Director and Head of Ballet at Renaissance Arts Conservatoire, Martin Howland, introduces his new venture, HowlyBallet

Martin Howland was born in Brighouse, West Yorkshire, and trained at The Elwyn school of Dance. At the age of 11 Martin was accepted to the ‘Royal Ballet School’ and began 5 years of classical training at White Lodge in Richmond Park. After graduating from the lower school Martin continued his professional training at The Royal Ballet Upper School for a further 2 years, whilst continuing to work with the company in numerous productions including, Romeo & Juliet, Petrushka, La Valse and Cinderella. Martin graduated the Royal Ballet School in 1995 and spent the next 13 performing in professional roles both in the Uk and worldwide. Following a variety of teaching a coaching roles both in central London and around England, Martin co-founded Renaissance Arts Conservatoire, in 2011, The Scholars in 2014 and went on to launch HowlyBallet in March 2020.

What is ‘Howly Ballet’?

HowlyBallet is a series of videos on YouTube designed to help dancers of all levels and abilities improve technique, master advanced steps and develop a greater understanding of classical ballet. And of course, a bit of a laugh along the way!

What do you aim to achieve through Howly Ballet?

To show people how accessible, rewarding and fun ballet can be. Ballet can often be portrayed as elitist, old fashioned and rather boring, whereas I can declare that it is anything but! Also, there is so much untapped science that can be used to train young dancers and I am proud of the programme that we have implemented at Renaissance, meaning that we are the most forward thinking and dynamic training facility in the entire UK.

Why do you think your own training experiences helped you achieve a successful career within the performance industry?

Being trained at the Royal Ballet school had many pluses and minuses, but I prefer to remember the positives and the brilliant Vaganova teachings of Anatoli Gragoriev. He inspired me to achieve physical feats that I would never thought possible. I did 7 pirouettes, he wanted 8. I did 8 he wanted 9. He trained us as athletes and as a performer I always felt comfortable out on stage taking risks and challenging myself to be a better version of myself. Self-competition is hugely influential to anyone aspiring to be more.

What could future students expect from Ballet classes at Renaissance Arts Conservatoire?

Anybody who has ever taken my class, knows that I demand more from them year after year, as I demand of myself to evolve and improve as a teacher. High Octane classes full of jumps, turns, tricks but also never losing sight of the importance of technique, strength and condition. Ballet at R/A will will always feel epic and that is down to how seriously our students apply themselves to their technique.

We can see from your online videos that your choices of music aren’t what people would necessarily think of as conventional Ballet choices. Why is this?

My music choices are slightly different to your average ballet class, using Hip-Hop, Dance, R&B etc. Through my training in strict Vaganova Ballet the music helps my students attach themselves to their soundtrack and discover hidden narrative and artistry along the way.

What are you most proud of in your professional career?

Ask me that question 10 years ago and I would have told you the various roles and shows that I have performed in. Now I would say the students I have trained who are out there living their dreams, knowing that their Ballet training played a significant part in their journey. Also, when I first started teaching the Billy Elliot boys, I worked with a certain Tom Holland during his training. One of the hardest working students I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with and he’s doing alright now eh?

What is your best advice to young dancers?

It’s one thing to be talented and to be provided with certain gifts, it’s another to be the person who gives 100% in every class. In my experience the people who train the best have a relentless thirst for knowledge and who apply the tiniest amounts of detail to every class, who fail and then try again. Success is earned not given. Listen to your teacher and never mark your arms!

Head over to HowlyBallet on YouTube by clicking the subscribe button below and follow HowlyBallet on Instagram and Facebook for more online Ballet theory and technique.

You can read a more detailed biography of Martin’s career on our Faculty page and check out R/A’s upcoming events, where Martin will be teaching, on our Apply page

R/A Students talk about their inspiration and future ambitions

Wondering what type of people choose to study with R/A? Well wonder no more! We asked some of our student body to tell us about why they decided to train with Renaissance Arts Conservatoire, amidst the many other options available, and what they defined as key moments from their training so far:

Why did you choose to study with R/A?

