Incorporating drama, the last part of our performing arts programme is more than just learning how to act. Acknowledging each subject’s qualities while engaging in all three curricula in a holistic way can help students build skills that are transferrable, which means they can be used across their subjects at school and later on in life, says Rachel Whitehunt, Director of Performing Arts at the British International School of Washington.
Teachers at our schools around the world are exploring the idea of offering holistic experiences within the performing arts that give students three-dimensional learning opportunities, challenging them to look at their work in different ways. This is supported by teachers being able to draw on the Creative Classroom, an extraordinary online collection of educational resources that have been designed by Juilliard to enhance and supplement all three performing arts curricula.
At the British International School of Washington (BISW) for example, students in Year 9 participate in a performing arts class that is project based. Here, they learn about drama, music and dance techniques that are applied to a project that they develop.
Developing a performing arts project includes ideas that grow and change as student thought around the project evolves. This is developed by drawing from the Creative Classroom and our own teaching ideas. We explored how different energies in characters can be conveyed through music, drama and dance, and inspired students to work in “production companies”, where they were asked to interpret a given script or text that include all three performing arts and more e.g. lighting and tech support.
This concept is not a new one however the way the learning experience is delivered is. We allow students to explore and experience a concept from many dimensions. We want to challenge our students in more ways than possible, opening a door to some of our students who in the past may not have connected or resonated with the arts. Eric Booth, author of The Music Teaching Artist’s Bible, Becoming a Virtuoso Educator says in his book: “The arts are the secular common ground, the agora, where people can meet to address the most important issues in life.”
Eric Booth conducted a workshop at a professional development session with Juilliard and inspired us all. Offering performing arts opportunities across whole year groups emphasised his point. We want to challenge our students in ways that go beyond the arts, giving them a voice, a tool, that can nurture their ability to empathise with others, to consider another’s point of view.
Thinking about how you can convey energy to an audience takes students on a journey that explores many aspects of the performing arts, from music, composition, sound effects, technology, the overture, ballet and use of gesture, physical expression, blocking, script writing and pace and lighting, just to name a few. By working as a team, students apply their learning to create a performing arts piece encompassing several arts elements that aim to constantly challenge their thinking and the way they perceive things.
Harry Roberts, a Drama teacher at BISW says by learning an art form, students develop several life skills. “I see drama as a holistically-important curriculum available in our performing arts programme. As globalisation permeates the 21st century, the ability to talk, act and communicate in a variety of formats becomes paramount. Moreover, focusing on collaboration, autonomy and respect provides young learners with the life skills that are transferable; both now and as they move into adulthood”.
Developing performing arts across our schools and showing students and our school communities how we can express ourselves, develop independent thinking, self-motivation and an understanding of the arts through multiple perspectives is an integral part of a forward-thinking education. No, we are not trying to make all our students stage ready (however if this is your vision, your child is in the right place!)
We want to create students who are curious, who share a love and joy of the arts, and who feel comfortable exploring and experiencing it. We want our students to feel that their creativity is supported in a wide range of ways and that they are free to experiment and develop many different aspects within the arts. We want to acknowledge and teach performance arts by linking music, dance and drama in a way that gives students the opportunity to express themselves fully and appreciate how this interdisciplinary subject gives them a platform to analyse and experience the nuts and bolts of real life. Why would we teach these subjects independently within a box when life is not like that?
As we roll out dance and drama across schools we are excited for students, parents and teachers to see and experience a multifaceted performing arts programme that truly embodies our Be Ambitious mind set.