Aerial photograph from a plane of the Brook Street campus
08 March 2018

West Kent College Students Stage an Unhinged Circus Extravaganza in Partnership with Constella OperaBallet

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Students at West Kent College were recently given the fantastic opportunity to participate in a unique masterclass programme in the form of a partnership residency between the College and Constella OperaBallet, the world’s only company dedicated to fusing the power of opera and ballet.

Over 70 of the College’s Creative Studies and Hair & Beauty students worked with Constella’s team of internationally renowned professionals for a week to re-write and re-choreograph their award-winning production Sideshows, culminating in a public performance of the show on the evening of the 17th February in the College’s theatre, attracting a large audience.

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The brainchild of composer and conductor Leo Geyer, the production is inspired by the bizarre and freakish world of Victorian circus sideshows, particularly those that used to take place on London’s Southbank. An unhinged circus extravaganza, the show features an explosive jazz-inspired score written by Geyer. The Ringmaster and his ensemble of clowns present outrageous acts that spiral out of control to hilarious effect. Some acts are sung whilst others are danced, warping the fundamentals of classical ballet technique to bring the freakish characters to life. The show originated as a song about a Dancing Bear, which Geyer was commissioned to write for the 20×12 New Music Weekend at the Southbank Centre. The performance developed over a number of years into a 2-act opera-ballet, incorporating more sideshow acts, including the Bearded Lady, Fire-eater, Snake Charmer and Palm Reader.


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Clare Roach, West Kent College’s Head of Faculty for Creative Studies, said: “This was an amazing opportunity for our students to work with professionals on such a unique and exciting project.  I am very proud of what they achieved in five days and the standard of their performance on Saturday evening was exceptional.”

Mark Lumsdon-Taylor, Deputy Group Principal and CEO, added: “This is the first time, as far as we are aware, that a college has created such an ambitious, immersive, integrated masterclass at professional level with the involvement of this number of students from so many different disciplines. The entire stage set, costumes, make up, programme, marketing and displays were created by our students studying Art & Design, Creative Media Production, Fashion and Textiles, Graphic Design, Hair & Beauty, Music, Performing Arts and Technical Theatre. We are extremely proud and impressed by what they have learnt and achieved in the last 5 days.

“This was a huge team effort and we’d like to thank numerous people for making it possible: Mark Hider and The Artisan Restaurant for providing the reception, Jayne Baker - Creative Studies Faculty Administrator for organising the week, Charlie Peel - Team Leader for Performing Arts, without whom this event would not be possible, and Deborah Pullen - Team Leader for Performing Arts and Media & Photography, who supported the students. Finally, thanks go to our Theatre and Music Technicians and the Marketing team, for helping our students to publicise the event.”

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Constella premiered the current production to critical acclaim at the 2015 Grimeborn Opera Festival and it has been awarded the Lord Mayor’s Composition Prize and the Philip Bates Prize. It has been performed over 60 times across the UK and US, including Constella’s own production, which was broadcast twice on BBC Radio 3.

Visit http://www.constella.org.uk/ for more information on Constella OperaBallet and the production.

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