“Most successful yet” Bedales Dance Performs

BEDALES DANCE MARCH 2017 PB (39)6F7A7196

By Anastasia Sheldon, 6.2

Dancers across all the year groups came together on Thursday 9 March to perform an evening of eclectic dance pieces at our most successful Bedales Dance Performs yet.

The Block 4s made their first BAC appearance with ‘Hunted’, showing animalistic movement intertwined with energetic throws and lifts, showing real control and trust in each other. Block 5s choreographed their very own solos based on iconic choreography and group pieces inspired by topics they are studying across other subjects in school. Some of the dance pieces were examined that evening and a huge well done to everyone who was being moderated.

As for 6.1 and 6.2 dance students, we performed our own solos and group pieces in preparation for our exam in a few weeks, using students across all ages and some students that do not even study dance. The show closed with the 6.1 and 6.2 Enrichment piece ‘Shattered Minds’, where during our enrichment slot we worked together to create a sensitive piece showing how a group of survivors started their fight to build their community up after a natural disaster.

What an amazing evening to be a part of, the adrenaline was flowing back stage throughout all the pieces. I can speak on behalf of all the 6.2s when I say that we have thoroughly enjoyed performing in every Bedales Dance Performs, we will miss the buzzing atmosphere backstage, everyone we have worked with and the pure support that all the students have for each other.

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Mental Health and Arts Education – are we missing a trick?

By Phil Tattersall-King, Director of Drama, Dance and Bedales Arts Programme

Hot on the heels of the Prime Minister announcing that the government is to reform mental health with a particular focus on young people, a new report from the Culture Learning Alliance (CLA) has confirmed that taking part in arts subjects can help children to improve their academic and social skills, and to express their ideas. On the face of it, these are pretty much distinct events, but I would argue that perhaps they shouldn’t be.

One in four people has a mental disorder at some point in their life, and young people are affected disproportionately; over half of mental health problems start by the age of 14 and 75% by 18. To this end, the government is to provide additional training for teachers, an extra £15m for community care, and improved support in the workplace. Meanwhile, at the launch of the CLA report Imagine Nation: the value of Cultural Learning, president of the Royal Academy of Dance Darcey Bussell called for ‘physical literacy’ to be taught four times a week, and for protection and expansion of the arts curriculum in schools. The CLA observes that we have seen a decline in the number of children taking arts subjects, a reduction in arts teaching hours and fewer arts teachers employed. In turn, a government spokesperson has stressed the importance of music and the arts for transforming lives and providing opportunities.

For my own part, I wonder whether schools, and the arts in particular, might have an important role to play in the development of good mental health in young people, and offer government an educational option beyond dealing better with the obverse.

All over the world, staff and students in drama departments strive to provide a glimpse of worlds different from the ones we inhabit. Sometimes it’s a better world, sometimes worse – either way, theatre aims to change us as we get lost in the one we have created. The theatre of Bryony Kimmings and the spoken word of Cecilia Knapp do so to raise overtly issues concerning mental health that might otherwise remain hidden, and we have been keen to introduce students to their work. No less importantly, our students are increasingly the producers and thinkers behind theatrical ideas. We regularly stage devised performances, and exam boards all encourage students to devise their own work. The struggles involved with presenting their thoughts in this way have raised the game of a drama student, and made them wiser to the complexities of relationships. I can think of many students about whom teachers in other subjects have expressed concerns that they don’t ‘share’ in class, learning through drama that they can say their piece, and that the world will not end if they are challenged. It is immensely gratifying when, invariably, we find that this new confidence has transferred to their lessons in other subjects.

Whilst my own experience is purely anecdotal, it chimes with the CLA’s thoroughly-evidenced findings that theatre and drama improve young people’s social skills and emotional wellbeing, and that engaging in the arts increases young people’s resilience. The report cites evidence from the UK that art and music-related leisure at the age of 16 increases the odds of civic engagement at age 29 and, according to American studies, that an arts-rich education results in a greater likelihood of voting and participation in a political campaign. It also cites findings from a recent systematic review of relevant literature which found that volunteering and caring are both developed by arts engagement.

