'Home is where our hearts are' - Schools Choreography Challenge 2018

Throughout September and October, our annual Schools Choreography Challenge saw professional dance practitioners working with 150 students across 10 schools and youth groups.

The students’ dance ability was challenged technically and choreographically, as they each created a movement piece using the theme of HOME to be performed on the Corn Exchange stage.

Wednesday 7 November was a busy day for the schools as they headed to the Corn Exchange to perform their pieces. As their rehearsals with lighting and sound came to an end in the late afternoon, it was just a matter of hours before audiences would arrive to support, encourage and congratulate all the hard work that had been put in. There was a definite buzz backstage, a few nerves and a lot of smiles as the young dancers awaited their turn in the spotlight to show off their spectacular talent.

The audience were certainly not left disappointed, they were witness to a huge variety of dance from a range of ages and abilities. It was incredible to see how each group interpreted the theme differently – from pieces looking at homelessness, Victorian family portraits, home routines, and even a soloist performance showing us shows us the fun that can be had when you’re home alone and full of imagination. One school included spoken word in their piece - there really was something for everyone! The show ran extremely smoothly and the dancers were incredibly professional.

The show also included performances from the Corn Exchange’s resident boys dance company, WISE, and a special half term Boys Finale Project. The WISE members, no stranger to our stage, were the perfect example of dance professionals as they wowed the schools and the audience with their choreography. Our Boys Finale Project, working with Matt Lawson – founder member of WISE - consisted of 3 intensive evenings exploring the responses to home, not as place, but as a movement vocabulary, and he dancers were challenged to push away from that ‘home’.

A huge credit should also go to the practitioners that have worked with the schools, challenging their ability and skill: John Darvell of NOCTURN, Luke Brown of Luke Brown Dance, Cherie Brennan, Steph Townsend and Matt Lawson.

But the biggest thank you has to be extended to the schools and the students themselves. From arranging the sessions and extra rehearsals, to perfecting their performances and for being so professional. We hope the dancers left feeling inspired, challenged and with a sense of accomplishment with all they had achieved. We received some wonderful feedback from schools commenting that as a result of the project the students had “increased self-belief” and a “huge boost in their own sense of pride”. One school also found the project showed “dance as a purposeful, worthwhile activity”.

With thanks to Bucklebury C of E Primary School, Chaddleworth, St Andrew’s and Shefford Primary School, Hampstead Norreys C of E Primary School, The Ilsleys Primary School,The Castle School,Trinity Secondary School, St Gabriel’s, The Downs Secondary School, WISE Boys Dance Company and the participants of the Boys Finale Project.

We hope to see you all again next year!