This week, our award winning Performing Arts programme was recognised once again, when the team were named one of three finalists for the ISA Award for Excellence and Innovation in Performing Arts. Our fabulous Director of Performing Arts, Sarah Cakebread had much to say to the judges about the student experience in the classroom, on the stage, in the studio and out in the field.
Originality and innovation in Performing Arts is essential for growth, dynamic creativity, joy and sense of ownership for performers. At Claremont, we believe it is found through encouraging play and engendering a sense of ‘passion without preciousness’.
For Performing Arts at Claremont to be the successful and thriving area of school life that it is – staff, as well as students need to be excited about the work we are exploring – that is why we continually change, develop and discover alongside our students. Performing Arts is like no other area of their student life – they cannot get it wrong! It is a doorway to the fullest expression of themselves – something of profound value to our teenagers. We desire incredible experiences and outcomes for all of our students but how we navigate that journey with them only becomes apparent as we get to know the young person themselves. We do not put a ceiling on what our students can achieve in performance, and this empowers them to produce truly outstanding work across all three disciplines.
In Drama this year we have performed 60+ scenes from 20+ plays – work such as Vincent River, Caucasian Chalk Circle, Island Town, A Slight Ache, The Weir and an outdoor Twelfth Night with an all Year 9 cast. We have a broad range of audiences for our performers to cater for – peers, family, staff, visiting schools, examiners and locals who have heard that we have Theatre worth seeing!
We recently opened a small fringe style venue, The Studio, as our second space. With the audience never more than a metre away, it has had a profoundly positive impact on the detail the performers are working in. They know that at this close proximity, they cannot just perform as the character they are playing, instead their every thought and twitch of an eye needs to belong entirely to the role.
A flexible approach to teaching allows us to take risks throughout the year. This year, our Year 13 students not only indulged audiences with their utterly irreverent and decadent ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ in our main Theatre, but later in the year, they took to their cars as Site Specific Performance Spaces and performed their original Devised naturalistic piece ‘The Morning After the Night Before’. It required them to perform over and over again with only 45 second breaks as each new audience sat three abreast on the back seat, moving from car to car as the drama unfolds. This would be a tough gig for any performer – but the trust, the desire and the skill of our young people left us astounded once again. One audience member said “The closeness of being in the middle of the scene was very intense and brilliant – and how they didn’t get distracted by talking to each other with 3 pairs of eyes closely watching you was amazing – it was like they were invisible to you.”
The Dance Space at Claremont is a hub of creativity where boundaries are pushed and experiments explode – generating high quality work. Our teaching and guidance grow the skill and love of Dance and then we provide platforms for this abundance to thrive. Claremont is a leading school in running Rambert Grades, a new framework that works with the dancer as a whole person regardless of Dance background. Claremont has been one of the first centres to take students through the Rambert programme with 100% distinctions and merits awarded in 2023.
All Year 9 have educational Dance lessons. This opportunity supports the inclusivity of Dance and increases students’ perception of what dance is and what it can do for the body and mindset of an individual. This year our Football Academy players have been put through their paces with basic ballet training and professional dance workshops with dancer Jordan Nesbitt – this has really encouraged our boys to see Dance as belonging to them, too. Dialogue with current industry professionals such as Cleo Demetrio and Alicia Alley and working with professional lighting and sound technicians in our annual Dance Show and Musical – gives our students a very real experience of working in the Dance industry and demands that they prepare fully, and commit wholeheartedly.
At Claremont we have dedicated musicians, award winning choirs and most recently, a very able ‘bunch of techies’! Music Technology is offered at A-level and as a co-curricular activity. Music Scholars run the Music Tech club; their delivery of the sessions enables them to deepen their understanding of their own skills and knowledge. In addition, these students gain invaluable experience in leadership and communication. The younger participants in years 9-11 gain skills in music production, recording and DJ-ing, which can then be utilised in their Music lessons with greater proficiency and confidence, enabling them to take ownership of their learning at a higher level. The adaptability and problem solving skills shown in these sessions is rewarding to see.
We focus on the whole person in the Performing Arts, everything that a student is, everything they stand for and against, their interests,their cultures and experiences all feed into the work that they produce and how they reflect upon the work we create. The skills needed and developed in the creative processes alter each and every young person – they find both camaraderie and self reliance, leaving them feeling gently held and fully empowered. Seeing students, who elsewhere may not be heard, literally ‘hold the space’ and the attention of a live audience, leaves us in awe of them, time and time again!
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There is no better way to get a feel for student life at Claremont than by visiting us in person. Join us during Open House Week to tour our beautiful sites, meet the Heads of School and teaching team, chat with students, view their work and enjoy some delicious refreshments along the way.
Join us for an eclectic, annual celebration of dance featuring recent work from talented performers up and down the senior school.