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Dancers keep their rhythm in lockdown

Director of Drama and Dance Jane Quan reports on the commitment and positive mindset of pupils and staff during lockdown.

Though coronavirus has curbed our movements over the last few months, that is not the case for those keen dancers who have carried on with their live ballet lessons, their D or C street dance ECA and those using new ECAs such as 'learn a new style a week' or 'contemporary choreography'. It has been heartening to see how many pupils have continued with dance, especially in the junior years, even though it is more challenging at times, and requires more rigour and discipline to carry on in isolation without the immediate camaraderie and encouragement of working together. I cannot praise our teachers and those keen pupils enough. Amongst shifts in perspective and the odd epiphany brought about by the lockdown personally, it has been fascinating to see which pupils have embraced change and leapt bravely at opportunities, or been unfazed and focused, or, perhaps most impressively, found the courage to ask for help and guidance when struggling. I think teachers can easily learn from how pupils have responded. I hope I have.

Pupils are missing their teachers (yes, I know, I never thought I would write those words!) and Bryony (currently furloughed, and hugely missed), Sam and Janet will be welcomed back when 'live' with open arms! In the meantime, ballet lessons continue for Grade 5 through to Intermediate, as pictured, and bedrooms, kitchens, garages and gardens have all been utilised for dance sessions over the last six weeks, making highly entertaining viewing for me, as I pop in and out of various sessions of street, contemporary and ballet. The right heaviness and height of chair back has been debated to make a safe barre; the position of windows for the correct lighting; and the distance from the screen to enable toes and fingers to be in shot. As confidence has grown, pupils are finding their voices and making the best of this new style of lesson. 

Particular thanks are due to Sam, who renovated her garage (and her partner’s work-space!)  to create a dance studio for her voluntarily filmed warm-ups and dance classes for street dance, contemporary and tap, keeping pupils dancing at a time they can manage, around the world. 

Janet has continued ballet lessons from Week 1 of the Spring term, tackling technical issues with characteristic patience, and the help of her husband, Mick (honorary dance staff). The picture reflects work done by some of the Grade 6 group. 

Before she is even working for Bryanston, OB Jenni Turrill (appointed as sport resident for September 2020) has been putting her teacher training to use. She has introduced a group of D, C and B pupils to a variety of contemporary pieces, utilising her knowledge of the GCSE dance specification and encouraging personal choreography. Through this we hope pupils can use their time more freely and independently to explore and reflect on this art form.  Pictures feature choreography explored from The Emancipation of Expressionism by Boy Blue and A Linha Curva by Rambert. Jenni has also been posting films of a 'new style a week', including musical theatre, jazz and contemporary, and her superb contribution and generosity to Bryanston, as an OB and as an accomplished graduate, promises to add greatly to our eclectic dance department next year, coming as she does from a sport as well as a dance perspective. 

A final salute must go to the wonderful Dance Deputies who have enabled some of our larger dance groups to meet in smaller groups, perfect choreography, warm up and, most importantly, chat. Dance classes are social and supportive as much as they are about learning dance. Isobel and Libby in A2 were quick to offer to run street dance sessions for D and C groups each Tuesday despite being able, frankly, to walk away from that kind of responsibility; as were A3s Emilia, Iona, Minna, Grace and Honey. I'd say virtual dance sessions with understandably quiet junior pupils (who don't tend to put their cameras on) should be listed amongst the most challenging initial gigs for a teacher, yet they and their groups have stayed the course. What can I say? Hat off.

Jane Quan
Director of Drama and Dance