The social benefits of such outcomes are pretty much self-evident, but a closer look at the idea of ‘resilience’ – an idea with particular currency in discussions of education and young people’s mental health in the UK – suggests that there is a significant health benefit as well.

Adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg draws on the pioneering work of Emmy Werner in developing strategies to help young people develop resilience, which he describes as the capacity of young people to face, overcome, and be strengthened and even transformed by adversity. Werner’s work in Hawaii – in an area with high levels of adult unemployment and substance abuse – found that two thirds of young people exhibited destructive behaviours. Crucially, however, a third did not, and she found that these young people shared important characteristics – a finding reinforced in subsequent research.

Gregg stresses that, amongst other things, resilient young people develop absorbing passions, with their self-esteem boosted by having developed expertise, thus reinforcing the importance of practice and persistence. They have the facility of seeing life ‘as it is’ – knowing that bad things happen and how to deal with them, but also knowing that there are plenty of good things. They also do good, thus benefiting from a boost to their immune system and general well-being, and enjoy a sense of being part of something greater than themselves, such as a philosophy or a cause.

Looked at purely through the prism of young people’s mental health (there are other compelling reasons, of course), there would seem to a health benefit implicit in making arts education more of a priority. I believe that recent years have seen the arts marginalised in government’s enthusiasm for STEM subjects and the wider belief that the value of school is best understood in terms of GDP and economic competitiveness. If Theresa May is really serious about safeguarding young people’s mental health, she might do well to rethink – school is surely about all aspects of young people’s wellbeing, and there is a clear case for understanding arts education is essential in this regard.

Bedales sixth form dancers perform at The Point, Eastleigh

By Anastasia Sheldon and Ellie Wraight, 6.2

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Arriving at The Point in Eastleigh, ready to rehearse with Luke Brown (acclaimed dance artist and choreographer) was a daunting yet exciting experience. We spent three rehearsals with Luke’s professional dance company to create a piece which we then performed in front of an audience at The Point on 6 October.

Rehearsal 1

There was a nervousness in the air while we sat in a lobby surrounded by other dancers for the first rehearsal, but as soon as Luke entered the room his bright and wide smile soon washed away our uncertainty. None of us knew what we’d be creating and this gave us a certain freedom to create movement without limitation. We learnt some of Luke’s choreography, then developed it into our own styles – playing with our strengths and imagination. Being put in a room and told to start working with new people was intimidating, but we had no option but to get on with it and doing this forced us to our extremes; we ended up producing some really beautiful movement. This proved to be really quite successful and by the end of the rehearsal we had a four and a half minute piece which is half of what our final overall performance would be.

Rehearsal 2

sixth-form-dancers-perform-at-the-point-1-cropReturning to The Point, having just got over all our aches and pains from the last rehearsal, we were still enthusiastic to see what more work we could produce. We layered choreography together, creating a full and rich performance, based on caring for one another and community. Our movement uses a communal undertone throughout as we shift from space to space forming images of family portraits and soft love. Having developed choreography in our previous rehearsal we began to build on these concepts and form a structure to our piece. Playing to our strengths, Luke generated ideas and choreography which flowed and intertwined through our existing structure. As soon as we had a finished piece, we rehearsed for the rest of the day. Refining the movement and going through each section tying up loose ends and correcting every detail really helped to enhance the choreography and each movement became clearer to understand.

Performance: For you I long the longest: a double-bill consisting of Second Self and Princess

sixth-form-dancers-perform-at-the-point-3-cropLuke Brown’s company performed with such elegance and fluidity and highlights of real humanistic moments really illustrated the story clearly to the audience. Their closeness and engagement with one another conveyed the true feeling of family and friendship. Using contact both to support the happy, togetherness as well as the darker emotions experienced with love. The piece, Second Self, explores the idolisation of each other and one’s characteristics as well as the comparison to one’s self. For their second performance, Princess, only three dancers were used to create the darker undertone and harshness of love. While one narrates the other two dance to illustrate their words, their movement slowly became more and more aggressive towards one another. As well as being a nonfictional piece, it had a fairy-tale-like feeling, this subtly commented on our day-to-day relationships aided by the use of props and costumes helping it to be suited to all ages.

