Nick Scherf
January 28, 2021

Performing Arts Department Adapts Strategies

Performing Arts Department Adapts Strategies BISW's Performing Arts adjusts strategies to keep virtual Dance, Drama, and Music classes rigorous and special.

The world-class instructors at the British International School of Washington always use creative thinking to adapt strategies and keep lessons current, but during the pandemic, BISW faculty and staff have had to adjust to heightened demands and new processes. For example, to reduce movement in the school building, the Performing Arts Department took classes online for all year groups, including on-campus classes. 


The study of the performing arts enhances children's development and promotes higher academic achievement. The courses help students gain confidence in self-expression and develop compassion for the world around them. For these reasons and others, BISW found it crucial for students to have continued opportunities in the performing arts. Fortunately, the forward-thinking Performing Arts team transformed lessons to make virtual courses in Dance, Drama, and Music as meaningful and rigorous as they would be in the school building. 


Currently, the theme for some specialist courses is Around the World. From here in Washington, DC, the Performing Arts instructors collaborated with curriculum specialists at the Juilliard School to develop schemes of work, utilise the Juilliard Creative Classroom, and provide students with chances to explore fun and highly intellectual topics from other countries. For instance, in primary school virtual lessons, students have been making Greek masks in Drama and considering the use of the body to express a character when the face is hidden. Furthermore, Music classes have been exploring the drum rhythms synonymous with Senegalese celebrations, including call and response and various rhythms, and Dance classes have begun to learn Ballet technique with barre and allegro exercises followed by a choreographed routine. 


Then, students in the lower secondary year groups have been looking at Rhythms Around the World. Every two weeks, the students study dance from a different country, such as Indian Kathak, Latin Samba Beats, and American Tap Dance. The lower secondary school students are also working on a wonderful virtual musical performance. 


"The students auditioned for the digital musical via filmed extracts of a script, which they posted online," explained Director of Performing Arts and NAE Juilliard Regional Head Rachel White-Hunt. "The cast is now working on the digital musical in their own time. They post their videos to the cast's webpage for review and video feedback by the performing arts team." 


Each month, the children in the musical gather over the online collaboration platform Microsoft Teams. The students will polish their scenes at home. Later, the students will merge their scenes into a full musical performance available on YouTube. The musical tells an entertaining story about a drama club member who visits Custodia, a fictional area of the school where janitors roam. With help from friends, the student tries to solve a mystery that involves this intriguing land. 


"We have also introduced practical elements to the lessons whilst maintaining our distance by learning tap and flamenco footwork behind desks," Performing Arts and Dance Specialist Alison Bates explained. "Another example of Performing Arts adapting strategies is using a desk to create rhythms when we aren't able to use drums currently." 


Upper secondary school students have also been exploring wonderful performing arts topics in a virtual environment. For example, the year 10 class have been looking at performing arts disciplines from around the world and thinking about how they linked with cultural identities. By the end of the term, the students will explore their perspective of their own cultural identity and create a piece in the media of their choice. 


According to Nord Anglia Education, "creating, interpreting, and improvising are at the core of the Juilliard-Nord Anglia Performing Arts Programme," so it is fitting that the Performing Arts Department is such a resilient part of BISW. Be sure to check out other ways the Performing Arts Department has adapted strategies and watch the exciting BISW Primary Virtual Concert and the BISW Virtual Open Mic in the YouTube clips below, and subscribe to our YouTube channel to see the latest videos.