Susan dances her way into arts academy

Susan Hirst has taken the first step towards a career as a performer.
Susan Hirst has taken the first step towards a career as a performer.

A young Loanhead dancer has taken a big step towards her dream career by gaining a place at one of the UK’s leading performing arts academies.

Aspiring performer Susan Hirst (17), a pupil at Lasswade High School and formerly of Paradykes Primary, has landed a place on the three-year Acting Diploma course at The MGA Academy of Performing Arts in Edinburgh and will begin full-time training in September to be a professional dancer.

Susan, who began dancing in ballet and tap aged two, impressed Academy staff at The MGA Academy in at her audition, and she was delighted when she received a letter of acceptance that allows her to remain in Scotland while studying at a level equivalent to prestigious London performing arts colleges.

“The MGA Academy was my first choice, so I was delighted to get in,” said Susan. “I performed two monologues in my audition and was given such positive direction by the judging panel that I felt I improved so much even in the short space of time I was there. The MGA Academy felt really friendly an d comfortable, and it has so many nice facilities. Even at the audition, it just felt right to be there. Everyone was so nice and professional.”

Susan started performing aged eight as a member of Stephanie May Dancing in Loanhead. Since then, she has performed as part of Lyceum Youth Theatre and A Team Productions as well as in a Lasswade High School production of Footloose.

Now, she is looking to starting at The MGA Academy, which has become the first full-time professional training academy in Scotland to be awarded accreditation by the CDET, the membership body for the professional dance, drama and musical theatre industries.

“I’m really interested in screen acting,” said Susan. “I’d prefer to do more realistic things than happy and dancing, like murder mysteries. A few older friends have done the part-time classes at The MGA Academy and went on to full-time courses, and they have said it’s really intense but so much fun. I know that one of the graduates, Thomas Doherty, is on the Disney Channel now, and my friend Madison Watson graduated last summer and is now performing on a Caribbean cruise ship.” Andrew Gowland, the Academy’s managing director, said: “We look forward to welcoming Susan onto our Acting Diploma course at The MGA Academy. She is already very talented and impressed all the staff during her audition, but we are confident the training she receives here will ensure that she develops her skills and help her achieve her dream of becoming a professional performer. We would welcome applications from young performers with similar aspirations to Susan.”

The MGA Academy is currently accepting applications for places on three-year full-time vocational training courses starting in September 2017, with the next auditions set to be held on June 11.

In summer, the Academy will run a free week of classes, workshops and question-and-answer sessions for boys aged 14 and older who are considering a professional career in performing arts. Guest tutors at Boys’ Scholarship Week, set to run from July 24-28, include Arthur Gourounlian, a performer with Girls Aloud, Beyonce, Kylie Minogue and Pink. Places are limited, and those interested should call 0131 466 9392 or email

Recent graduates of The MGA Academy include Disney film star Thomas Doherty (The Lodge, Descendents 2), West End stars Fergal McGoff (Matilda, Mamma Mia and The Bodyguard) and Rhiannon Chesterman (Mrs Henderson Presents and Grease), and Rebecca Stenhouse, who recently played Sandy in Grease aboard Harmony of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship