William Edwards Students work with Royal Opera House artists
Royal Opera House Thurrock Trailblazer school William Edwards in Stifford Clays is beginning to make its mark as a dance hub for the area with students studying Resident Choreographer of The Royal Ballet, Wayne McGregor’s, work for GCSE and taking part in the Royal Opera House’s Chance to Dance programme.
Thurrock schools working on the Royal Opera House Thurrock Trailblazer programme are the first in the country to take part in workshops with the Royal Opera House as part of their studies of Royal Ballet Resident Choreographer Wayne McGregor’s one-act ballet Infra. The ballet has been added to AQA’s Dance GCSE syllabus. Three Thurrock schools are studying Infra: William Edwards School, Gateway Academy, and Grays Convent High School.
William Edwards hosted a Royal Opera House dance facilitator on Tuesday 25 April for the first of their Infra workshops. Inspired by the Latin ‘vide infra’ meaning ‘see below’, Infra presents a portrait of life beneath the surface of the city of London. Infra workshops provide students with a deepened understanding of the possibilities of choreography and dance.
‘It was lovely to see the students manipulating and using their bodies in a way that was so different. They enjoyed the creative process and learning the repertoire from Infra. The students were able to both choreograph interesting signature solos and perform original choreography by the end of the workshop. The workshop was dynamic, fast paced and thorough throughout the day, which engaged the students from start to finish. They all left feeling inspired with an insight into McGregor’s choreographic processes,’ said Mrs Jarman, Head of Dance at William Edwards.
The students were equally enthused by the workshops: ‘I liked that we got to change traditional Ballet moves to make them abstract. The energy throughout the day was amazing,’ said Poppy Blackledge. Fellow student Anne-Marie Cairns gained a lot from the session: ‘At the beginning of the day I was nervous to take on the choreography from Infra but I was performing with confidence at the end of the day and even creating my own signature solo.’
The Infra and Chance to Dance workshops are led by Hayley Ryan, a dance facilitator who also works for the Royal Opera House as a Trailblazer Learning and Participation Officer at the High House Production Park. Hayley is originally from Aveley and trained at local stage school, Poulton Lee Theatre School, before going on to achieve a Masters in Dance and a career as a freelance dancer. She said ‘I am thrilled to be working for the Royal Opera House Thurrock Trailblazer programme and am really inspired by the work I see in Thurrock schools across many different art forms.’
Chance to Dance, the Royal Opera House’s long-running creative introduction to ballet 7 year olds, holds it regular classes at William Edwards School. Year 3 children throughout Thurrock are offered a mix of Royal Ballet demonstrations and practical workshops to identify those with enthusiasm and aptitude for dance who are then invited to join the Chance to Dance Company for up to four years, going to weekly classes locally, attending family days at the Royal Opera House and working towards an annual performance alongside dancers from the Royal Ballet.