Heather started at Song and Dance when she was seven years old, and has grown to be a wonderful young person and a valued member of our team. This week, Heather took up her place to study Drama at TU Dublin Conservatoire. As she starts this exciting new chapter, Rachel sat down with Heather and her dad Brian to chat about her time at Song and Dance, finding her passion, and her plans for the future.
S&D: What do you remember of your first day at Song and Dance, because certainly what we really strongly remember is having to peel you away from your dad’s leg to get you in the door.
Brian: But you did it well! You did it gently!
S&D: Haha, do you remember that, Heather?
Heather: I remember being really nervous. Secretly I think I was enjoying it, I was just too scared to admit it. Drama was my first class, and then dancing. I remember having a conversation with my dad – I really wanted to do dancing, because I could see everyone doing it from outside. My dad was like ‘just go for it, see what happens’. See, when I was at home, there was no stopping me singing, dancing, acting out all my favourite movies, but when I got in front of people, I shut down.
Brian: That started earlier than here. The first school plays in Heather’s primary school, we saw her whole class performing what they had practised, and in behind one of the props, with tears streaming down her face, was Heather. She didn’t run off the stage – she wanted to be there –
Heather: I wanted to be there, but there was so many people.
S&D: We see that all the time here, new kids want to come in but they just can’t let themselves.
Heather: Absolutely. It is nerve-wracking, but I got there in the end!
S&D: So when did you start to settle in?
Heather: I think my second year, I became friends with my gang I’m still friends with, and once I knew that I had someone to talk to when I went in, I felt a bit more comfortable. Because I knew I could trust them, and no one here would ever make fun of me.
Brian: I specifically remember the first two years after S&D finished for the summer, a couple of weeks before coming back, Heather was distraught. She always wanted to go back, but she was crying her eyes out at night going to bed.
Heather: I was so anxious about it.
Brian: And it took until that third year that she didn’t have that about coming back, and then from the fourth year on, they had the same tears when they finished in May!
S&D: What have been your standout Song&Dance moments?
Heather: It’s gonna sound so bad, but when I got to the front line. When you’re in the class, that’s a really, really big thing – to get to the front line. And when I got to play Maisie in Seussical. That was the biggest thing ever for me – I had songs, and I had scenes with people. In my little world, I had made it.
Brian: Heather’s first solo on the stage in the Helix, which was ‘Take Me to Church’ by Hozier. That was the first time for Heather to stand in front of several hundred people she didn’t know, and perform. That was the seal broken, and from then, everything was easier.
Heather: Yeah. And I got to wear a microphone and all.
S&D: What has been your favourite class?
Heather: Not just because you’re here, Rachel – but Drama really did give me confidence.
S&D: And with [S&D’s first drama teacher] Lil, too!
Heather: Oh, absolutely. The first play I did, I played a posh lady, I had my hair back in a slick bun, and I was ready until I saw the crowd. I remember she sat me on her lap and said ‘I know you can do it.’ And once she said that, every time I got nervous, I thought ‘no, Lil thinks you can do it, so you can do it.’
Brian: When Heather started in first year, by the second month, she sang a solo on the stage. And that was confidence she wouldn’t have had before.
S&D: You’ve already mentioned your Song&Dance pals, who have turned into your lifelong friends. Are there other things Song&Dance has taught you?
Heather: Working as a group, and having to work with people. Learning that you might feel comfortable doing something, but another person might not, and saying ‘okay, you’re not comfortable? I can help.’
Brian: I also see how Heather works with children. It’s a skill in itself – but I think it has been born of how she was treated and helped here.
Heather: Yeah. I know what’s it like to be that kid who is nervous. I’ve been in their spot. I remember what Lucy and Rachel and Lil and all did for me, so I want to do that for someone else.
S&D: So now, you’re starting drama school! How did you come to the decision to do that?
Heather: I realised, I don’t want it to stop. I don’t want this to be ‘final curtain’. I wanted to keep going. I want to bring new skills to what I do, and I want to perfect it and grow.
S&D: And how do you feel about it, as Heather’s parent?
Brian: Neither myself or [Heather’s mam] Lorraine would ever have a very fixed view of what you must become, but you must have a plan. So when she came and spoke to us both individually to say ‘I have this plan, this is what I want to do’, from our point of view, follow the dream.
S&D: And you’re so lucky, Heather.
Heather: Yeah, I really am. I swore going into my Leaving Cert ‘I am not going to pick a course where I’m going to dread going in to college the next morning’. Like I am never going to dread going into a drama class, or a critical analysis class, or a dance class.
S&D: Yeah. I mean, wait until it’s January, at nine o’clock in the morning…! But, still, knowing that underneath it all, you love it –
Brian: Exactly. I’m sure there’s times where an engineering student has to do… applied maths, or something really boring for them! But last week, we got to download Heather’s timetable, and I could see by her eyes as she was reading through, it’s all she wants.
S&D: Anything else to add?
Brian: To see her go to college to do something that’s in her heart and in her mind, that was born here, I think it’s a really lovely progression to see. It’s going to be a good three years.