Central School of Ballet's Design for Dance: A Model Program within a London Ballet Conservatory

By Singer, Toba | Dance Magazine, August 2005 | Go to article overview

Central School of Ballet's Design for Dance: A Model Program within a London Ballet Conservatory


Singer, Toba, Dance Magazine


"Half of choreography is just setting on with it," muses Sara Matthews, assistant director of London's Central School of Ballet. "It's not what you're taught, but what you do with it." At CSB, a three-year degree program for students ages 16 to 19 founded in 1982 by former Royal Ballet principal dancer Christopher Gable, choreography is required of all students. They make solos during their first year and group works in their second.

Matthews, who danced with Rambert Dance Company, designed and, with input from guest teachers, curates the unique study module that has helped launch the choreography careers of CSB graduates. Morgann Runacre-Temple, for example, is a 2005 apprentice with choreographer Cathy Marston (a 2004 DM "25 to Watch") at the Linbury Theatre of the Royal Opera House and her works are in the repertoire of European Ballet and Ballet Ireland. Michael Keegan Dolan founded Ireland's Fabulous Beast Theatre and his Giselle was featured in the prestigious Barbican International Theatre Event season (BITE:05).

In workshop, Matthews encourages dancers to explore, focusing on ways to put movement together that stretch their concept of ballet. "They'll choose a ballet phrase, then take it apart, or approach it as a contemporary phrase," she explains. Students then develop a project by first selecting a poem, an image of a statue, or a piece of music as inspiration. During the summer before their second year, they write an outline of how they will use their stimulus object. Matthews says, "Some come back incredibly well-organized--with scrapbooks, and painted images to work from--a very successful, though not prescriptive, working document."

The students also find their own music from a range that includes Baroque (1680-1730), French (1900-1930), European late romantic, South American classical, non-European traditional percussion-based, and North American (1965-1985), and that pointedly excludes contemporary pop music. "We used to let them use whatever music they wanted, but they kept choosing pop or film scores," says Matthews. "Now, we discourage them from using what's easy and available."

In tutorials students and faculty advisors talk through ideas and suggestions.

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