Monday 15 March 2021

Reimagining 1700s ballet for the modern GCSE syllabus: Acland Burghley School and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment


In September 2020, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (OAE) moved into offices in Acland Burghley Comprehensive School in Camden. For the first time, the orchestra's players, staff and library were all in the same place. But the move isn't just about office space, it is a creative residency and the first fruits of this are now being seen. Last week the OAE released a video featuring the year 10 students from the school dancing to the 'Danse des Sauvages' from Rameau's Les Indes galantes. The group of GCSE students worked in partnership with the OAE to choreograph, direct and record the music video.

This wasn't a case of an arts group coming in, telling the students what to do and then leaving again. The students themselves took inspiration from Baroque dance videos on YouTube, and were drawn to the 'Danse des Sauvages' with its strong and distinctive rhythmic pulse, and the music sparked enthusiastic discussion, music and choreography evolved hand in hand.

Adrian Bending, OAE Principal Timpani, began the collaboration by overseeing the marriage of music to dance and later directed the Orchestra's recording. He says: 'This project wasn’t a case of us telling the students what to do. After our initial introductions, the students were increasingly willing to healthily disagree, taking from us only what sat well with them. Every voice was heard. We are eager and excited for these collaborations to become a regular fixture of a long, happy and most rewarding partnership between Acland Burghley School and OAE.'

The video isn't the only creative part of the residency, the OAE has delivered numerous interactive workshops for all students in Years 7, 8 and 9. These workshops have ranged from exploring the instruments of the orchestra, illustrated sessions on blues and jazz compositional techniques as part of curriculum studies and a study day for all GCSE music students on Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4.

The video being made in the hall of Acland Burghley School
The video being made in the hall of Acland Burghley School (Photo Acland Burghley School / OAE)

Further information from the school website, and the OAE website.

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