Overall

Walking away from each rehearsal having learnt new material and experimented with new ideas was extremely satisfying. Luke’s crazy personality took charge of our rehearsals and promised us a good time, this made it very easy to work with one other having not met before. His material and concepts were so different to anything we’d done before and really challenged our imagination to push for the best ideas we had. The rehearsals were tough and tiring but we produced some amazing work which ended up being used in our final performance.

Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty

Matthew Bourne’s different way of thinking has yet again spawned an amazing take on one of the world’s favourite ballets. The legend, who goes by the name of Matthew Bourne, has formed something else: a new type of dance combining two into an irresistible umami of dance fusion.

His brilliance shines throughout the whole performance, as he puts his own unique twist on every step, producing moments of humour, sadness and pure joy.

But it’s not entirely straightforward.  At times he goes too far, blurring the boundaries of reality and fantasy too much leaving the audience confused.

Furthermore, a side of Bourne that wasn’t expected is shown through the projection. A lazy side. One that can’t make it obvious in the performance what is happening or think of a more creative way to do so, instead opting to project onto the curtain.

However, he redeems himself with the cliff hanger that is the interval.  A bite from a fairy is the last image the audience is left with before the curtain goes down. Making us wonder for a full 20 minutes: is that fairy bad or good?

Well played Bourne, well played.

By Tiger Clothier, Block 4
Block 4 Dance trip to Sleeping Beauty, Woking Theatre, 4th February

Youth Dance Platform showcases local talent

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On Sunday 1 March, Bedales held the annual Youth Dance Platform. This is a dance performance that consisted of Bedales students ranging from Block 4 to 6.2, and pupils from Dunhurst and other local schools including Frensham Heights, Amesbury, Petersfield Dance Academy and Karen Blackburn Company.

Throughout the show a variety a styles were shown to the audience such as Ballet, Contemporary, Street and Tap. There were also a variety of ages that performed, which was nice from an audience perspective to see a range of dancers as well as styles.

As well as the conventional styles performed, there was a performance that combined theatre as well as dance, performed and choreographed by 6.2 students Thomas Higginson and Anastasia Sheldon. Another performance that stood out to the audience was a contemporary group piece performed by Frensham Heights as well as the Hampshire Youth Dance Company who put on a production of their version of Matthew Bourne’s dance adaptation of Edward Scissorhands.

Overall the schools put on a great show and Bedales were able to once again show the public our creative skills. A special mention to Dunhurst too, as they put a lot of effort into their performance and worked together as a group very professionally.

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By Bella Watts, 6.2


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

Students enjoy engaging and contemporary dance production

On 27 February, Mapdance performed in the Bedales Olivier Theatre, staging works by a diverse range of choreographers. This resulted in four pieces which explored different aspects of life in a variety of styles, creating an engaging and contemporary production. The performance involved thirteen dancers, and was comprised of five pieces which were mostly contemporary dance to a greater or lesser extent. They tended to not be heavily reliant on a story-line, merely representing circumstances and interactions, which allowed the audience to project their own meaning onto the pieces. The dancers employed the use of an assortment of music, some of which was played onstage, and used spoken word to great effect. Afterwards there was a short question-and-answer session, which allowed the dancers to share their valuable experience and the audience to feedback their interpretations of the performance.

By Rachel Forsyth, Block 4


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

Bedales showcases best local dance talent

Bedales hosted a stunning display of dance at the Youth Dance Platform last weekend. The annual showcase of creative and imaginative contemporary dance saw students from Bedales and Dunhurst programmed alongside groups from other schools, colleges, and independent dance companies. Dunhurst Blocks 1 and 2 pupils performed a piece to a mix of songs from Walk on By to Walking on Sunshine. Street, Ballet, Modern and Tap were included in this piece. Bedales students’ choreography comprised a piece by Daisy Nielsen (Block 5) in a fast-moving Charleston duet with Daniel Rasbash (6.2). Block 4 students performed a piece to music by Danny Elfman. The Youth Dance Platform acted as a perfect rehearsal for Bedales Dance Performs two days later, which featured students studying Dance at BAC and A Level. The evening featured 17 performances inspired by different cultures. Read more. View photos: Youth Dance Platform; Bedales Dance Performs.

Bedales showcases best local dance talent

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Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.