School pupils get a ballet masterclass

The ballet pod performing and hosting workshops at Berwick schools
The ballet pod performing and hosting workshops at Berwick schools

Pupils at Tweedmouth West learned their pirouettes from their jetes last week when the Ballet Pod paid a visit to the school.

The travelling workshop visited several schools in the area thanks to the Berwick Ballet Initiative, spearheaded by local ballet teacher Jane Keenan and The Maltings’ Ross Graham and funded by the Simpson McCreath Trust,

Under the leadership of Pod director Richard Slaughter, professional dancers Anne and Michael demonstrated a series of ballet warm ups and dance sequences which they made look effortless before performing a piece for world famous ballet ‘The Nutcracker’.

The 50 minute presentation also featured an appearance from 15 year-old Berwick dancer Daniel Clelland.

He has been invited to perform with the Ballet Pod when they bring a production of ‘La Fille mal gardée’ to The Maltings in November together with the Jane Keenan School of Dance.

And Daniel won’t be the only local dancer on the stage in four months’ time.

After watching Ballet Pod’s demonstration, pupils at the schools visited on the tour took part in workshops to hone their own ballet skills.

Richard has choreographed a routine called ‘Squirrel Dance’ for ‘La Fille mal gardée’ and children who are interested in performing at The Maltings will get the opportunity to do exactly by featuring in two full length performances.

As someone who has a tremendous passion for ballet and an eye for a talented dancer, Jane Keenan is thrilled that the Pod visited Berwick.

“It’s absolutely wonderful to have a company of this calibre here in Berwick,” she commented.

“Ballet of this standard doesn’t normally come here so we are extremely lucky.

“I’ve been wanting something like this to come to Berwick for a very long time.

“It’s an amazing privilege for the town to be able to host such a fantastic company.

“It’s a great way of making ballet more accessible to children and really engaging with them.

“The children have been asked to perform some pretty tough moves in the workshops but they’ve been so committed; one boy even moved me to tears he was that good.

“As a teacher it’s great for me to watch dancers like Ann and Michael and see the fantastic training they’ve had from Richard.

“And watching Daniel has made me incredibly proud. It’s an amazing, incredible opportunity for him.”

The Ballet Pod was started in 2007 in Chirk North Wales.

To date the group have given many performances of 18 new works created by Richard as well as works from the classical ballet repertoire.

Other schools visited as part of the Pod’s tour of the area just before the end of term were Belford First School, Holy Trinity First School in Berwick and Berwick Middle.