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Dancing at the movies, A Journey Through Time


Committed to Film
Nothing has been business-as-usual during the past year, as COVID19 restrictions continue to challenge us to think outside of the box.  The team of Primary School visual & performing arts teachers were determined that our students would not miss out on the wonderful artistic and creative experience of the Spring Show.  After some intense brainstorming, we decided that the show would transform into a song and dance showcase. All ELS and PS students would be involved, and we decided that filming the students’ performances would be the best solution. Committing the show to film led us to choose the theme of “cinema” to serve as the common thread linking all the pieces together. Every dance or song in this show originates from a movie ranging all the way back to 1952, with “Singin' in the Rain”, to ”We Will Rock You”, the iconic Queen song which was adapted for the movie “Trolls World Tour” in 2020. We knew where we wanted to go, and off we went!

Overcoming some Setbacks 
Rehearsals started months back in January during Dance lessons, Music and Choir sessions. Everyone was very excited, and things were taking shape swiftly.  

Even under normal circumstances, rehearsals with children aged 3-11 pose different challenges: remembering choreography, repeatedly working on a particularly challenging step, keeping the focus, and ensuring what had been learned could be reproduced flawlessly! 

Then, the unexpected happened when Coach M, Dance teacher and Spring Show Director, had to quarantine as her daughter had been infected with COVID19!

We did what had to be done, moving the dance lessons online with Coach M at home in front of her PC. Our committed students did not let themselves be set back: they worked hard in front of the screen, learned from live sessions and instructional videos that were shared on Seesaw, and supported each other to understand the more intricate parts of the choreography. They also contributed to creating some of the movements and transitions and assisted in choosing costumes – student agency is alive and well at STJ!

How it all came together 
Mrs Rytel worked diligently with her students on the singing parts of the show. For the ELS singers, we were looking for something happy that would suit their young voices. A lot of the film music repertoire is primarily written for adults and can’t really be sung by children. We decided to concentrate on a beautiful arrangement of a song from Mary Poppins, “Let’s go Fly a Kite”. The chorus in this song is stunning, and the ELS students got the feel of it straight away. They had the great idea of making their own kites with their classroom teachers, and all the extra effort made the final outcome with kites on stage simply spectacular.

The Lower Primary Choir rehearse every two weeks. Still, in a very short time, they managed to learn a fantastic song from The Aristocats, ‘Scales and Arpeggios’, ready for the stage. They learned the sol-mi gestures at breath-taking speed and put them into practice on an excerpt from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony(!), which is included in the arrangement of Scales and Arpeggios. In the final production, the song sounded great, accompanied beautifully by Mrs Vandamme on violin and Mr Pitts on piano.

The Upper Primary Choir had rehearsals every two weeks as well. They managed an exceptional feat for primary school students, learning to sing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” in a three-part harmony version. Making all the different jungle noises at the beginning and the end of the song was exceptional fun; a very creative and joyful undertaking! Everyone involved derived great satisfaction from being a part of this project and creating the final recording together on stage.

On top of that, while preparing for the Spring Show, both choirs were making a recording of “Here Comes the Sun” with the professional a cappella ensemble Voces8 from the UK. Let’s hope they were right and that sunnier times are indeed on their way!’

The high-point 
When students hit the stage and performed the Spring Show, they were being filmed By Miss Hicks, responsible for all filming and post-production. She truly did a terrific job; we hope you can really see all the hard work pay off in the final composition. Nothing replaces an audience filling our PAC, but our students have gained a new experience and learned many different things by being filmed that they would not have experienced in a live performance setting. The students were terrific: the complexity of the choreographies was high, as dancers did not only perfectly memorise their steps to the rhythm, but also the asynchronous movements of the other groups; they fully understood what it takes to be on a stage, constantly changing positions and never losing the spatial references to dance, turning to the [invisible] audience or each other. 

We hope you enjoyed the broadcast of the movie on PlaneteStream as much as we enjoyed producing it. Well done to all!