When Leonie Urdang started her school of dance in 1970 her vision was to break through the glass ceiling in the dance world which, at that time, only accepted a certain type of person, with a certain type of look. Miss Urdang looked beyond the surface and saw the individual: this laid the basis for the founding ethos of her school.
The only thing that has changed since then is that the theatre world has caught up with that vision. Increasingly shows are about characters and personalities – dancers that can sing or singer-actors that can dance – and the performers in demand are those whose personality (combined with talent) shine out.
The Urdang Academy, with Leonie’s daughter Solange at the helm since 2001, has stayed true to the founding vision. It is now recognised as one of the UK’s finest performing arts colleges with an internationally acclaimed reputation. Over 85% of recent graduates are working in the industry, many in lead West End roles. Solange says: “We spot potential performers and give them a training and environment that develops and refines their technique and performance skills”.
Urdang may have heart at the centre of its vision, but it has excellence as its goal. It is not easy to get onto the courses. The energy may be high, the outlook modern, but the Principal of the school is still addressed as: ‘Miss Pope’. The Urdang Academy is a serious conservatoire.
New foundation and part-time courses have been introduced to reflect the interests and needs of those with fresh and untapped talent wishing to pursue careers in the performing arts. The teachers’ aim is bringing out what students could do, instead of what they can do.
Having moved in January 2007 into a beautiful landmark building, The Old Finsbury Town Hall, down the road from Sadlers Wells, Urdang is buzzing. The venue attracts top West End dance and musical theatre productions for castings and rehearsals. The building has hosted ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘Hairspray’, ‘Thriller’, ‘Priscilla’, ‘The Lion King’, ‘Dirty Dancing’, ‘Billy Elliot’, ‘Matthew Bourne’, ‘Sister Act’, ‘Les Miserables’, ‘Wicked’, ‘ENO’ ‘Rambert’, ‘X Factor’, ‘Flawless’ and ITV’s South Bank Show. This is in addition to fashion shoots, TV productions and music videos, industry meetings and community events.
We welcome you to the Urdang Academy.