On Thursday 13th December, the Senior Choreographic Awards took place at White Lodge as an internal competition for Years 10 and 11. The event pays homage to Sir Kenneth MacMillan and aims to encourage students to experience working as a choreographer. This year the 13 shortlisted pieces were judged by Kevin O’Hare, Director of The Royal Ballet; Jeanetta Laurence, Associate Director of The Royal Ballet and; Kenneth Tharp, CEO of The Place. The Margot Fonteyn Theatre was filled with important guests, staff and students of the Lower School
As my cast lined up backstage I gave them a last piece of advice; ‘Smile, look up and listen to the music.’ I will never forget watching the curtain call of the previous piece from the wings, then waiting in the darkness for the spotlight to signal that the judges were ready for me. After clearing my throat and taking a deep breath, I stepped out onto the dark stage and into the blinding spotlight. ‘Good afternoon, my name is Prisca Bertoni. My choreography is called Accentus and the music is by Shostakovich.’
Throughout the three minutes of my choreography I was sitting tensely on the edge of my seat in the front row, holding my breath and hoping that nothing would go wrong. There was no need. I was so impressed by how well my dancers performed. All the hard work had paid off and I knew they had given it their best. In the three seconds of blackout after the end pose, I sprang up and ran to get in line with them to take our curtain call with pride.
I ‘high-fived’ everyone as they came off stage but didn’t have long to celebrate as I was to perform in two pieces. One was a Don Quixote-inspired Spanish choreography, which I loved getting in character for with red lips, flower in the hair and flirtatious upper-body. The other was a dramatic contemporary piece about an ancient ritual where the all-female cast demanded revenge following betrayal. Despite the dark storyline this was also fun to do. We had zombie-like makeup and were required to stare at the audience with aggression.
As the judges deliberated, the interval programme offered Ẽlan, a new Irish work performed by Year 9; a ‘Christmas Carol Medley’ for six hands, played by three of our ballet pianists; and Jubilation, choreographed for the Jubilee Celebrations and performed by Year 10. Choreographers and dancers then lined up behind the closed tabs and after what seemed like a long wait, the judges returned. ‘This is it’ I said to myself. They presented the adjudication and were generous with their praise for the maturity and excellent standard of the work presented.
Sadly, my first attempt at choreography was not placed within the top three. It was no great surprise that those prizes were awarded to students competing in their fifth such event at White Lodge. All finalists benefitted from private feedback from the judges and I was happy to receive positive comments for my work; having the Director of The Royal Ballet say ‘I really liked your piece’, wasn’t so bad after all.
This has been an enjoyable task and a valuable experience. I am extremely grateful to my cast. Their patience and enthusiasm was very encouraging along the way. I plan to write a separate short post about the actual creation process of Accentus as this article is already far too long!
For competition results please visit the Latest News page of our School’s website.