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Concert for Amnesty International - Townley Grammar School for Girls

by Stuart Sweeney

July 16, 2005 -- Methodist Church of Orpington, Orpington, England

School concerts can be hard work, but Townley specialises in the field of visual and performing arts and these young performers provided a high standard of drama, dance and music to a delighted audience on this fund raising evening. To help us remember the reason for the concert, a large Amnesty International candle was lit at the start of the evening and burned throughout.

In troubled times, the arts provide not only solace but also illumination on themes key to us all. It was, therefore, particularly appropriate that the first of the two dance sections should be based on works by Christopher Bruce connected with human rights issues. Bruce’s concerns can be found in several of his creations and Townley students had studied “Swansong” and “Ghost Dances” for their GCSE exams with their teacher Lisa Fernandez and, using the study guides from Rambert Dance Company, had created their own short versions of these two classics. The excerpt from Amy Waters and Bethany Allchin showed the stylised violence and powerful menace of “Swansong” and Joanna Bridge, Emma Merritt and Laura Gibbons created a polished trio from the same work. One of Emma’s jetées sticks in my mind as a symbol of the Prisoner’s defiance.

“Ghost Dances” is another favourite, and Jodie Newland, Laura Pauli, Jenny Chandler, Sarah Wade and Kathryn Maddison danced their version of the opening Ghosts’ dance followed by a peasant dance. The Ghosts’ costumes, especially the masks, were very effective and I recognized some of the movement from the original in the generally well-synchronised dancing.

The second half of the concert featured scenes from the famous musical, “Cats” and everyone was impressed with the energy and spirit of the students from Years 7,8 and 9. Their teacher, Mrs. Brittle, had had to speedily re-choreograph the dances for the confines of the church, but one would never have known. The ensemble sections showed the discipline of the performers as the shapes in the choreography were clearly visible. As Grisabella, Zoe Gosling, was the bad girl -- sorry, cat -- returning to the fold and her expressive dancing conveyed the spirit of this troubled character. Throughout the performance, Jemma Clerk danced to very high standards with that centred look that all good dancers have and she also gave great support to those around her. Jade Pawsey partnered Jemma in the Macavity section and together they gave a brilliant impression of “the Napoleon of Crime”. Overall, “Cats “ was a real treat.

As this review is for a dance magazine, I’ve focused on that art form, but it’s only fair to mention the other fine offerings. A few scenes from Dennis Potter’s “Blue Remembered Hills” directed by Fiona Bundell opened the programme and I was impressed by the authenticity of the Lincoln accents and the natural quality of the acting. A “Musical Miscellany” directed by Erica Kollek introduced a variety of experiences. Jeanne Chan played the piano delightfully and I particularly enjoyed her sensitive rendition of Debussy’s “Clair de Lune”. Soprano, Hannah Campbell, sang two pieces by Dowland and Mozart with great clarity and control and there was excellent tuning and rhythmic sense from the group from the Townley School Choirs, especially in their “Adiemus” from “Songs of Sanctuary” by Karl Jenkins. A small exhibition of interesting and varied art from Townley was on display in the interval, arranged by Emma Dukes, Head of Art.

Overall, the concert was a great success and also helped to raise £750 for work on human rights around the world. A great thank you to all the students and their teachers, together with Janice Davis and David Howkins and all the helpers at the Methodist Church for making it possible.

[Stuart Sweeney is the Secretary of the Bromley and Orpington Amnesty International Group and a regular reviewer for Ballet-Dance Magazine-- ed.]


Edited by Staff.

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