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Press Release: Diversity, Equality and Inclusion at Elmhurst Ballet School


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DIVERSITY, EQUALITY & INCLUSION AT ELMHURST BALLET SCHOOL

 

Following a month of Black History related commemorations and events at Elmhurst Ballet School, the vocational school in association with Birmingham Royal Ballet, reinforces its commitment to develop an inclusive landscape across its Edgbaston, Birmingham base. 

 

It will also continue to engage in local, national and international conversations to ensure its activity that tackles issues around diversity, equality and inclusion aligns with those of its multicultural home city, the pledges of the wider dance and arts sector and the global rhetoric demanding change.

 

Jessica Wheeler, Principal of Elmhurst Ballet School, said: Although at Elmhurst we recognise the monumental importance of Black History Month, we want to exceed the once a year moment and embed our conversations and actions into the whole school calendar and beyond. 

 

By engaging in open, honest and collaborative dialogue with Board members, staff and students, it is our aim to see the entire school community work together and create an environment that is safe, fair and inclusive. We want everyone who walks through our doors to feel represented by what they see and do in our studios and classrooms. We want to keep finding ways through, for example, networking and outreach work, to encourage and support more Black, Brown and Asian students to feel confident about pursuing a career in dance.”

 

Home to almost 200 UK and international full-time students, Elmhurst trains professional dancers to take their places on the world stage. As the world justly focused on the tragic death of George Floyd and sadly others before and after him, the pace of the anti-racism Black Lives Matter protest increased and Elmhurst stood in solidarity with the entire Black community. Along with its many dance associates and friends, the school acknowledged it was time to reflect on its own practice, educate the entire school population and learn from partners whose call-to-actions have already garnered attention for galvanising change in dance and further afield. 

 

The recent opportunities to reflect, educate and learn during Black History Month, complemented and built on past activity at the school. Theresa Ruth Howard is a diversity in dance advocate, consultant and strategist and assists arts organisations to better understand, design and implement Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programmes and initiatives. She is the founder and curator of Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet, a digital platform established to preserve, present and promote the contributions and stories of black artists in ballet. 

 

Howard’s relationship with Elmhurst began in summer 2019 after Wheeler was captivated by her keynote speech during the Young Talent Festival Symposium at the Royal Opera House in London. Later that year she was invited to the school to engage with all students and staff and worked directly with the Upper School on the students’ perceptions of diversity culture, aesthetics, genderism and personal development in ballet. Elmhurst continues the conversation with Howard, most recently during Black History Month. 

 

In September 2019, Snéha Khilay, Managing Director of Blue Tulip Consultancy, captivated and inspired all staff during a bespoke training day on diversity, equality, inclusion, unconscious bias, bullying and harassment. 

 

Last month, the school welcomed more prominent guests who offered their perspective and narrative to inspire students and staff to delve deeper into Black History. Doctor Rob Power of Powerful Histories is a strong advocate for social justice and an expert in Black History and African History. He worked with Elmhurst students to promote an awareness of the history of racism and the Black presence in Britain.

 

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Director, Carlos Acosta CBE, also a Vice President of the school, and Principal dancer Brandon Lawrence presented a socially distanced open rehearsal at Elmhurst, just days before the company returned to the stage and in front of a live audience for the first time in seven months. Lawrence, a Principal dancer at Birmingham Royal Ballet, recently worked with spoken word artist Davy Lazare. The two artists from polarised art genres worked together to co-produce and co-star in BODIES. The film, recently nominated for Best Microshort Film at this year's Birmingham Film Festival is a ‘dance expression driven by spoken word poetry, reflecting the nightmares of today’s world on racism and hate’. Upper School students will watch the film in Elmhurst’s theatre space on Saturday 14 November. 

In Elmhurst’s almost 100 year history, the population of the school has been predominantly white, echoing the ballet sector as a whole. The school has been working to improve representation across all areas of its community, which has changed significantly over the past few years. Determined its drive for change is more than a lip service, Elmhurst is committed to being part of sector-wide conversations and actions helping to realise equity in dance and dance education. The school is inspired by the work and voices of a growing number of individuals and organisations including Ballet Black and their ‘Equality Resourcesand most recently Scottish Ballet’s ‘commitment to anti-racism in ballet. 

 

 

 

Closer to home, Elmhurst’s links with Birmingham Royal Ballet and its Dance Track talent identification initiative has become a pathway for young Black and Asian dancers to progress to the school’s Elmhurst Young Dancers programme- weekend classes in Birmingham, Manchester, Sunderland and Plymouth, leading to opportunities to audition for a full-time place at a vocational school. 

