Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Ten Years of Dancing

by David Doyle

The beauty of dance
It is notable how an event with relatively small beginnings has blossomed into the wonderful two-night extravaganza which we have again enjoyed last week. In his foreword to the programme of the second event, Dr Hands wrote of the first event in 2006: “I think many will agree with me in saying that the evening was a terrific spectacle! From the dazzling performance of gifted pupils that left the audience in awe, to the equally amazing and entertaining performances of staff, the evening was superb – one of the best presentations I have seen in my time as Headmaster in this school. It brought us closer as a school”. Some things, therefore, do not change!

Performers in the first event
In the ten years since the first Come Dancing was held, 160 pupils and 60 members of staff have taken to the floor and some £25,000 + has been raised for the good causes. Latterly, of course, this has been for our partner school in Chai Thom, Cambodia and the work of United World Schools and for the Kikaaya School, Uganda. However, originally, the scheme was begun by a group of Year 9 boys: Matthew Gray; Matthew Sharkey; Alex Bennett; Chris Smithers and Matt Husselby, under the guise of the Barnardo’s Business Incentive Scheme which pupils followed with Miss Daisy Tabtab in Business Studies, and springing from a Dragons’ Den type presentation made to a panel of judges.
The format has changed only slightly since then, and has certainly brought us ‘closer together’: 2012 saw the first time that the whole area of the Bawtree Building was opened up and used, enabling dancers to really exploit the whole floor and for the audience to feel far more part of the evening (see video below). Voting has also evolved, with the audience now being invited to simply “empty your wallet” in to buckets which have the faces of the dancers smiling back at you, a simplification of the time-consuming “buying a vote” which caused queues and was less lucrative.

Jepson and DTD
Strictly School Dancing as it began, PGS Come Dancing as it now is, has always had a dual purpose: to raise money for some fantastic causes whilst teaching pupils and staff a new skill. I was involved in the first one as a background supporter and then in 2007 – when staff had to dance 2 dances! – Mrs Claire Jepson and I put on two fab-u-lous Shirley Bassey numbers: Diamonds are Forever and S’Wonderful and Rumba’ed and Quick Stepped our way respectively to victory. Then in 2010, Ms Jenny Dunne and I – mercifully only having to dance once – again topped the leader board with an exhausting Quick Step to It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) and, boy, did it swing! We won four 10s from the judges who were, I can say this now, incredibly generous and, possibly, simply relieved I had just made it through! 

In 2012, I realised that not only had two more years passed but that Jon Cooper had left us - he had been in charge of the 2010 event and had masterminded the name change and shifted the focus to raising money for the work of UWS in Chai Thom. It was clear that this was an event that needed to be maintained and celebrated.

Clearly, there have been unforeseen developments; I cannot get away now with promising “never again” as I conclude the last payment into the Bursary; too many pupils inform me that they are going to be part of the next event (indeed this year’s winner, Laura Verrecchia, told me in Year 8 she was going to perform). Nor, in truth, can I turn down such a fantastic opportunity to watch so many pupils and staff as they get to know others they have never met or spoken to before: it is an amazing privilege to be the custodian of this truly spectacular part of PGS life, as it now most certainly  has become ! One had only to see the response that the tenth anniversary reunion received on social media to know that many still see this as one of the highlights of their time at PGS.

2016 winners
As for the future ? We were so proud to have the Headmaster join us for this year’s anniversary dancing the salsa, and being forever enshrined on YouTube in doing so (see below), and we have always had members of the senior management take part (Mr Goad, you are forewarned!). Also, we had the very special reunion of former dancers and champions. And, of course, the terrific live band for the final; they just blew us away with their enthusiasm and the way in which they lifted up the audience even further – thanks to Sam Gladstone and to Emma Bell for this!

The challenge is to keep it fresh and to think of ways of inspiring pupils to take a risk and try something new. Rather like Mr Priory’s much loved poem by Christopher Logue, Come to the Edge, we want them to fly … around a dance floor. Maybe PGS Come Dancing – a Parents’ Special ? Open Air PGS Come Dancing ? Who knows! 

I am certain, however, that the next decade of PGS CD will see as many pupils and staff learn a new skill, make many new friends and, most of all, continue to generate fantastic sums of money for our good causes, thanks to the generosity of all the parents, pupils and friends of PGS.

Doyle in action

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting and fun to read.


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