Dramatically good


If you want to see what can be achieved in a classroom, go and see a good drama teacher. If you're lumbered with only the core subjects ― what Sir Ken Robinson calls neck up education ― go and visit your Arts block...

I could never teach the subject. I dreaded the drama cover – the 8th years kept climbing up curtains or walls or under pianos or into cupboards. They seemed to be only enacting Kung Fu Head Crushers. 

“Agincourt, sir.” “Good versus Evil, sir!” Ho ho. I was clueless, probably because I was stuck in my 1950s grammar school. We did drama incarcerated in our desks. It was where the subject went to die. It seemed a branch of Elocution. Not quite proper. A bit girly. Real men did Bunsen Burners and ablative absolutes – and inhibition.

Well, no more. Not in Ms Marlowe’s class. It’s as serious as your life. This is teaching without fear, safety nets or desks. I watch an 8th year lesson and am introduced to thought-tracking, freeze-framing, sub-texting, hot – desking and snapshots. 

A revelation. I watch hitherto diffident, inarticulate, stroppy, anxious pupils suddenly bloom. Magic. I then observe Mr Webster with a 12th year working on Samuel Becket. More magic – severely cerebral and genuinely creative. Real learning before your very eyes. This is fierce pedagogy dancing. And so is dancing… 

A visit to Ms Charisse’s Dance Studio is just as cheering. Kinaesthetic learning – energy, grace, discipline and… ssshh… pleasure. But we can’t measure pleasure. Ergo it cannot be a core subject. Without arts subjects we’re all doomed. All should, of course, have equal weight. All should be in the web of learning.

Fat chance. We must ditch them and zoom back to the 1950s for more of that “neck up” stuff. It cripples us. Go to any post weekend workshop disco and watch us clever clots attempting to dance. No grace and little pleasure – just a lot of disembodied twitching – off the beat. A woeful disconnect, like the one between those hard and soft subjects.

Nothing’s more important than dancing. It’s Applied Maths. So’s Music. Learning out of your mind. “Intellectuals” – whatever the word means – dump it at their peril. It was Friedrich Nietzsche, who couldn’t believe in a god, who couldn’t dance. Soul Brother number one, James Brown went further. “Ain’t no problem in the world that can’t be cured by dancing!” Or drama.


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