An Elmhurst year is always a busy one and even though we had to close our doors early in March, we have still squeezed in a lot of activity over the last ten months of the academic year. Here we reflect on some of the highlights that has put our name out there, championed Elmhurst and its students and staff, celebrated ongoing relationships whilst creating new ones, and all helping to retain our place as a centre of excellence and one of the world’s best ballet schools.
In September 2019 Elmhurst Ballet School joined forces with London’s premier youth orchestra, The London Schools Symphony Orchestra to celebrate composer Eleanor Alberga’s 70th birthday in a performance of her musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, first presented in London 25 years ago by the London Philharmonic and Franz Welser-Möst.
For the performance at London’s prestigious Barbican Hall, acclaimed actor, writer and director Simon Callow CBE narrated, and Elmhurst students performed dance elements by multi award-winning choreographer Mark Baldwin OBE.
Into November and we celebrated international recognition for our Performance Enhancement Coach, Nico Kolokythas, who received the esteemed Dance Educator Award 2019 at the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science conference in Canada, acknowledging his work and research in the dance science and education field. A few months later and Nico became Doctor Nico when he was awarded his PhD with thanks to a five year partnership between the school and the University of Wolverhampton.
Nico has used his knowledge, skills and experience to find ways of improving the overall endurance, strength and suppleness of young dancers. He has been disseminating his PhD research findings over the last few years, including 11+ Dance, an injury prevention and management strategy. The programme is uniquely designed to reduce the risk of both traumatic and overuse injuries and has been based on evidence obtained from sport. Until Nico introduced these findings it had never been trialled in dance.
Traditionally late autumn is a time of year when our students from across the Lower and Upper Schools get to dance with Birmingham Royal Ballet in their acclaimed production of Sir Peter Wright’s The Nutcracker. 2019 was no different and saw some of our students dance in the Birmingham Hippodrome and London’s Royal Albert Hall production. Our thoughts go out to all theatres and their workforce and we sincerely hope they can all reopen soon so many creative livelihoods can continue and our students and supporters can enjoy incredible experiences and performances again.
In January we welcomed our Patron, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall to Elmhurst, her fourth visit to the school. Her Royal Highness, our Patron since 2006 observed a Year 7 ballet class, watched a performance in the school’s studio theatre and took a short tour of Elmhurst’s state-of-the-art Health and Wellbeing Centre. HRH met a number of school representatives: Head Boy and and Head Girl; Annelli Peavot, Assistant Principal responsible for Health, Wellbeing and Safeguarding; and ballet star Carlos Acosta CBE, one of our esteemed Vice Presidents and the Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Elmhurst Ballet Company is an opportunity for the school’s graduate year to live, dance and learn as a professional company in their final twelve months at Elmhurst. Part of the initiative takes the Company to London and Sadler’s Wells’ Lilian Baylis Studio theatre. We were thrilled the Company danced in front of to two sold out auditoriums and received audience and critical acclaim for their incredible performances in February, just weeks before the start of lockdown.