Bedales Dance and Drama – a year in review

By Hayley Cole, Head of Drama and Liz Wood, Head of Dance

Despite another challenging COVID year, the Dance and Drama department have had another incredibly busy and successful year and we wanted to celebrate those successes with you.

All components of the Bedales Assessed Course (BAC) and A Level courses were completed, including practical units by all students on the courses. Schemes of work were adapted and students made video projects as practical assessments in lockdown, and when we have been in school, performance assessments have been recorded as evidence and shared digitally rather than visited by external examiners, or in some cases, rather than being viewed and appreciated by live audiences. This really allowed the students to gain skills in areas that would not have looked at previously.

We have still put on four co-curricular productions, adhering to restrictions and delivered in different mediums – whether to a closed audience live, live-streamed and shared afterwards, or shared as an entirely digital production. Our peripatetic lessons have continued online and live, and exams have been taken. Our enrichment programmes have culminated in performances, with the students concluding the hard work they have put into it after pausing projects during school closure.

We have all learned new skills and adapted our skillset to navigate these uncertain times. Yet we have grown from it, consistently certain in our determination to stay creatively challenged and celebrating the area we love – the arts.

The Autumn Term included BAC Dance and Drama assessments. The Block 4 and 5 dramatists performed devised work influenced by Greek theatre and practitioners. The dancers worked on live performances in the style of a multitude of practitioners, from August Bournonville to Alvin Ailey. 6.2 actors performed their re-enactments of classic texts in the style of Brecht, Ad Infinitum and Forced Entertainment. The Autumn Production was Constellations by Nick Payne, a beautiful two-hander about a relationship, love and quantum physics. The artistic interpretation of this play was created due to COVID, and yet practically and artistically was so much more exciting because of those creative choices. Block 5 and 6.2 actors appeared in multi-roles, in duplicate casts, complimented by 6.1 dancers who personified the themes and emotions of the piece, through their use of movement. It was stunning and the chemistry of the actors was incredible, despite the metre plus distance between them at all times!

The Spring Term was a digital one. BAC Drama students performed their stories in The Terrible Infants as recordings, editing and adding live music in the style of Kneehigh. At home, the Block 4 dancers continued to work on the sofa dance, choreographing in their own homes ready to bring it alive, and the Block 5 dancers rehearsed group choreographies together online, for each of them to create a dance-film based on an array of different stimuli. The dancers also took part in online external practitioner workshops to keep them moving.

The 6.2s acted their naturalist Rotterdam as a screenplay and the Spring Production of Machinal was made in to a film. The students were sent green screens, rehearsals took place on Microsoft Teams, the crew researched costume, hair and make-up and the actors sourced it at home, filmed themselves and the footage was spliced together and edited to make the final piece. It was released episode by episode in half term but if you did not get a chance to watch it, click here to enjoy it, episode by episode, or all at once if you prefer! The playwriting enrichment writers also completed the 30-minute original scripts which were entered into the National Theatre’s New Views competition. 

The Summer Term saw us back at school collaborating together and attending the theatre once more. Bedales Dance Performs saw 21 of the dance pieces that the students had been working on over the year. They included performances from all year groups and including one of the modern peripatetic lessons. View and buy photos from Bedales Dance Performs here. The students were incredibly excited to get back into the Theatre and perform their work, and even though there was no physical contact within the choreographies, this did not stop them performing with passion, focus and commitment.

The A Level final evidence was collected and recorded. 6.2 dramatists created two incredible devised performances and performed a Berkoff piece in the studio and a Footsbarn site specific promenade performance. The two student directors finally picked their projects back up again and Nay Murphy’s Definition of Charisma (which was longlisted in the National Theatre’s New Views competition) and August Janklow’s True West were both enjoyed by closed audiences in the Drama Studio. The finale of the year, including a cast and crew of over 60, was Chariots of Fire, full of actors and dancers, which was incredibly well attended and well received at the end of term. 

A huge thank you from us to all the students and staff who have gone above and beyond to make all of the above possible and professional. It is your tenacity and talent that makes us so proud of the Dance and Drama department, especially in the face of adversity and we look forward to a new year, with all the new skills and insight we have gained. 

“Nuanced and detailed” take on Nick Payne’s ‘Constellations’

This week, Block 5 and 6.2 students took part in a four-night run of this year’s Autumn production, ‘Constellations’ by Nick Payne. Due to ongoing restrictions, two duplicate casts of eight performed alongside dancers in the Theatre, with two of the performances livestreamed for parents at home.

By Isobel de Gier, 6.1

Watching Block 5 and 6.2’s nuanced and detailed approach to Nick Payne’s Constellations – aided by Hayley Cole’s directorial work – was a joy. Between the many interpretations of protagonists Marianne and Roland, played by the electric Ella Peattie and captivating Nay Murphy, there were multiple humorous moments. The play then quickly juxtaposed those comical elements with tender and heart-breaking scenes of the characters’ future selves.

The play masterfully toyed with light and shade, enrapturing its audience. The experience was immersive and the audience laughed, cried and became enraged alongside the characters – with every smile, laugh, or frown of the many versions of Marianne and Roland, the audience was enveloped deeper. This is not only a testament to the subtle and refined acting style, but the beautiful LED lit set, the bewitching dancing by Lucy Albuquerque and Mathilda Douglas and masterful directing. If you did not see the many parallel universes of Marianne and Roland, you really did miss out. 

