still working in the industry. When I was here, Emma would still work with a ballet company in Scotland.

“This was really inspirational and showed you what can be achieved and upheld. We also did such a wide range of styles, whereas some colleges may focus on classical styles of dance such as ballet, contemporary and jazz.

“The students expand knowledge and technique in dance, acting through dance and singing and all these musical theatre skills can open so many doors to you in the dance industry. Acro, Commercial, Heel, Cabaret and Latin are also all covered and the opportunities the course can offer is an endless list that covers everything in the performing arts industry, including cruise ships, Disneyland Paris, stage work and arena tours.”

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Lucy Jo’s Level 3 Dance results also opened the door for her to further her education at the Addict Dance Academy in Leicester, now recognised as one of the top five of its kind in the UK.

After gaining a First-Class Honours for her three-year BA (Hons) Dance degree, Lucy Jo was then asked by her former teacher Emma if she would like to return to College in a teaching capacity with opportunities to work as a performer in the industry having vanished overnight due to lockdown restrictions caused by the Covid pandemic.

She was 21 and admits: “It was fairly young to start out as a teacher but, as dance is a physical subject and lessons are set in a studio, I already had a large amount of confidence to teach as I had spent most of my childhood in a studio as a student. It might have been a different story in terms of my confidence levels had I been thrown into a classroom to lecture in front of students.

“I always wanted to be a teacher but had planned to have a professional career first. After Covid came along, though, the industry shut down so, when Emma messaged me, I was wondering what I was going to do otherwise and said ‘Yes’ and it has proven a blessing in disguise as teaching has kept me fit, active and still working within the industry.

“The trips and performance opportunities I get to attend as a teacher are always brilliant networking and exposure opportunities for myself, too.”

Two years after first returning to College as a teacher, Lucy Jo went on to study her PGCE at College, graduating at York Minster last summer and she now combines her part-time tutoring role on Campus with running dance workshops in York and Leeds schools.

“Now, I’ve got a PGCE, the skills I’ve acquired are so transferrable for working in local schools, college or dance schools,” she explained. “I can use all this knowledge I’ve got from teaching within the education system.

“I don’t feel like I ever want to leave teaching. I would like to continue with it alongside performing if I can and my end goal is to have my own dance school one day.”

Lucy Jo, unsurprisingly, feels her York College journey has now “come full circle” and, on that transition from student to tutor, she said: “Emma and (Performance & Production tutor) Gemma (O’Connor) were so crucial in my personal and dance development and I’m now in a position where I can inspire young people alongside them.

“I have a lot of trust in them, now as my colleagues after learning from them over my two years at the college. It was nice not having to build a colleague rapport from scratch.

“Sometimes, it felt strange transferring from student to a colleague and friend, because I had such a level of respect for them and, obviously, I still do, but it feels like I’ve come full circle to be working alongside colleagues who were so inspiring for me when I was young.”

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Both Emma and Gemma encouraged Lucy Jo to pursue her Disney opportunity by taking a break from work, recognising the benefits that passing on the knowledge from such an experience would have on the course’s students.

The job entailed Lucy Jo working eight hours a day five times a week, with an earliest start of 7am and latest finish of 11.30pm.

Lucy Jo met people from across the world and was given a basic French lesson on her first day before learning other phrases to build confidence during guest interactions.

Taking advantage of her days off to explore the country and experience French culture, Lucy Jo visited Paris, where she particularly enjoyed Montmartre and the Palace of Versailles, and a number of other small towns, including Auvers-sur-Oise where Van Gogh was buried.

“It was my first time living overseas but I loved it,” she enthused. “It was a brilliant experience and I’d definitely do it again.”

Having now been bitten by the travel bug, Lucy admits she would like to work for Disney in Hong Kong or Shanghai in China, as well as on one of the company’s cruise ships.

“There are lots of opportunities to travel the world if you work for Disney and I’d love to experience more different cultures,” she declared.

To learn more about out Performing & Production Arts (Dance & Musical Theatre) Extended Diploma Level 3 course, please click here

If you would like to discuss the course with our tutors, then please consider attending our next Open Event on Tuesday, March 19th from 5.30pm to 8pm.

You can book a place here or just come along and register on the night.