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START Project 2012

Friday was a day of recovery for the Learning team as the START project came to an end for another year.

Photo Brian Slater.

On Thursday we had 550 young people (plus their teachers) watching the performance of Madame Butterfly at Leeds Grand Theatre and the atmosphere in the theatre was electric.

If you've never been to the Grand Theatre before, and most of the pupils taking part in the project haven't, it is an amazing place to walk into and the ornate decoration is unlike anything the pupils have seen before. As one pupil stated “All I can say is ‘wow’!”

Going to the performance was the culmination of a term’s worth of work for the pupils which started in January when they came to Northern Ballet’s studio to watch a special mixed programme performance introduced by David Nixon.  The project, which introduces young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to ballet and to the theatre, also gives them the chance to take part in workshops with our Dance Education Officer, Leanne Kirkham. She has been keeping very active during the project, delivering 44 dance workshops in the 17 different schools who are taking part.

Photo Tim Smith.

Throughout the project teachers are encouraged to make links with their other lessons. One teacher, having used the old tiles that adorn the walls of the theatre as a starting point for studying symmetry during a maths lesson, was pleased when pupils spotted the tiles on their way to their seats and spoke about them, proving that they really had been paying attention during class!

The pupils taking part in the project are aged from 7 to 19 and it was fantastic to see them all enjoying the performance, appreciating different elements such as the costumes, the athletic movements, the music or even the ‘ripped’ (muscular!) bodies of the male dancers. 

Photo Brian Slater.

Not only did the company manager comment on how much extra applause there was compared to most audiences, but as I was trying to organise the waiting coaches outside (under the watchful eye of the local traffic warden!) I could hear the cheers and whistles of the appreciative crowd from the street! 

One member of the public commented to us “how lovely it is to see young people at the theatre”.  We’ll be running again next year and we’re aiming to include even more schools, giving hundreds more young people their fist taste of ball in what we hope is an unforgettable experience.

Jo Dean
Learning Project Manager

The views expressed in blogs are those of the author and not necessarily of Northern Ballet.