 

Wheeler, adds: There is still so much more to do to see diversity and equality in ballet and dance education. We are not perfect, but along with so many partners and allies, we are passionate and driven to implement change, not only for the good of the school but for the greater good of society. We will continue to learn from positive actions happening across the professional setting. By bringing these ideas back to our board room, studios and classrooms we can shape our own strategies and practice and continue to turn out students into dance companies and the wider world with shared values and goals.” 

 

Elmhurst Ballet School - Principal Jessica Wheeler with Year 7 boys. Photograph courtesy of EBS..jpg

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I can also comment from experience, and what we feel as a (diverse) household is that our DC is in a nurturing, progressive environment. There will always be people with different experiences, but ours has been wholly positive. Excellent training, excellent education. The claims in the article certainly ring true with our experience.

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16 hours ago, SissonneDoublee said:

I can also comment from experience, and what we feel as a (diverse) household is that our DC is in a nurturing, progressive environment. There will always be people with different experiences, but ours has been wholly positive. Excellent training, excellent education. The claims in the article certainly ring true with our experience.

The problem is on sites such as this it is always easier and more acceptable to write about the positives. They are always easier to hear and naturally uplifting. 

We all have a vested interest in wanting these institutions to be good places for our children to learn and flourish. 

 

However the negatives and difficulties that families and students have faced and are facing under this new label of diversity and inclusion are less palatable, more contentious and legally risky for again sites like these to carry.

So naturally we hear less about it all. 

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2 hours ago, Motomum said:

The problem is on sites such as this it is always easier and more acceptable to write about the positives.

 

The BalletCo Forum encourages open discussion but it should be remembered that highly critical postings should be done under your own name. 

 

The Doing Dance Forum is particularly difficult because most people don't want their children to be identified, which is very sensible.  If people are going to comment it needs to be the personal experience of the individual or their parent/guardian or their teacher with permission so to do.

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22 hours ago, Peanut68 said:

I must say Elmhurst must rate top of the list for PR savvy! 
Hope they are putting as much effort into training students as they appear to be at gaining media mentions!

 

Possibly because they appear to be employing a speaker of American English?

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  • alison changed the title to Press Release: Diversity, Equality and Inclusion at Elmhurst Ballet School
35 minutes ago, taxi4ballet said:

What's the policy at other vocational schools, does anyone know? 

 

The Hammond state that for ballet tights in a colour of your choice and canvas shoes to match colour of tights are required.

 

 

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On 09/11/2020 at 16:58, Peanut68 said:

I must say Elmhurst must rate top of the list for PR savvy! 
Hope they are putting as much effort into training students as they appear to be at gaining media mentions!

Touché 

That’s all I’m going to say !

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On 09/11/2020 at 16:58, Peanut68 said:

I must say Elmhurst must rate top of the list for PR savvy! 
Hope they are putting as much effort into training students as they appear to be at gaining media mentions!

An Elmhurst reels ‘advert’ has appeared in my stories this morning. 

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I think the high level campaigns are required as the school is struggling to attract Upper school students especially.  
The turnover of students appears to be quite high also yet they peddle a happy holistic environment. IIt would be interesting to hear why this is exactly. They seem to be unable to retain many of their year 11 students for upper school even if they are offered a place. Interesting........

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Part of it may be that there is a wider choice as there are more establishments that offer post GCSE training than there are for Yrs 7 - 11. Also finance can play a part in the decision. Much of the 16+ training is on degree courses which gives access to student finance. At a Vocational 6th form there is less help with finance and even those who are awarded DADA or MDS funding still may end up paying quite a lot themselves.

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4 hours ago, Pas de Quatre said:

Part of it may be that there is a wider choice as there are more establishments that offer post GCSE training than there are for Yrs 7 - 11. Also finance can play a part in the decision. Much of the 16+ training is on degree courses which gives access to student finance. At a Vocational 6th form there is less help with finance and even those who are awarded DADA or MDS funding still may end up paying quite a lot themselves.


Yes to all of this, funding plays a huge part in decision making, and I think there is also an element of after having been there for five years, some want to try a different environment for their US training. 

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27 minutes ago, Farawaydancer said:


Yes to all of this, funding plays a huge part in decision making, and I think there is also an element of after having been there for five years, some want to try a different environment for their US training. 