“Before I auditioned for R/A I never really liked Ballet, however at the audition I didn’t feel pressured and had a ton of fun, completely forgetting it was an audition at times. I learnt so much in such a short lesson. I pushed myself more than I ever did before and overall felt like the directors were going to help and push me to become a professional dancer.” Ceri Bullock, First Year Dance Course

“In all honesty I had already made my mind up and fixed a place at the training institution I wanted to go to before my R/A audition. HOWEVER, I was not prepared for a huge spanner in the works when I completely fell in love with Renaissance and the teachings there within the first hour of my audition! The professionalism combined with honest care and passion from the faculty really drew me in. The atmosphere from the students was so welcoming, I already felt a part of the pack! Above everything, it was the solid technique that sold it to me, no cheat routes and just about looking good, but solid focus on being 100% employable regardless of your ‘preference’ in style.” Lucy Richardson, Second Year Dance Course

I was an R/A scholar for two years prior to starting college here and in those two years I felt that I learnt so much. I also found that the personalised training Renaissance Arts could offer was the right route for me. R/A is also good for me financially because studying near home means that I save on accommodation costs and don’t leave college with lots of debt. Lola Kinard, Second Year Musical Theatre Course

I started out on the scholars program, which was something so different that I hadn’t experienced before, especially the strength and conditioning side. The teachers were so encouraging and I really saw their teaching start to give me results. It just goes to show that what they tell us really does work, which is what attracted me to apply for the college. Alex Middleton, First Year Dance course

Tell us about a moment from your training experience with R/A that stands out?

“One moment that stood out for me was the day that I had just come out of my first ever assessments at R/A, I was in my first year. Everything felt so empowering and professional. The drive from not only the directors but the people training with me gave me a sense of purpose. I was confident on a great journey ahead of me.” Lucy Richardson, Second Year Dance Course

One stand out moment from my training at Renaissance arts so far was when we got the opportunity to work with Black Box Creative in a dancing on camera class. This is a stand out for me as it taught us skills that we could use in the future whether it is for professional tv work or filming our show reels. I have been lucky enough to work with Black box again during the filming of “Howly Ballet” and I feel this class really helped me in understanding how to achieve the best images. Lola Kinard, Second Year Musical Theatre Course

I Managed to lift 100kg at the gym during student combine week, this is something I hadn’t predicted at all and it really shows me my progression since starting college as I wouldn’t have been able to do that before. Alex Middleton, First Year Dance course

Who Inspires you professionally?

“Someone who I’m inspired by professionally is R/A Graduate Dani Hampson because when I leave college I really want to dance for celebs in music videos, tours etc and Dani has accomplished this, so I look up to her, wanting to achieve what she’s achieved.” Ceri Bullock, First Year Dance Course

Someone who inspired me professionally is Sutton Foster who has appeared on Broadway in Thoroughly Modern Millie, Anything goes, Little Women, the Drowsy Chaperone, Young Frankenstein, and more. She is an incredible singer and actor however she also dances in her roles. This is something that I really admire because when I graduate I would love to perform in a role in which I get to use the vocal, acting, and dance training that I have received at renaissance arts. Lola Kinard, Second Year Musical Theatre Course

Although I’m a Dance course student, I would say that people like Dianna Ross and Whitney Houston Inspire me because of the soul and passion they give to their performance. It’s something I want to add to my dancing in the future. Alex Middleton, First Year Dance course

After previously studying the work of Lester Horton and the Alvin Ailey American Dance company. I got really inspired by the power that story telling has on their performance and how they portray raw emotion through resistance through movement and connecting to real life situations. Lucy Richardson, Second Year Dance Course

What are your ambitions for the future?

My main ambition is to tour as a Dancer when I leave college and artists such as the Spice Girls have such good choreo, which i can see myself doing! I’d also like to feature in music videos as a Dancer. Ceri Bullock, First Year Dance Course

My ambitions for the future are ultimately to be working on London’s West End in Musical Theatre. The dream is to be doing something where I can showcase the dance, vocal, and acting training that I have received over three years here at R/A. One particular role which really would be a dream for me is “Satine” in Moulin Rouge the Musical which is coming to England next year. The movie on which it is based is one of my favourites and the soundtrack is really powerful. Lola Kinard, Second Year Musical Theatre

After graduating from Renaissance arts, I would love to travel the world as a backing dancer for recognised artists. I also would like to experience life on a cruise ship for a while. Lucy Richardson, Second Year Dance Course

Naturally I’m drawn to the showgirl cabaret style but hen guest teachers come in to teach commercial dance I’m just excited to see in the next couple of years where I’m going to be and how that’s going to lead me in to the industry. Alex Middleton, First Year Dance Course

Thinking about studying Dance or Musical Theatre after your GCSE’s or A-Levels?