Winter Showcase spectacular

THEY say ‘all the world’s a stage’ and students at Priestley College have certainly proved that to be true this year.

For – in a bid to keep up despite the pandemic – the Performing Arts and Drama cohorts have been taking cues from their kitchens, living rooms and, on summer days, their gardens.

“It’s meant we’ve had to adapt choreography because some of them might not have been able to use the floor while others just haven’t got that much space to move around,” said Tutor Nancy Serjeant.

During periods of lockdown Nancy turned her garage into a space from which she could share fitness classes via Instagram live with her students.

Despite all the best intentions, not everything went to plan. Some students viewed choreography via zoom, a platform that can mirror the image seen by viewers so moves had to be reversed back in the college theatre.

Now that lessons have returned to the studios on the Priestley campus students say were thankful for the virtual classes they attended.

“It really helped when we got back into college because it meant we had made progress and kept our fitness,” said former St Gregory’s RC School pupil Abi Hoarty.

As well as keeping fit, students have had to learn how to perform and project their singing voice while wearing a face covering.

Pair work has also been a new challenge with social distancing rules meaning performers had to develop choreography that looks like the partners have a connection without any actual contact.

Last week all their efforts came to fruition with the dazzling Winter Showcase, which provides an opportunity to assess all that students have learned this year.

Normally they would have had an audience of family and friends to offer moral support. This year it was just a small bubble of their peers.

“It’s a strange feeling but we’ve all been very supportive of one another throughout the whole experience,” said Ollie White, who previously studied at Abbeygate College.

As well as completing their assessments the students are planning their next steps with many hoping to study at the UK’s finest theatre schools.

Normally lecturers from those establishments would visit Priestley to share words of wisdom about applications and auditions, but this year all that has taken place virtually.

Last month Head of BA Acting Philip Weaver spoke to Priestley’s Drama cohort about the opportunities available to them at East 15 Acting School in Essex.

Other Guest professionals have included former Priestley students Tara Rose Moore and Spencer D Jones who focussed on Musical Theatre Jazz and Contemporary Dance as well as audition tips.

“It’s been a difficult chapter because, as performers, we tend to be very physical people and we create supportive bonds to ensure they get the most out of their training. We have managed to find a way and the students have continued to shine while learning in a virtual world,” said Nancy.

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