April 2022

Dance students fully embrace ‘The New Normal’

There were smiles all round as Withernsea High School’s dance community recently returned to the stage of Hull University’s Middleton Hall after an absence of two years.

Approximately 80 performers took part in ‘The New Normal’ – an original dance production which aimed to showcase the resilience, warm energy and community spirit of young people in the face of Covid-19.

As a nod to the difficulties experienced throughout the darkest days of the pandemic, the students themselves steered the creative direction of the show – taking inspiration from the strength and kindness of Captain Sir Tom Moore, along with their own community spirit, to create a show brimming with positivity and humour amongst moments of quiet reflection.

Defining moments of the pandemic were represented through dance, with each number exploring a different significant moment, from lockdown life to technological advances, and working from home to the relaxing of rules.

Commenting on the theme of the show, Jamie Hughes, Head of Creative Arts and Teacher of Dance, said: ‘As individuals, our students have all faced so many challenges in recent months. Although the pandemic was a tough topic to negotiate, it is one that our Year 11 students wanted to address from their own perspectives as it is something that has affected them quite significantly at a defining time in their lives.

I am very proud of each and every one of the students who took part. They were absolutely fantastic and a real credit to themselves and to the school. After two years of missed opportunities, the excitement in the wings was a joy to behold and the atmosphere, both on and off stage, was electric.’

Feedback from the sold-out audience was similarly positive, with many parents, staff and school governors commenting on how the show had helped them to reflect on their own journeys through the pandemic, and how pleased they were to see the return of live performance opportunities for the school’s students.

Commenting on the show from a performers’ perspective, Year 11 student Sinead Brady said: ‘I thoroughly enjoyed this year’s dance show, especially after two whole years of no performances.

I believe the theme of the show was the perfect choice as it was very relevant and something the audience could really connect to. The show went extremely well, despite the long break from performing and despite the impact Covid has had on our lessons, our coursework and our lives.

We were all very excited after not being able to dance on stage for such a long time. The staff at the venue were very helpful; the staff from school who helped backstage were amazing and we are all very grateful for their support.’

For many of the performers, mainly the younger cast members, it marked the first time that they had appeared on the stage of a professional venue. For others, it was the welcome return of a valuable experience that had been sorely missed.

Among those performing were 14 former students who had been invited back to take part. These students, who were members of last year’s Year 11 dance cohort, missed out on staging their own show due to the restrictions in place at the time. In order to make up for this lost opportunity, Mrs Hughes and the current Year 11 dance group felt it only right that they should be offered a role in the new production.

Speaking on behalf of those who returned to perform, Harriet Maplebeck, now studying at St Mary’s College Sixth Form, said: ‘It was amazing to be invited back and still feel part of the school community. Everyone really enjoyed themselves and we had a fab day being reunited with some of our favourite teachers!’

As the first major production under the banner of Creative Arts, a recently-launched faculty that unites Dance, Music, Drama and Art in a cohesive collection of creative subjects, the dance show is just the first of many exciting things in the pipeline for the young performers of Withernsea High School.

Rehearsals are already well under way for a summer production of hit musical ‘School of Rock’. This follows in the footsteps of a hugely successful production of ‘We Will Rock You’ which was staged at the school in February 2020, just weeks before the first lockdown arrived.

Commenting on progress so far, the show’s Director, Assistant Headteacher Richard Mabbott, said: ‘Rehearsals have been going extremely well indeed and we finished ahead of schedule before the Easter holiday.

The cast now have the task of having their lines completely learnt by the time we return, as this will enable us to work on the detail required in each scene in the weeks ahead.

We are also looking forward to welcoming the dance students to rehearsals as we look to piece together some of the bigger musical numbers in the show.

All-in-all, everything is going extremely well and we are excited to say that tickets will be on sale shortly.'

Meanwhile, hot on the heels of their dance show success, and their up-coming involvement in the production of School of Rock, the members of AttenDANCE – the school’s official dance company – are busy preparing for a performance at “Hull Schools’ Gotta Dance” which is set to take place on Wednesday 22nd June at Middleton Hall. This will see them represent the school and showcase their talents alongside dancers from other schools across the area.

AttenDANCE offers an annual opportunity for members of the school’s dance community to audition for 14 places available within the troupe. Successful applicants then go on to help support a range of school events, as well as represent the school at external showcases and competitions.

Commenting on their up-coming commitments, Mrs Hughes said: ‘It is fantastic for the members of our close-knit dance company to have another opportunity to perform at Middleton Hall, alongside their peers from other schools. They’re also really looking forward to starting rehearsals for the school production.

We are delighted to offer opportunities such as these, which help to broaden their horizons and equip them with skills and experiences that will see them thrive in, and beyond, the world of dance.’


Photographs 


A selection of images from the show feature below. 

USB Memory Sticks, offering a recording of the show in full 4k quality, along with standard definition DVDs  - priced £5 and £2.50 respectively - are available to pre-order through ParentPay. 

 


[Above Photo Credit: Jamie Hughes]


[Above Photo Credit: Lauri Showler]


[Above Photo Credit: Lauri Showler]


[Above Photo Credit: Lauri Showler]


[Above Photo Credit: Lauri Showler]


[Above Photo Credit: Lauri Showler]


[Above Photo Credit: Lauri Showler]


[Above Photo Credit: Lauri Showler]


[Above Photo Credit: Lauri Showler]


[Above Photo Credit: Lauri Showler]


[Above Photo Credit: Lauri Showler]


[Above Photo Credit: Jamie Hughes]


[Above Photo Credit: Jamie Hughes]


[Above Photo Credit: Jamie Hughes]