I graduated from the University of Chichester last summer and my work placement during the 2014 Dance Umbrella festival was my first taste of the dance industry as a graduate, and how I was thrown in at the deep end! But I couldn’t be more thankful – I’m not sure how else I would have learned about development, marketing, the running of an international festival and visited so many of London’s top arts venues in the space of a mere two and a bit months in any other way.

Last year’s Dance Umbrella was as diverse as a festival can get, from contemporary flamenco (Olivier nominee Rocío Molina for Outstanding Achievement in Dance) to a performance specially for young children (Turned On It’s Head’s Shiny) – and seeing the festival from its launch party right the way through to the final performance of Le Patin Libre’s Vertical Influences at Alexandra Palace was incredibly special.

In the first week of last years festival alone, 5 shows opened, we visited 6 theatres, 120 dance umbrella t shirts were washed (!), 18 trees were planted on the stage of the Barbican, countless numbers of orange and pink balloons were blown up (4 that were bigger than me!) and copious amounts of jelly babies were eaten, to keep us going from venue to venue – and then there were still 2 weeks left of dance to go!

As well as gaining an abundance of experience, during the course of the festival I watched more dance performances than I had seen in my entire third year of university! And the great thing about the programme was the uniqueness of the work, including specially commissioned pieces such as Ivan Blackstock’s A Harlem Dream set in the Young Vic turned 1930’s club through to sitting on the ice at Alexandra Palace and seeing Le Patin Libre’s mind blowing skill up close.

The highlight for me was the chance after the final performance to join Le Patin Libre on the ice for a master class (not to say I mastered any of their skills!) in which the skaters joined us, the audience, and taught us some of their more, simplified moves. It’s safe to say there were lots of wet bottoms by the end of the evening, but it was a memorable way to end what had been a great three weeks of travelling around London and watching fantastic performers from all around the world.

My time at Dance Umbrella was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had, and as a dance graduate, I couldn’t have felt more lucky to witness all these talented performers and gain an insight in to the hard work contributed by all in the Dance Umbrella team to put on such a successful season of work.

Here’s to Dance Umbrella 2015 – I just can’t wait to see what this years programme will bring.