Mass dance event in Coventry Cathedral

Published: 16 December 2022
Reporter: Steve Orme

The Royal Opera House mass dance event at Coventry Cathedral Credit: Veronika Ward

Six hundred students took part in an event at Coventry Cathedral to celebrate the success of a Royal Opera House programme that has widened access to art in the area for more than three years.

The Royal Opera House’s Create and Dance programme won gold in the Pearson National Teaching Awards in the impact through partnership category. In collaboration with Coventry schools, it was recognised for the real impact it has had on children in the community.

At the Cathedral, 22 classes from 10 primary schools shared individual five-minute dances inspired by The Nutcracker. The sessions included mass-participation workshops led by Royal Ballet dance artists and performances by students in front of their parents and carers. Attending schools included Earlsdon Primary, Southfields Primary and Sherbourne Fields School.

The event was part of a programme set up in 2019 to address a perceived gap in inclusive dance provision. The programme continued throughout the pandemic, offering online events and training days.

Garrie Rogers, a teacher from Southfields Primary, said, “I’m so proud of the emotional development I have seen in our children during our Create and Dance work. To see the joy on their faces as they performed and the excitement afterwards was a pleasure to behold. The atmosphere in the cathedral was electric and every group seemed to feed off the energy in the room. It really did showcase the hard work and wealth of creativity and passion in our children.”

Rebecca Bollands, deputy headteacher of Earlsdon Primary, added, “the showcase made me feel immensely proud of all the Coventry teachers who have worked so hard with their pupils. We’ve had very challenging times with COVID and the current economic situation, so it was an absolute pleasure to see children having the opportunity to be creative and to have joy in their lives.”

Royal Opera House director of learning and participation Jillian Barker commented, “it was thrilling to see the mass dance event in the extraordinary setting of Coventry Cathedral and to see how creative each child was in response to The Nutcracker. We want to inspire the creativity of the next generation and look forward to continuing this work in schools and communities up and down the country.”

The programme will in its next season reach teachers and students in London, Blackpool, Knowsley, Rotherham, King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, Newcastle and North Tyneside, Basildon, Doncaster, Peterborough, Medway, Thurrock, Coventry, Surrey, the West Midlands and East Anglia. It will provide training, events and resources created for teachers by teachers. The programme is free to state-funded schools and no previous experience of opera and ballet is needed.