By Aria Taheri-Murphy, 6.1

On Tuesday, the second cast of Constellations performed an amazing representation of raw love, shown through the perspective of many versions of Marianne and Roland. The audience watched the variety of ways their love unfolded in the different scenarios, however as the play reached its conclusion all the main plotlines merged into one story.

Not only were the actors amazing, but the set was incredible, set on different levels with small light-up hexagons beneath each level. These related to the hexagon projections across the stage. Projections of drawings and maths equations were used throughout the performance and as the audience began to understand the characters the hexagons became very significant. 

The dancing added an exciting new element, this too was socially distanced, but this did not affect the quality of their work. Two A Level Dance students performed throughout the play, expressing the characters’ frustration, love, grief, and pain. The actors clearly showed these emotions, however there were times where the dance could truly show the raw feelings the characters were trying to hide. Overall, the acting, directing, staging and choreography was amazing and created a hard-hitting love story which didn’t need to be shown physically, much like the National Theatre socially distanced performance of Lungs.

Dancing in the style of Richard Alston

By Soph Baty, 6.2

On 13 November, the professional dancer Hannah Kidd came into school to help me, Evie Adams and Mathilda Douglas with our solo choreography, which will go towards our final A Level Dance grade. Hannah previously worked for the Richard Alston Dance Company from 2007-2013. Richard Alston is the practitioner all three of us have chosen to base our solos on and his movement and choreographic style is key to this piece of work.

During the 1.5 hour rehearsal with Hannah, she helped me adapt the way I perform my movements to be more like Alston, focusing the arms and legs within every movement and going further than I thought I could within the solo. I learnt that I need to keep a strong stamina throughout my solo and adjusted small details to help project his style.

Evie said: “I found the session extremely useful. It helped me gain greater insight into Richard Alston’s style. We went through my solo and adjusted small details to help project his style. The main aspect I took away from the session was the contrast between relaxation and linearity in the performance of the piece.”

Mathilda said: “Hannah helped me realise how important the use of focus is within Richard Alston’s style. Richard has many different aspects of dance styles and Hannah helped me incorporate them all within my piece.”

Overall, Hannah’s input helped push all of our solos to the maximum and aided us greater insight into Alston’s style. It was an amazing opportunity for us to receive support and constructive criticism from Hannah who has danced for Alston before. This experience has definitely made a huge impact to how we will perform our movement and choreography within our solos.  

Virtual visit to Sadler’s Wells for Chalayan’s ‘Gravity Fatigue’

Gravity-Fatigue

By Lucy Albuquerque, Block 5

We recently took a virtual school trip to go and see Hussein Chalayan’s Gravity Fatigue at Sadler’s Wells Theatre. Gravity Fatigue is a mixture of a dance and fashion show all in one, and this is what makes this show so unique.

As Chalayan is a fashion designer, not a choreographer himself, he worked with Damien Jalet to create the show. Chalayan wanted to show the connection between clothes and movement, and how they work together in space. He uses other ways as well as movement to portray the message to the audience; for example, he explores different floorwork and how the dancers engage with their costumes.

Throughout the show, the lighting stood out to me, as it was used to show a change of dancer or the emotion that Chalayan was trying to embody. Lighting was also used to highlight the direction that dancers moved in – for instance, when a circular spotlight lit up, the dancers turned in a circle as if in a trance, reflecting the shape of the lighting.

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Old Bedalian Mila Fernandez inspires students in virtual Dance workshop

Dance-workshop

By Charlotte Land, 6.1

On 4 June, A Level Dance students were fortunate enough to take part in an online workshop run by Old Bedalian Mila Fernandez. Mila studies dance at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance in London, The workshop focused on imagery and improvisation, merging the two concepts together to form a piece of dance.

We began the workshop by imagining a beach and its waves and, while working on our breathing, started moving around the space before adding arm gestures. We then proceeded to change the dynamics by making the movement more complex, using differing levels and the whole body. The second part of the workshop also included the use of imagery, but this time it was a piece of clothing. We began by moving only our backs, playing around with how expressive you can be using only your torso. We envisioned our garments and started to create movement for their different parts: colour, texture, how it felt to wear it, etc. It was an interesting approach we haven’t tried before, and it pushed us out of our comfort zones. One 6.1 student felt they had learned how to let loose and allow their body to flow without having to think about what was coming next.

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Celebrating International Dance Day

By Liz Wood, Head of Dance

Students across all year groups explored the world of Dance through different creative ways last Wednesday in celebration of International Dance Day and they are still going. Issy Robinson from Block 3 researched the Kukri dance, a traditional Nepalese dance that the Gurkhas perform. Rowena Le Poer Trench has been looking at the healthy eating of a dancer, particularly following advice from Canadian fitness coach/dancer Maddie Lymburner, Rowena has made a short film which shows a particular smoothie that is recommended. Imogen Wright watched the online performance of Dust by Akram Khan, whilst Charlotte Land – along with her sisters Izzy and Phoebe – explored counterbalance shapes, and Hannah Mazas created a short film at the dinner table with her brothers Elio and Josh.

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