Our Year by Amanda Britton
17th July 2020
When we welcomed our students, old and new, in September we excitedly talked about all the wonderful events and opportunities we had planned to mark our 100 year history. Our newly refurbished Anya Linden Studio Theatre (with kind support of the Linbury Trust) was ceremoniously opened by Lady Sainsbury in December and was to provide the perfect back drop to a year of exciting, innovative and daring performances. In January 2020 we officially launched our Centenary Celebrations and were delighted to see so many friends at School including alumni, past staff and supporters. We were particularly thrilled to welcome Aiden Andrew Dunn, the grandson of our founder Marie Rambert whose beautiful poem The Armoured Inkwell based on the love story of Marie Rambert and her future husband provided inspiration for part of the evening’s performance.
We had no idea that a few weeks later we would be forced to close our doors.
In the first week, we worked quickly to move our training online. As a specialist school this clearly has many challenges. Our ‘virtual’ timetable was based very much upon their normal day-to-day schedule when in School; ballet and contemporary dance technique delivered daily, ‘live’ via zoom (with the teacher in their own home space and the students in theirs). We also taught fitness/cardio, Pilates, repertoire, improvisation and choreography classes online. We even managed to rehearse group works, although this has presented challenges where duets and partner work were concerned. Our academic programme was of course also moved online, with lectures, seminars and tutorials all built into the daily schedule. We added further enhancement tools for students, such as additional career development sessions for third years, and guest classes led by practitioners who perfected online delivery. It has been a huge learning curve for the students and the staff but one they have embraced with enthusiasm and commitment.
In May we live streamed our first ever Digital Platform for student choreographic work. Almost 30 newly created short dance films were created by students and streamed live on Facebook. We were overwhelmed by the creativity of the work, and by the students’ ability to film and edit their own work with almost no specific training in this medium. As a result, we are planning to keep this opportunity even when we return to ‘normal’ training.
We have worked closely with the University of Kent, our validating university, to ensure that an alternative assessment framework is in place for students: this means that all third year students are able to graduate from their degree, and first and second year students are able to progress through the course as normal.
As the months passed, we were in daily contact with students through their tutors and student support team. We have always been proud of our pastoral care and during this unprecedented time we continued to keep a virtual, online, or telephone ‘open door’ for them.
In the last few weeks of term and following government advice to ensure the safety of our staff and students we started making gradual steps to reopening. We successfully trialled classes for a maximum of twelve students whilst maintaining our online provision. We moved cautiously to ensure social distancing was met and strict protocols adhered to. We will continue in this way and will aim to slowly introduce more face to face teaching for students where possible.
Despite all that we have faced I, as Principal & Artistic Director, could not be prouder of Rambert School during this time. Our staff are working harder than ever to ensure students are supported physically and mentally and our passionate students have adapted brilliantly to virtual and digital learning in their home environments, making sure they keep their bodies and minds active whilst coping with any personal challenges they are faced with.
It is of course difficult to say what the future holds for the next academic year as the situation changes each week. However, we will approach the summer break with the same determination as ever, by continuing to refine and improve everything we do to ensure our students get the very best from their training.
Principal & Artistic Director