Gaining Experience with Northern Ballet Learning

Published on Wednesday 26 January, 2011

Learning through danceRAD graduate Sarah Hearn spent 3 weeks with the Learning team to gain an insight into Dance Education. She tells us about her experience...

As a graduate from the Royal Academy of Dance with a degree in Ballet Education, I decided to get experience of dance education in a variety of settings throughout this year as most of my experience so far has been in teaching private ballet lessons.  Following a lecture from Northern Ballet’s Director of Learning, Selina McGonagle about the work of the Learning team, I was able to arrange a work placement with Northern Ballet to gain an insight into the role of a Dance Education Officers and company life in general.

My first day of work placement with Northern Ballet’s Learning team was spent in the office meeting everyone who all made me feel very welcome and looking forward to the coming week filled with a variety of workshops for me to assist with.

After navigating my way to a primary school I was welcomed to my first START workshop led by Dance Education Officer, Sophie Alder. The workshop allowed students to explore the Nutcracker ballet through a range of activities, learn more about what the company does through looking at pictures of the professional dancers and learning steps from the ballet repertoire. They were then able to choreograph their own variations of the Nutcracker Chinese Dance. They learned about ballet as a dance style through learning some basic ballet terms and from the knowledge that Sophie was able to impart to them.

I have worked in a number of schools where ballet is not a popular choice in dance classes and is often referred to in a jokey manner by a number of children in particular boys. It was refreshing to see young people engaging with ballet in a new way and actually really enjoying themselves. The workshop allowed for them to explore ballet freely and at their own pace without requiring them to try and perfect classical technique which would be required if learning ballet in the Private Sector where the students pay for the classes and train in ballet to be able to pass exams. It showed them that you don’t have to be an outstanding dancer to enjoy ballet. What surprised me the most was how totally focused the children were in the creative tasks set for them. They came up with really interesting, well rehearsed dance pieces and were able to give appropriate positive and constructive feedback to each other. They showed true appreciation for the opportunity they had been given.

I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunity to work with such an amazing company that is producing such innovative outreach work.