Smoke machines, backflips and baroque drums: Reimagining Rameau for GCSE

In September 2020, we entered into a unique residency agreement with Acland Burghley School (ABS). We didn't waste time getting to work on a collaborative performance project.

In this music video, a group of students can be seen performing an original dance that they choreographed for their GCSE exam, accompanied by us performing Rameau’s ‘Danse des Sauvages’ from Les Indes Galantes. The collaboration is an important first step in demonstrating how working together can enrich an appreciation of the arts for all.

To make this a reciprocated creative experience, the students were given their own agency in carving out the framework of the project. Taking inspiration from baroque dances on YouTube, the students were drawn to Rameau’s ‘Danse des Sauvages’. This particular dance, with a strong and distinctive rhythmic pulse, sparked enthusiastic discussion and allowed the music and choreography to evolve hand in hand.

Adrian Bending, OAE Principal Timpani began the collaboration by overseeing the marriage of music to dance and later directed the orchestra’s recording. He says:

‘This project wasn’t a case of us telling the students what to do. After our initial introductions, the students were increasingly willing to healthily disagree, taking from us only what sat well with them. Every voice was heard. We are eager and excited for these collaborations to become a regular fixture of a long, happy and most rewarding partnership between Acland Burghley School and OAE.’

The Rameau dance project is the first of many video collaboration projects between us and ABS, but it’s not all that we’re doing. Since taking up permanent residence at Acland Burghley School less than five months ago, we have delivered interactive workshops for all students in Years 7, 8 and 9 exploring the instruments of the orchestra, illustrated sessions on blues and jazz compositional techniques as part of curriculum studies as well as a study day for all GCSE music students on Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4. Even during the lockdown period, we have collaborated with the students through online workshops; starting creative band sessions and we have begun to prepare a fresh perspective on the OAE’s flagship community opera, ‘Moon Hares’. A rich and varied start to our new education partnership.

Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair of Arts Council England, comments:

‘This pioneering initiative by ABS and the OAE places music at the heart of the school, giving every child an opportunity to discover and express their own creativity in their daily lives. It also gives the Orchestra an excellent rehearsal space and a deeper root in the Camden community with which it has already built a strong relationship. This imaginative partnership takes collaboration between professional artists and the public education system into new and exciting territory in which creativity has a part to play in all aspects of the curriculum.’

"We moved into ABS school at the beginning of September, and 3 weeks later we had a room full of talented students dancing to Rameau!"
Crispin Woodhead, OAE Chief Executive

This project and the move to Acland Burghley School has been made possible with a leadership grant of £120,000 from the Linbury Trust – one of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts. Their support has facilitated the move to the school and is underwriting the first 3 years of education work. Additional support has been given by Adrian Frost, Selina and David Marks, The Merrill Foundation and Sir Martin and Lady Smith, as well as the ongoing support of Arts Council England.

The Linbury Trust

Arts Council England