Northern School of Contemporary Dance
Image: Brian Slater
Supporting outreach in the arts is one of the core elements of the Conservatoire’s knowledge exchange strategy, and this work often includes the expansion of performance tours to include the delivery of workshops for young people. For the past few years, Central School of Ballet have extended the annual tour of third year company Ballet Central to include creative workshops at selected London primary schools.
The presentation of workshops at selected schools and venues of the tour is multi-faceted. Workshop preparation and delivery provide students with the skills required for assisting in and leading creative dance workshops: a skill they will require once they become members of professional dance companies. The workshops themselves provide an educational dance experience for a wide range of participants, from primary school pupils who may never have had the opportunity to experience a creative dance workshop, to teenagers who may be considering vocational training. The content of the workshops varies according to the age and experience of the participants and uses appropriate pieces from the company repertoire. In this way, work commissioned by emerging choreographers or restagings of work by established artists can be used as a catalyst to share knowledge and engage young people with the art form.
To prepare workshops, the school holds a creative sharing day which may involve choreographers from the Ballet Central repertoire; staff from CSB’s Junior School; freelance Dance Artists; a primary PE coordinator; a secondary Dance teacher and a Ballet coordinator from one of the Centre for Advanced Training (CAT) scheme teams. Together they workshop ideas around the themes of two or three of the pieces from the repertoire before a second workshop day with third year students in which they too will have the opportunity to contribute towards the final workshop programme.
In 2015 the project was extended to produce an educational resource pack with lesson plans specifically for primary schools, enabling class teachers with little experience of dance to develop the work in class.
The workshops have also led to other collaborations, such as the Royal Ballet School Primary Steps project in Bury St Edmunds, providing an opportunity for children aged 7-10 years to watch a Ballet Central Dress Rehearsal and take part in a Q&A, and the Berkshire Maestros youth orchestra, who performed as live accompaniment at a performance in Newbury, as well as INSET days for primary school teachers and teaching assistants from the London schools.
School and participants are invited to watch a dress rehearsal or performance of the Ballet Central Tour, or students perform an extract from the tour in school as part of their weekly assembly. The involvement of students also raises participant’s aspirations and as a consequence they then begin to think of their own possible pathways into higher education.