Former A-Level Dance student Dr Rachel Rimmer-Piekarczyk returns to Sixth Form College to discuss her illustrious career in dance in higher education


Former student Dr Rachel Rimmer-Piekarczyk PhD returned to Sixth Form College recently, where she delivered a fascinating and informative talk about her remarkable career in dance higher education. A Level Dance and BTEC Dance students were thrilled to be given the opportunity organised by Curriculum Manager of the Performing Arts Richard O’Brien. 

Rachel was a student in the first A Level Dance cohort that Richard taught at the college. After leaving the Sixth Form College, she became a highly distinguished practitioner and academic scholar in the world of higher education.  

Many of our previous A Level Dance students went on to train with Rachel when she was Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader on the BA Hons Dance course at Manchester Metropolitan University (2011 – 2019). Rachel is currently a Senior Lecturer in Drama and Contemporary Performance at the Manchester School of Theatre – part of Manchester Metropolitan University. 

Rachel commented: “As an academic practitioner with expertise in dance training, contemporary performance and reflective practice, my work explores the relationship between embodiment, reflection, and agency within the context of dance and performer training more broadly. I have a PhD in dance studies and over twenty years’ experience working in contemporary dance and education nationally and internationally.” 

Dance students at the Sixth Form College consider themselves to be ‘thinking dancers’ and eager to learn about Rachel’s journey of success in the academic dance space. Rachel was able to develop the knowledge and understanding of the students concerning the different career possibilities they could pursue in higher education.  

Rachel also said: “I was thrilled to be invited by Richard to visit the Sixth Form College and talk about my career. I fondly remember my A Level Dance classes with Richard as they were my first real introduction to contemporary dance and sparked my interest in the field, leading me towards studying dance at degree level.” 

“Unfortunately, during the Covid-19 pandemic, a narrative emerged that tried to discourage people from pursuing a career in the performing arts. Although there are some challenges in the higher education sector currently, I hope to have demonstrated to the students that doing a degree in an arts subject really is worth it.” 

“I have been fortunate enough to have led a varied career in the arts; as well as working in higher education, I have facilitated community-based projects with several marginalised groups and have seen how the performing arts can touch people’s lives. Although we often think of the performing arts as a source of entertainment, they can also act as a powerful force for social change. We need more opportunities for aspiring artists, like the students studying at Sixth Form College, to undertake performing arts degrees in this country and contribute to the field in different ways.” 

“It’s also important to mention that I’m a working Mum, and I believe in enabling a diverse and varied workforce in higher education.” 

Rachel also spoke about the recent completion of her PhD and the publication of her research findings in a variety of prestigious journals and symposiums. 

Rachel stated: “I completed my doctoral research in March 2022 at Manchester Metropolitan University, where I am a Senior Lecturer in Performance at the Manchester School of Theatre. My PhD was an action research study, conducted in collaboration with undergraduate dance students, that examined how traditional approaches to dance training can be subverted, by allowing critical reflection to have a place in the dance studio.” 

“I have published my research in several peer-reviewed journals and symposiums, including Research in Dance Education, Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices and Collaborative Action Research Network. I have a forthcoming book chapter in an edited collection of essays exploring current discourse around dance technique training in Britain, edited by Dr Noyale Colin and Dr Cathy Seago and published by Routledge. I am also a part of the Theatre and Performance Research Association – an international network for performance scholars.” 

Richard O’Brien, Curriculum Manager for Performing Arts was thankful for the highly positive and inspirational impact of Dr Rachel’s visit upon the students.  

He said: “It was incredibly motivating for the students to learn about Dr Rachel’s journey from studying A Level Dance at the City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form to becoming such a highly regarded practitioner in her field. Rachel is a highly respected and valued contributor with an international and national status in the area of dance in higher education. She inspired the students to consider a career in higher education by sharing how her commitment and dedication to dance has led her to the highest academic award of a PhD and a successful career in higher education.”