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Winter Edition 2017

  • Text
  • Pta
  • Headmistress
  • Headmaster
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  • Whitehall
  • Notices
  • Ballet
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Winter magazine out now! Going to 35,000 families at our member schools, all raising funds for great causes.

“I need the whole

“I need the whole class to be electric. Our audience should be pulled in because of the joy that you’re bringing to the exercise, that is fundamental.” or international company. “This is the dream,” Tobias de Gromoboy, a 17-year-old second year from Bournemouth, tells me after his class. Only those with exceptional artistic talent and potential get the chance to train here, though. Each year, around 750 young dancers audition for just 24 places at White Lodge, the school’s base in Richmond Park for 11- to 16-year-olds, and up to 30 places at the Upper School here in central London, for those aged 16-19. Contrary to what you might presume for such a rarefied art form, though, the school’s students rarely come from privileged backgrounds, as artistic director Christopher Powney explains: “Admission really is ‘needs blind’ and almost 90 per cent of our students rely on bursaries.” The sponsorship and bursary programme relies heavily on philanthropic, arts-loving members of the public, according to Powney. “We are indebted to our supporters and ensure they have the pleasure of seeing the students progress through the school onto the world stage.” Tranah knows exactly what it takes to make it on the world stage as she spent 19 years with The Royal Ballet, predominantly as First Soloist. She expertly demonstrates what she wants them to do each time, with her sing-song voice accompanying the movements: “Ja ja jum, pa pa pum, one, two three and four.” The morning class is a chance to strengthen the body and practise the component parts of the art form. Although rigorous about perfecting every movement they make, constantly pointing out flaws in their exercise and correcting them – “Pull it down! No! Not high, low” – Tranah is full of encouragement when the girls get things right. “Oh yes, Lucy, look at that foot. That’s incredible! Yes Maddie! Yes all of you! Can you see the difference girls? Whoa! That’s it!” Joy is key, Tranah tells the class. “I need the whole class to be electric. Our audience should be pulled

PROFILE in because of the joy that you’re bringing to the exercise, that is fundamental.” Although the training is extraordinarily intense, there seems a real duty of care for these young girls. They look happy and healthy and the atmosphere is convivial between dances. It’s something the school takes very seriously, hence the recent launch of its Healthy Dancer Programme, which sees a dedicated team of physios, nutritionists, counsellors and Pilates coaches on hand to look after their health. Staying injury free is one of the biggest challenges, explains Tobias. “It does happen; everyone has a weak point. We do a lot of work to prevent it. We have a great sports science team who do profiling to assess the strengths and deficits in our body and address them with a customised programme.” Unsurprisingly, the girls tend to suffer most from issues with their feet and ankles. As Maddison swaps her ballet shoes for a pointe shoe, the agony these girls go through is laid bare: bruised, battered, purpling flesh punctuated by blisters and bunions. One look at these feet and you see the struggle, the passion, the hopes and the fears these girls go through to achieve their dreams. “They pretty much hurt all the time,” says Maddie. “Commitment isn’t obviously something that we struggle with,” adds Tobias, “but it’s sometimes difficult to get up when you’ve had a long, difficult day and everything hurts.” After an hour spent intently watching the girls, I see the second-year boys in action under the tutelage of former English National Ballet soloist Paul Lewis, also an RBS alumnus. And what action! Their athleticism is formidable as they leap and jump and twist and turn round and round the studio, Paul prompting them with one French term after another. The problem with such physical effort, of course, is that it’s hard to make it look easy. “Just conceal it,” says Paul. “Conceal the effort.” ›› “One look at these feet and you see the struggle, the passion, the hopes and the fears these girls have to go through to achieve their dreams” Opposite: Students from all around the globe come to train at the famed school This page: Nicola Tranah teaches the first-year girls the importance of bringing joy to the exercise W I N T ER 17 ★ schoolnotices.co.uk 21

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