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Beech House Pupils Dance with Ballet Stars

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Beech House was delighted to welcome professional dancers Michael Berkin and Emily Edwards from the Professional Dance Experience to the school for a fun-filled day of ballet workshops with the children.

Michael is a former Head Boy of The Royal Ballet School and trained there for 8 years.  He performed in many of the Royal Ballet's productions on the famous Royal Opera House Stage in Covent Garden.  He has danced with many top international ballet companies including the Birmingham Royal Ballet, the Royal New Zealand Ballet, Ballet Ireland and the Northern Ballet.  His roles have included the Nutcracker Prince and Drosselmeyer in The Nutcracker, the lead in Sylphides, Tybalt, Paris and Lord Capulet in Romeo and Juliet, and many more.

Emily is also an ex-professional ballerina who trained at Rambert Ballet School in London and has danced with a number of top ballet companies including Ballet Cymru, the National Ballet Company of Wales.

Speaking about the importance of bringing ballet to young children, Michael said, “This is how I got into ballet – a professional ballet dancer came into my school, and I was inspired by the how he could leap and twirl and spin. That’s the whole idea of the Professional Dance Experience Workshops: to give the children the experience of what the world of professional ballet is like.

“We start off with ballet techniques, then move on to working creatively based on a ballet, in this case The Nutcracker, and give them the chance to make up their own sequences. It gives them a taste of the training, what it’s like rehearsing and then performing. It just gives them that insight.”

Pupils in Years 1 and 2 at Beech House Infant School had an inspiring and fantastic day with the professional dancers doing ballet workshops based on The Nutcracker. The children spent some time doing classical ballet exercises and practicing a variety of low, middle and high balances. After this, they learned more about the story, characters, costume and history of the ballet. They were then able to put together their own sequence of balances and rehearse putting them together before showing them to the group. The workshops culminated in an informal performance, which impressed the teachers at Beech House.

The event was organised by Mrs K Donnelly, one of the P.E. teachers at Beech House Infant School. She said, “The Professional Dance Experience Workshops were really inspiring and exciting dance sessions, and they gave our children a unique chance to learn with the professionals. What a wonderful opportunity for all our pupils at Beech House, particularly our budding ballet dancers!”

Pupils were able to engage with experienced professional ballet dancers, and gained a great insight into life as a dancer. They were given a brief taste of ballet training, technique, rehearsal and performance in the short workshops, and were able to ask questions of their own. The children also had the opportunity to see how a professional dance performance comes together, with many behind the scenes photographs and costumes for pupils to see.

The workshops had the children moving and exercising to music in an expressive way which was creative, active and great fun. They brought to life the characters from The Nutcracker and learned some ballet steps.

The children certainly had a great time taking part. Eesa Chariwala from Year 2 said, “I really liked making up our own solos using the balances we learned. It was quite fun and easy!  I want to do more ballet because it’s like gymnastics, and I really like that. Some of the moves are also like the ones I learn at Kung Fu!”

Hannah Faulkner who is also in Year 2 said, “I enjoyed when we were practicing poses and running from one corner to the other. I used to do it when I was younger, and I want to do more now!”

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Michael helps two pupils perfect their balance

Michael helps two pupils perfect their balance

Emily shows some of the children the Nutcracker used in a performance

Emily shows some of the children the Nutcracker used in a performance

Putting moves together to music

Putting moves together to music