I feel the choice of US is mainly influenced by the destination/success of its graduates and/or the academic back up plan/plan B. If plan A career doesn’t work out, and let’s face it the current employment situation is dire, what have you to fall back on ? Even Elmhurst’s 2 A levels make access to higher education difficult. 
There is an awful lot to consider in year 11 😞

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4 hours ago, cotes du rhone ! said:


I feel the choice of US is mainly influenced by the destination/success of its graduates and/or the academic back up plan/plan B. If plan A career doesn’t work out, and let’s face it the current employment situation is dire, what have you to fall back on ? Even Elmhurst’s 2 A levels make access to higher education difficult. 
There is an awful lot to consider in year 11 😞

Totally agree - it has also been the case that the Elmhurst students don’t get into the BRB at graduation- even though supposedly attached to the company via the school. The RBS kids get the opportunities. Also the A levels as a back up plan - much needed in this current climate and probably the future as well - are not enough for uni and especially more popular degrees in business and tech. My daughter had to go and do a transition diploma to boost her 2 A levels from RBS grad as a B-Tech not considered acceptable in Australia. Cost her another year of student academic fees and slowed her down getting her degree. So I think students need to get all the information about the ballet course and employment path and their plan B going into  any school. Don’t believe all they tell you and don’t believe the advertising. It’s good that Elmhurst are trying to operate a school with diversity etc. But to be frank that’s what’s required at any institution around the world  A normal school wouldn’t be praised for saying they are operating an institution within the acceptable social norms. 

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1 hour ago, Nama said:

 it has also been the case that the Elmhurst students don’t get into the BRB at graduation- even though supposedly attached to the company via the school. 

 

 

Which is not entirely accurate.  Of the current roster the following dancers have Elmhurst on their bio (around 10% of the current company):

 

Rosanna Ely

Ryan Felix

Miles Gilliver

Emma Price

Hamish Scott

Joseph Taylor

 

Other dancers, now left, also came through Elmhurst including James Barton and Nathanael Skelton who were the first 2 accepted into the company after the relationship with the school was announced.

 

If you look at the bios throughout the company the dancers come from very diverse backgrounds and different schools.

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On 20/11/2020 at 07:30, Pointytoes said:

I think the high level campaigns are required as the school is struggling to attract Upper school students especially.  
The turnover of students appears to be quite high also yet they peddle a happy holistic environment. IIt would be interesting to hear why this is exactly. They seem to be unable to retain many of their year 11 students for upper school even if they are offered a place. Interesting........

I believe there are currently some exceptional student there in the upper school 

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On 20/11/2020 at 07:30, Pointytoes said:

I think the high level campaigns are required as the school is struggling to attract Upper school students especially.  
The turnover of students appears to be quite high also yet they peddle a happy holistic environment. IIt would be interesting to hear why this is exactly. They seem to be unable to retain many of their year 11 students for upper school even if they are offered a place. Interesting........

As a parent of a child at upper school I strongly disagree with your comment. They are in no way struggling to attract students to their school . I can assure you that the process is just as competitive as ever. If not more so as students look to have a back up of Alevels as well.All vocational schools are upping their game with marketing themselves, it’s called moving with the times.  The standard of the students in the current upper school is exceptional. Students have left because their dance needs are better met at other schools ie a more contemporary focus and sometimes after 5 years at one school you are ready for a change . This happens across all schools . For new parents looking at upper schools for their children I can honestly 100% recommend Elmhurst . I can only speak from my dd experience and she feels that there is a very “positive vibe” in the school . Being a healthy dancer/athlete is very much at the forefront and the school . This includes looking after children’s mental health as well as physical. We must remember as parents we have to work in partnership with any school to get the best for our children . No school is ever going to be perfect and sometimes schools are not the best fit for your child. I am very sorry for any students who have been unhappy there for whatever reason. Perhaps living away from parents doesn’t actually suit a lot of children. 
As I say this is my point of view from my current experience of the school . 

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38 minutes ago, abitwornout said:

As a parent of a child at upper school I strongly disagree with your comment. They are in no way struggling to attract students to their school . I can assure you that the process is just as competitive as ever. If not more so as students look to have a back up of Alevels as well.All vocational schools are upping their game with marketing themselves, it’s called moving with the times.  The standard of the students in the current upper school is exceptional. Students have left because their dance needs are better met at other schools ie a more contemporary focus and sometimes after 5 years at one school you are ready for a change . This happens across all schools . For new parents looking at upper schools for their children I can honestly 100% recommend Elmhurst . I can only speak from my dd experience and she feels that there is a very “positive vibe” in the school . Being a healthy dancer/athlete is very much at the forefront and the school . This includes looking after children’s mental health as well as physical. We must remember as parents we have to work in partnership with any school to get the best for our children . No school is ever going to be perfect and sometimes schools are not the best fit for your child. I am very sorry for any students who have been unhappy there for whatever reason. Perhaps living away from parents doesn’t actually suit a lot of children. 
As I say this is my point of view from my current experience of the school . 


I agree completely with all of this, also with current experience. 

