Spotlight on RGS's new Dance Specialist

Spotlight on RGS's new Dance Specialist

Any fears Kayleigh Oborka-Letman had about expanding dance in a former all-boys school evaporated as soon as she walked through the doors on Eskdale Terrace in September last year.

The Royal Grammar School is expanding its dance provision, and the prospect of developing a vibrant dance programme for all is a challenge Kayleigh is relishing as the school’s new Dance Specialist.

“I can’t believe the enthusiasm,” she says, “I’ve not even had to drag the boys into the studio. “I’m like: ‘Boys do we fancy it?’ And they’re like: ‘Yeah, let’s give it a go!’.

“I’ve got rugby boys in my dance group. They are so talented because, tying into the sport here at the RGS, they’re aware of their bodies, their balance and kind of exchanges of weight. It’s fantastic.”

Perhaps its Kayleigh’s experience as both a contemporary dance student and teacher at Dame Allan’s, a school with a long and respected dance history, which has imbibed her with the confidence to take on the challenge.

She does so with an energetic and easy manner that is sure to inspire her students.

Kayleigh says she has “thrown everything” at her fledging dancers in PE lessons during these early days.

“We do swing dancing with partners, we do African gumboot dancing, we do musical theatre. Everyone gets stuck in!” she laughs.

“I think that attitude is largely down to the ethos and environment here. The Junior School love and encourage dance so much and you can see how that travels up through to Senior School.”

It’s her love for dance that Kayleigh, who auspiciously shares a birthday with the matriarch of contemporary dance Martha Graham, is hoping to emulate here at the RGS.

While studying for a BA in Contemporary Dance at London’s prestigious Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, she was one of six dancers chosen to appear in a production of Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal.

Unsurprisingly, it was Kayleigh’s influence and ambition behind the recent Matthew Bourne visit to the school, which saw around 70 enthusiastic pupils take part in a day of dance workshops with the company.

It’s all part of her master plan to enrich experiences and establish a formalised dance provision at the school.

Co-curricular Dance Clubs are already thriving, and Kayleigh hopes her “five-year-ish” plan will see the curriculum swell.

“The kids are already asking for GCSE and A-Level Dance,” she says. “If we can build the right connections now, do the hard legwork, we will be well-placed if we are able to offer these subjects in the future.

“I would love for there to be other people in the department, specialist freelancers because if we want to expand, we need more people on the ground to make it work.

“Some of the boys are absolutely itching to have breakdancing but there is only a limited amount of breakdancing I can do myself!”

This month there will be a chance for parents to see the dance talent for themselves at the RGS House Dance competitions and School Dance Shows.

“We've got everything from your darker pieces, your more mysterious, mystical, all the way to your upbeat, candy dancing,” says Kayleigh.

“I always get nervous, but one thing RGS kids are very good at is pulling it off in the end! They really do have a way of tying it all in and I need to not panic about not being in the driver's seat anymore!”

Fundamentally, Kayleigh says, it’s the support from everyone at the RGS that has filled her with confidence about the future of dance at the school.

“From the Headmaster down there has been this unconditional support and I think this is what's going to allow us to take us take dance to the next level.”

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