7 July 2022

Though dance is frequently a feature of school drama productions at Abingdon, our students have not been able to study dance as a separate discipline since the days of the Abingdon Dance Project, an enterprise set up in the wake of Mr Taylor’s production of West Side Story in 2009 and run by OA dancer and choreographer Matt Hawksworth between 2010-2012. So it was with a mixture of excitement, curiosity and perhaps even some trepidation that a new generation of Abingdonians made the short walk to Larkmead School and its sprung-floor dance studio to start work with Mr Millard on Tuesday morning. Dance is a feature of the curriculum for all year groups at Larkmead, so we were enormously grateful to Andrea Phillips, Larkmead’s Head of Visual and Performing Arts, and to Larkmead’s dance teachers Charlie Speke and Sherkinah Lewis, for offering us this opportunity, and welcoming our students so warmly.

In the first session, students were shown how to ‘body pop’ – a skill that involves tensing and rhythmically flexing muscles to create dance moves. In this part of the workshop, the students discovered muscles in their arms and chests and put them to work, perhaps for the first time. But before long, it was time to work the legs and feet too, as Reece introduced some gravity-defying hip hop moves. And goodness, were those legs worked! The group built up a wonderfully varied and demanding routine, beat by beat and bar by bar until, by lunchtime, the students had mastered a thrilling sequence that seemed sure to end the scourge of dad dancing for generations to come.

Lunch brought a chance to rest and recharge before a dynamic final performance to a select audience that included Larkmead Headteacher Jonathan Dennett and Abingdon’s Director of Partnerships Rob Southwell Sander. Afterwards, the students were asked what they’d most enjoyed about the day and one replied, “The best bit was working with new people and trying new things.” He may not have known it, but he’d perfectly summed up the aim of all our partnership work. Bravo, and bravo the flying feet of the combined Larkmead / Abingdon junior dance troupe! Here’s to much more of the same in the months and years to come!

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