I was a terribly shy girl up until lower primary. When I was nine, my mother enrolled me in Speech and Drama classes. As I picked up skills in performance and enunciation, I grew in confidence. More importantly, these acting classes built the foundation for me to succeed in other aspects of my life.
This would likely come as no surprise to PETER HODGSON, co-founder and artistic director of Centre Stage School of the Arts. He says, “Working in the arts in a creative fashion helps to develop life skills – social and emotional skills that are invaluable to all areas of life.”
In 1999 Peter set up Centre Stage in Singapore with co-founder Alison Tompkins. Both graduated from the Guildford School of Acting in acting and musical theatre respectively and worked as actors in London before moving to Singapore. They also have teaching diplomas in drama from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
We asked Peter for some more insights into the advantages of these kinds of acting classes for kids.
What are some of the key ways that performing arts, and speech and drama classes can help children?
“Sailing the Seven C’s” is an alliteration we use that ties up the main benefits of creative classes:
- Creativity: Using imaginative skills to create something new.
- Confidence: Developing ego-strength and self-esteem to present their own ideas.
- Curiosity: Encouraging questions and inquiry
- Communication: Working with others to communicate using voice, words, face and body.
- Cognition: Thinking, remembering, comparing and problem solving.
- Concentration: Developing active listening to enable deeper enquiry.
- Collaboration: Advancing skills of working with others, empathy, negotiation and presenting confident ideas.
To build resilience and to celebrate human sociability, there’s no better way than with performing arts courses.
How can these skills complement a child’s academic learning?
Let’s look at two key factors: feeling good about yourself and being able to relate to others. A child needs to feel confident about their ideas – they need to be brave enough to answer a question and resilient enough to cope if the answer is wrong. They need to negotiate, lead and work with others as a team. In every area of academic learning, it’s a tremendous advantage to be a confident person who’s good at understanding and relating to others.
What can the performing arts offer that other activities perhaps don’t?
We are dealing in particular with understanding other people. To be able to literally walk in someone else’s shoes – to become another person and to feel their feelings, challenges, concerns and triumphs – gives children a unique view of the world. It helps them to understand others and also to understand themselves.
How can I encourage my child’s participation if they have no interest in performing arts?
Just let them have a go! The best starting place is Creative Drama or Creative Musical Theatre or any of the dance classes if your child is longing to dance. Play Stage is the place to be for little ones.
If your child has separation issues or anxiety about new environments, talk to us first and we’ll develop strategies. Not everyone wants to be on the stage but everyone would benefit from non-performance creative classes.
We have a three-week try-out period – during this time, if for any reason you decide that this isn’t for your child or you, we will return the deposit and any fee for unattended classes.
What are some of your aims for developing students of different ages?
For those up to five years of age, it’s vitally important to sow the seeds for a creative and confident life. Early work and skills development through play in these areas are long lasting.
From six to nine years, we are “working at play” – we structure imaginary play and guide it to become something truly valuable.
From 10 to 18 years is when the performing enthusiasts emerge – theatre, dance, singing and everything that goes with it. We are beginning to train children as actors, musical theatre performers and dancers as well as those who enjoy being involved with or being close to theatre and live performance.
Hear From A Student
Summer Staples, British, 16
“Mum enrolled me at Centre Stage 10 years ago and I’ve been taking ballet classes plus tap, jazz, contemporary and musical theatre dance as well as musical theatre.
During the 10 years, I’ve performed in mini showcases, dance and musical theatre performances, pantomimes written and directed by co-founders Pete and Alison, and six of the school’s annual dance shows. I’ve also taken multiple exams here in ballet, jazz and musical theatre dance.
I’ve had opportunities to work with a range of students and also help younger students. In shows, I’ve had to work with other people to learn dances or stage directions; it’s very important to get along with your castmates.
The part I enjoy most about performing is being able to learn new dances and perform them for an audience. I enjoy rehearsing and the hard work that goes into a show. I also enjoy being able to do what I love with my friends as we are all working towards the same goals.”
Special offer! Expat Living readers can experience a free trial class and waiver of the registration fee when joining the school. Simply show a photograph of this article.
This article first appeared in the September 2021 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!
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