Jenna Lee: 12 months on
Jenna was born in Weymouth and started taking ballet lessons at the age of three. She trained in all types of genre of dance through to the age of 11 and was accepted into the Royal Ballet School. During her training at the Royal Ballet School she was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to choreograph and went on to win several prizes at the annual choreographic competition. At the age of 16, Jenna was offered a place at English National Ballet School, where she continued her training. Whilst there, Jenna was selected by the BBC to choreograph a trailer advertising the European Grand Prix for young dancers.
In 2002, whilst still at the school, she worked with English National Ballet during their Christmas season, and was subsequently offered a contract with the company. Jenna was promoted to First Artist within the Company in 2007, and to Soloist in 2008.
As well as performing major roles with the Company, she has created many of English National Ballet's more adventurous small scale dance works. In 2006 Jenna choreographed Ballet Rocks to launch Sky HD. The piece was to music by Bloc Party and featured eight dancers costumed by Giles Deacon.
Other notable creations include The Beautiful Game, A Football Ballet in 2009, and pieces for the main stage at Bestival in both 2009 and 2011. Jenna is also an expert in mass-participation choreography, having worked with over 200 school children for Swanning Around, a huge dance project which was performed at the Royal Albert Hall and for World Expo in Shanghai in 2010. More recently she choreographed an advert for Citroen and fused ballet with breakdancing whilst collaborating with Flawless in 2012.
In 2014, Jenna left English National Ballet to make the transition into a new career as a freelance choreographer, and received a Financial Retraining Grant from Dancers' Career Development to support her in establishing her own company, JLee Productions. We caught up with Jenna after a year in her new career.
What has the Financial Retraining Grant enabled you to achieve?
"It has enabled me to create a very high end brand. This has then been reflected in the type of clients I have attracted to JLee Productions and then gone on to be asked to work on their product launches, wedding showcases, events. Supplying ballerinas for a variety of events. Visually at events the brand looks very strong but in the first instance when potential clients go to my website the quality of video/photography and design is high end and that has been achieved by kind support of the DCD.
Social media plays a big part in my brand and through constantly being visible on line with great photography and pictures, I have been contacted by a few company's/agencies overseas who have seen my work and are interested in working with me and my company. DCD lets me keep up with current trends of social media. I can release footage of my work and engage with an audience/clients all over the world.
Because of the reputation my company has, it has also attracted some great dancers, who have contacted me about being part of JLee Productions events."
What has been your biggest challenge over the last 12 months?
"Adapting to a new pace and rhythm of life. It's a very daunting feeling going out alone, without the support of an institution behind you. I feel like my business is doing better than I am as a person! Its so disorientating not having the same familiar people around you day in/day out and not being surrounded by dancers. It's definitely my mind that has been the biggest challenge over the past 12 months. Trying to get it to adjusting to new surroundings and remembering but learning to let go of now not being 'the dancer'."
What other support has DCD provided you with?
"Coaching with Isabel Mortimer was brilliant. I never knew it would be quite so difficult to move on after a career in dance. Although when you are in the profession you realise what a special place it is and what a privilege it is, when you leave that place it highlights it further! The ongoing support from DCD is so valuable. The out-of-the-blue emails that you are sent, seeing how you are getting on with everything, have really been appreciated.
I had a meeting before I resigned from ENB, to talk about the next step in my career and how I might go about taking that and what resources I might need. It's great that DCD welcomes dancers to come in at any stage of their career and chat about the future."
To find out more about how we can help you, contact Ellen Chambers, Grants and Careers Officer, on firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7831 1449.