My experience of summer school in France by Olivia C.
On Saturday 19th August I arrived at the registration desk of the International Summer School in Pont L’Abbe, Brittany for a week of classes with some of Europe’s most distinguished teachers.
I was a bit apprehensive as the tuition was going to be in French, but I was curious to see how ballet is taught in another country so I was excited at the same time!
Everyone was so friendly as I registered and was handed my ‘Welcome Pack’ and met the organisers. I was going to be staying in a rented apartment nearby recommended by the summer school secretary, so off we went to unpack.
The next day the classes started. Basically, there are different classes throughout the day at five levels from the ‘Discovery Stage’ for age 9-12 years to Pre-Professional level. Students can choose up to four classes per day and I chose Jazz, Character, Classical and Pointe class. (There was also Contemporary and Repertoire).
The teachers were outstanding. My Jazz teacher, Flick Swann (who was English) has danced in lots of west end musicals and was so energetic and enthusiastic. I’m really not a jazz dancer, and felt awkward at first, but at the end of the week I felt great and still practice my jazz moves at home much to my mum’s surprise!
The Character teacher was Emmanuelle Lecerf who is well known in France and is brilliant. I love character dancing and it was great as we got to wear some fabulous costumes to dance in. We learnt a typical dance from the Breton region, which was great fun to do, and made a change from the Russian style I was used to.
The classical class was taught by Carole Arbo who had been a principal dancer with the Paris Opera Company and now teaches the older girls at the Opera School. I was petrified at first as I thought she’d be very strict, but she was so nice and friendly and explained everything to us in detail.
The Pointe classes were taught by Jean Marc Marquerol, also an ex Paris Opera dancer, and I was a bit amused as I’d never been taught Pointe work by a man before, It seemed strange at first and I wasn’t taking it too seriously, but I soon realised just how much I was learning from him and how much he was concentrating when he taught us, one day he even went 20 minutes over time as he was so engrossed. It was the pianist who reminded him that the lesson should have ended! Even so, when the pianist had gone, he finished showing us the exercise we were working on. I loved him as he was funny and made the class so enjoyable.
During the week there was an evening where all the students and parents could meet the teachers and hear them talk about their careers and how they started dancing. We also had the opportunity to ask any questions
At the end of the week, we gave a demonstration of all we had learnt to our audience, which was made up of parents, and local people who had been given the opportunity to buy tickets too. We were photographed by The regional newspapers and one of the French TV channels came to film us dancing and interview a couple of the girls. A close up of my feet was shown on French National TV…stardom at last!
After the demonstration, there was a buffet supper and a chance to chat to everyone and even have a boogie with the teachers! It was sad to leave but I made friends and my mum also made friends, and we all vowed to meet up again next year for another brilliant ‘Stage de Danse’ in beautiful Brittany.
I have done quite a few summer schools in England, which I have enjoyed very much but being in France and seeing how it’s done there was very very interesting. I saw that the teachers are passionate about dance and want to pass their knowledge on. They spoke to all the children like adults and that made us feel like real dancers. There are no barriers and everyone learns a lot this way and is made to feel important. I would highly recommend it to anyone and would say don’t worry if you don’t speak French. Dance is a universal language and you will be able to communicate very well with some of the best teachers in the world!!
There is a website…..http://www.dancepontlabbe.org
Olivia Cemah Age 13