The Northern School Of Contemporary Dance
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The Independent Online
Age: 14

History: Born in 1985 out of the inspired teaching of Nadine Senior at Harehills middle school in Leeds. So successful was she at producing young dancers that Leeds City Council decided to capitalise on her success and fund a local authority training establishment.

Address: In a converted synagogue on Chapeltown Road, Leeds, which is the former Jewish quarter.

Ambience: Gritty part of the inner city, now inhabited by Asians and Afro-Caribbeans. The synagogue with its beautiful copper dome has been converted at a cost of pounds 3.2m and is now the college's theatre, seating 270 people.

Vital statistics: Small but perfectly formed college of higher education with just over 160 students (one-quarter of whom are men), taking a three- year bachelor of performing arts (dance) degree. Another 25 take a foundation course - an access course for those who get through an audition. This is a college like no other. The degree is very hard work - 9am to 5pm non-stop physical exertion. You have to be committed to survive. Atmosphere of close-knit exhaustion. Degrees are validated by Leeds University. In fact, this is an affiliated college of the university.

Added value: If you manage to get in, you'll get tip-top dance training which could take you to the top of the profession. This is a vocational course at one of the few specialist vocational dance training institutions that exist in the state sector. Academic demands are not great but the work is highly demanding both physically and mentally. You get a huge amount of performance experience. Student showcases are held at the the end of each term.

Easy to get into? There are about five applicants to every place. You have to pass an audition which includes ballet, contemporary class and a two-minute solo (plus you need two A-levels).

Glittering alumni: Pam Johnson and Richard Goodison of the Phoenix Dance Company in Leeds; Steven Houghton of BUGS and London's Burning; Richard Witten, who danced with the American companies Alvin Ailey and Dance Theatre of Harlem. Mel B of the Spice Girls spent a few weeks at the college before deciding that dance wasn't for her. Look out for the rising contemporary dance star Akram Khan, who is working with Jonathan Burrows, among others.

Transport links: Locals use buses or taxis. Those who can afford it use a car.

Who's the boss? Nadine Senior, key figure in the Leeds dance scene since the early Seventies.

Teaching: Rated 23 out of 24 for dance.

Research: Doesn't do it. Too busy dancing.

Financial health: In the black. The college is expected to benefit from the recent shake-up in dance and drama training, which will put it on a par with the private sector.

Night-life: Loads of night-life in Leeds, if you have the energy to dance at night as well as all day.

Cheap to live in? Not bad. No halls of residence. Private rents from pounds 30 to pounds 45 a week.

Buzz-phrase: Great extensions (what the students do with their legs).

Next week: Norwich School of Art and Design.

Lucy Hodges

On 30 May, `The Independent on Sunday' will publish the A-Z of Universities - an updated compilation of all the columns in this popular series, which first appeared in the weekly education section of `The Independent'