Dancing their way through a difficult time

Two of Cork’s leading performing arts schools are bringing their classes into people’s homes and living rooms in a bid to keep spirits up during lockdown, writes COLETTE SHERIDAN
Dancing their way through a difficult time

REMAINING TOGETHER WHILE STAYING APART: Caoimhe O’Sullivan doing her online class with Montfort College of Performing Arts.

CORK’S two leading performing arts academies are not allowing the coronavirus to spoil all the fun.

While students, from tiny tots to senior teenagers, and parents may be in lockdown, both CADA Performing Arts and the Montfort College of Performing Arts have moved their activities online.

It’s a very welcome move for parents who want their children to be occupied so they don’t become bored at home. And the young ones are enjoying what’s on offer.

Artistic director of CADA Performing Arts, Catherine Mahon-Buckley, has introduced drama sessions online that are built around themes raising social awareness.

The idea is that the children write their own short four-scene plays involving four characters and a title, with the final line of each scene given to the budding playwrights, apart from the fourth scene which the children come up with themselves. For example, ‘The Bully’ is a the title of a play that has four characters; victim, bully, friend and teacher.

The children perform the scenes with members of their family. This can include their parents. The play can be discussed afterwards.

“We’ll have a different topic each week that interests the children,” says Catherine, who plans to give the children the theme of wanting to go to a disco to write about and act out.

Dance is a big part of CADA Performing Arts’ activities. Online dance classes are happening on Tuesdays and Thursday, covering ballet, tap and modern dance. The classes are given by Kelly-Ann Murphy, Jessica O’Shea and Phil O’Callaghan. Zumba classes for teenagers, parents and any interested adults are also part of what’s on offer.

“Zumba is a form of exercise through dance and it’s great fun. People are asking if the teacher can see them dancing. The teacher can’t see you. You follow the teacher while feeling secure that you’re not being exposed. I have a crocked knee so I’d look terrible if I could be seen dancing!

“The Zumba sessions are a bit of fun and all the family can join in. We have competitions going on as well where the children are asked to make up their own dances.

“We’ll be giving out prizes but when that will happen, we don’t know.”

Leaving Certificate musicianship with Siobhan Carnes is also available online, using the Time Line app. There’s one-to-one music lessons with CADA teachers, Pavla Moore and Jimmy Brockie.

On Tuesday nights, there’s choir sessions involving teenagers. And for young children, there are colouring competitions every morning.

While Catherine and her team are developing the online offer all the time, “we don’t know how long we’re going to be doing it. While it’s all great and a means of communication, for me, the most important thing is that we’re all social animals. Human contact is important and please God this won’t last too long because people need to be with each other.

“I know the younger generation have been brought up with social media but I can find the whole screen thing very false.

“Even Kelly-Ann, who is a young teacher, was saying that in a classroom situation, you have characters on board and you can respond to them and have a bit of fun.”

When the online Zumba classes started, about ten people logged on. Now, there are nearly 200 logging on.

“We work around the timetables of some nurses who are on board. One of them is Clodagh Downey who was a member of CADA for years. She’s on the frontline of the virus, working in intensive care. We also have past students living abroad, logging on. It’s a lovely way of connecting.”

Catherine sounds a note of caution, as regards when we finally come out of the lockdown situation.

“We’ll see real problems. People are going to be scarred, in particular small kids who are so used to being hugged. If this social isolating goes on for too long, young people will think it’s the norm. How long will it take us to shake hands again or to hug? At the moment, we’re in a kind of sleeping time. I’m quite nervous about when we wake up.”

For more www.cadaperformingarts.ie.

The Montfort College of Performing Arts has moved its classes online with hip hop, mini ballet, acro, musical theatre, singing and other art forms on offer seven days a week.

Altogether, there are 40 classes available online taught by 20 teachers. It’s the Montfort’s way of “ensuring that the young people of Cork will remain together while staying apart,” says artistic director, Trevor Ryan.

The joys of dancing and singing will be shared by the teachers and young people virtually, through Zoom.

“It will give people some much needed stretching — of all their muscles including their vocal muscles.

“We at the Montforts believe in unity. We’re a real family and, being honest, I and all the teachers are hugely missing our students. With the outpouring of love online from them, I thought it was time to embrace the new world of technology and bring as much as possible online.

“This is a tough time for everyone. No-one could have planned for it, so if we can do our small bit to bring a little joy into the lives of young people across Cork, I’ll be happy with that.”

Trevor and his wife and young daughter “will be joining in ourselves.... so we get to keep in touch with everyone.”

For more see www.montfortcollege.com.

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