Elliott's Story: Physical Work is Therapeutic
After studying dance at The Brit School, Elliott secured a scholarship in New York.
"I was so lucky to go to the Brit School. They got me on Britain’s Got Talent, which was amazing! They also took me to New York where I was taken to a performance by Alvin Ailey’s dance company. He was someone who wanted to bring people together and create a dance company for people of African American heritage and just seeing people like me on stage was so inspiring. I just really wanted to go there. So after Brit, I applied and I ended up getting a scholarship there,” he enthuses.
It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for Elliott and he couldn’t believe his luck. He went to study in New York for a year and describes it as the best thing, but then things started to go downhill.
“We were all fighting to become The Apprentice in the dance troupe. We’d work our socks off the whole year to then get told, Sorry, you’re not right for it. The competition was so fierce and it can be heartbreaking,” he remembers.
“My physical and mental health meant that I had to come back to London and I was so devastated,” Elliott recalls. “I had to leave everyone behind and then I would see them doing amazing things on social media. Social media kind of destroyed me mentally basically.”
“I was constantly comparing myself to others and judging myself that way. I went through a mental breakdown and psychosis and I was seeing things and hearing things; it was an incredibly tough time. Luckily, I got help and support and I was able to pick myself up. When I look back at where I was and where I am now, I’m so I'm proud of how I’ve moved forward.”
When Elliott came back from New York, he wasn’t in the right mental state to even think about work. He just needed time to recover.
“I had a year off to just kind of get through my mental situation. I was just so done with the industry and so angry at the world and I just couldn’t pull myself out of my depression for a while,” he admits.
Unemployment and traineeship
After that, the pandemic hit so it was tough for Elliott. He struggled to find work and his mum suggested that he apply for Universal Credit.
“They helped me a lot definitely. They put me in touch with Centrepoint so that I could do this traineeship, which is now leading on to an apprenticeship. My dad had been in construction so I had always had an interest in it. I actually find it really therapeutic; doing a physical task like that and completing it. It's very meditative,” he muses.
“It was overwhelming at first, but everyone was so welcoming and made me feel at home. Centrepoint got me onto a work placement where I could learn and watch people doing the different trades so you can get an idea of what area you are interested in. I chose plumbing and thought that that would be the best route to take for my apprenticeship, which hopefully I will be starting soon. The staff at Centrepoint have helped me with my CV and it’s been a really quick process. They’ve helped me so much.”
Centrepoint’s Training Manager, Wendy Gurr says, “Elliott was unemployed and had been out of work for a while when he was referred to the Traineeship Programme. On his induction day, he was able to speak with the employer who was offering his placement which seemed to spark something in him. Throughout the programme, Elliott engaged well, worked hard and made good relationships with his peers. The company were really impressed with Elliot and every week we received fantastic feedback about him. Elliott has turned his life around, from unemployment and claiming benefits to starting an apprenticeship in the space of 8 weeks, which shows just what engagement, working hard and commitment can bring, we are all very proud of him.”
And where does Elliott see himself in five years? “I’d like to have my apprenticeship under my belt, but also to be focusing on my dance career – building my own studio and becoming a dance teacher.”
"Alvin Ailey once said that dance comes from the people and should be delivered back to the people. I feel this deeply. Even in times of darkness, we can dance and bring light. I want to open doors for others, so they can be inspired to dance, the same way I was."
To other young people unsure about starting an apprenticeship, Elliott says,
“Definitely trust the process and just know that things don’t just happen right when you want it. Just have faith that you can be capable of a lot of things if you put the work in. I know that's always what we're told – that we just have to be patient and our time will come. But patience is quite an important aspect, as I think sometimes we want to get to the finish line before we’ve run the race.”
To follow Elliott's dancing on Instagram go to @elliottblaize
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