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5 hours ago, abitwornout said:

As a parent of a child at upper school I strongly disagree with your comment. They are in no way struggling to attract students to their school . I can assure you that the process is just as competitive as ever. If not more so as students look to have a back up of Alevels as well.All vocational schools are upping their game with marketing themselves, it’s called moving with the times.  The standard of the students in the current upper school is exceptional. Students have left because their dance needs are better met at other schools ie a more contemporary focus and sometimes after 5 years at one school you are ready for a change . This happens across all schools . For new parents looking at upper schools for their children I can honestly 100% recommend Elmhurst . I can only speak from my dd experience and she feels that there is a very “positive vibe” in the school . Being a healthy dancer/athlete is very much at the forefront and the school . This includes looking after children’s mental health as well as physical. We must remember as parents we have to work in partnership with any school to get the best for our children . No school is ever going to be perfect and sometimes schools are not the best fit for your child. I am very sorry for any students who have been unhappy there for whatever reason. Perhaps living away from parents doesn’t actually suit a lot of children. 
As I say this is my point of view from my current experience of the school . 

I agree too. My DD chose to stay on after 4 years in their LS and is so happy that she did (as are her father and I). She says that she couldn’t be happier and that she doesn’t regret turning down a well known London school at all. But I know the school isn’t for everyone but I think that’s the case of a lot of schools out there. 

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On 21/11/2020 at 07:52, Jan McNulty said:

 

 

Which is not entirely accurate.  Of the current roster the following dancers have Elmhurst on their bio (around 10% of the current company):

 

Rosanna Ely

Ryan Felix

Miles Gilliver

Emma Price

Hamish Scott

Joseph Taylor

 

Other dancers, now left, also came through Elmhurst including James Barton and Nathanael Skelton who were the first 2 accepted into the company after the relationship with the school was announced.

 

If you look at the bios throughout the company the dancers come from very diverse backgrounds and different schools.

I appreciate the point you make about the diversity of the company - however my point was the results of Elmhurst as evident in their placement of students in their own associated company BRB. And in particular I was pointing to the last 4 years or so as documented in the graduation destination announcements. It’s clear that in current history the numbers are pointing towards RBS grad intake. I appreciate that other dancers join the Company throughout the levels and from other places.  But my issue was the Elmhurst students as graduates getting full contracts at BRB as compared to the total number of RBS kids getting full contracts at grad. Also it’s worth pointing out that the apprentice contracts have been allocated to Elmhurst kids.  I can only speak to what my experience has been via my daughters years at RBS and looking at the documented press releases over those years comparing the two schools. I acknowledge that companies are full of various dancers from many schools. That wasn’t my point in this post.  

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44 minutes ago, Nama said:

I appreciate the point you make about the diversity of the company - however my point was the results of Elmhurst as evident in their placement of students in their own associated company BRB. And in particular I was pointing to the last 4 years or so as documented in the graduation destination announcements. It’s clear that in current history the numbers are pointing towards RBS grad intake. I appreciate that other dancers join the Company throughout the levels and from other places.  But my issue was the Elmhurst students as graduates getting full contracts at BRB as compared to the total number of RBS kids getting full contracts at grad. Also it’s worth pointing out that the apprentice contracts have been allocated to Elmhurst kids.  I can only speak to what my experience has been via my daughters years at RBS and looking at the documented press releases over those years comparing the two schools. I acknowledge that companies are full of various dancers from many schools. That wasn’t my point in this post.  


I agree that there are very few Elmhurst students that gain a contract with BRB. 3 directly from the school that I can recall in the last 8 years and 2 given contracts following an apprenticeship. RBS I agree have had more success. 2 students this year alone were chosen pre Covid. Elmhurst have a, what we thought was, a yearly apprenticeship contract with the company but disappointingly this year following an audition it has been “rolled over”. 
Elmhurst students are given the opportunity to dance in BRB performances as much as RBS students but they sadly just don’t get the jobs. This is evident from the published graduate destinations from both schools. Covid has sadly taken its toll on both schools this year 😢 

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I have always been fascinated when reading upper schools' graduate destinations.  But also the % of lower school students who get into their upper schools (for example White Lodge to Floral Street).  I also noticed that RBS seems to take in new students (often internationals) straight into their third year - stunning ones who already look company-ready.  What also interests me in the last few years is discovering quite a few former Elmhurst students (who didn't necessarily stay there) have had success in getting into big companies and other brilliant schools, including Princess Grace, a school that as far as I know has only ever taken in one British student so far.  It appears to be a hard nut to crack despite a good number auditioning every time they have their intensives.  In a way I think British students are starting to venture more internationally, some going to Germany, the Netherlands etc.  I really do think that more than the school, it's what students make of it.

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3 hours ago, cotes du rhone ! said:

 RBS I agree have had more success. 2 students this year alone were chosen pre Covid. Elmhurst have a, what we thought was, a yearly apprenticeship contract with the company but disappointingly this year following an audition it has been “rolled over”. 

I think there were actually 4 RBS students offered contracts at BRB for this season  - 3 took up the offer and one chose to go elsewhere. 

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