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Sheffield students don their dancing shoes for African inspired performance

Pupils at Firth Park Academy during rehearsals for their dance performance at The Octagon centre in Sheffield
Pupils at Firth Park Academy during rehearsals for their dance performance at The Octagon centre in Sheffield

Students from Firth Park Academy have been getting their dancing shoes on ahead of a performance which will be held at The Octagon Centre on Saturday.

Audiences will be in for a rare treat as the students join the ranks with Birmingham-based Keneish Dance alongside the voices of Sheffield Oratorio chorus, in an exciting evening of African-inspired rhythms.

Pupils at Firth Park Academy during rehearsals for their dance performance at The Octagon centre in Sheffield

Pupils at Firth Park Academy during rehearsals for their dance performance at The Octagon centre in Sheffield

They will be presenting a contemporary dance spectacle with the professionals at Keneish Dance, who along with Keisha Grant, have choreographed an accompaniment to David Fanshawe's African Sanctus which will be performed by the chorus.

Comprising of 25 students aged between 11 and 15, the enthusiastic group from Firth Park Academy have been working hard during the lead up to the performance, to get themselves ready for the big night which will take place on July 7.

On the night they will also be joined by soprano soloist Gweneth-Ann Rand with an instrumental ensemble by the South Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra.

Bliss Spencer, 13, is in year eight, and is taking part in the performance. She said: "I can't wait to see what it will look like on stage. It's been tiring, but everyone is managing to keep their energy going, and everyone keeps getting better.

Pupils at Firth Park Academy during rehearsals for their dance performance at The Octagon centre in Sheffield

Pupils at Firth Park Academy during rehearsals for their dance performance at The Octagon centre in Sheffield

"I'm excited to get our t-shirts, you can pick a colour either orange or yellow. I'm also excited to dance, it's nice to see our hard work pay off and we feel ready. I will be taking BTEC dance next year."

Viktor Clausz, 15, is a year 10 student, and a keen dancer having done ballroom dance before. He is one of eight boys who are taking part in the performance, and is currently studying BTEC dance.

He said: "Rehearsals are going great, it's nice to see everyone developing their skills."

The students started rehearsals at the beginning of June, with three workshops lead by Jerome Wilks from the Keneish dance company, before Sarah Robinson, a teacher at Firth Park Academy, continued rehearsals.

Pupils at Firth Park Academy during rehearsals for their dance performance at The Octagon centre in Sheffield

Pupils at Firth Park Academy during rehearsals for their dance performance at The Octagon centre in Sheffield

Christiana Wilhelm-Makinde, 11, is currently in year seven. She said: "It's been a good experience, and it gets us ready for the future if we want to pick dance. It's really nice, you can let your feelings out, enjoy yourself, hang out with your mates and practice your skills."

Consolatha Baloyi, 13, is in year eight, and she wants to become more involved in dancing.

"Rehearsals have been going well, everybody is into it and going for it. But I've had fun with people, it's been really good," she said.

The African Sanctus is a musical one-off, where the singers deliver Fanshawe's version of the Latin Mass harmonised with traditional African music, recorded by the young composer during a 2,000-mile journey up the River Nile between in 1969, from the Mediterranean Sea to Lake Victoria.

Alan Eost conducting the Sheffield Oratorio Chorus (Picture: Bill Clarke)

Alan Eost conducting the Sheffield Oratorio Chorus (Picture: Bill Clarke)

The taped music comes from Egypt, Sudan, Uganda and Kenya, consisting of 13 movements that follow the composer of his journey through Africa.

Tracks include the calling of a muezzin, Masai milking songs, frogs croaking from a swamp in a heavy rainfall, wedding celebrations, burial laments and Koranic chanting.

Fanshawe is often credited with inventing sampling with this work, besides mixing musical genres and styles in a way hardly dreamt of before the work's premiere in 1972.

Although David Fanshawe composed many other singular works before his death in 2010 and left an enormous archive of world music tapes, slides and journals from his travels as an ethno-musicologist the vivid African Sanctus remains his best-known work.

The journey that inspired it was quite literally an adventure: hitchhiking alone with rucksack, tent, camera and tape recorder, he learnt to ride a camel, was arrested as a suspected spy, survived a plane crash and even had to swim for his life from an enraged hippopotamus.

The collaboration between Sheffield Oratorio Chorus, Keneish Dance and the Firth Park pupils explores themes of journeying both literal and emotional, challenge and diversity.

Sheffield Oratorio Chorus during rehearsals (Picture: Bill Clarke)

Sheffield Oratorio Chorus during rehearsals (Picture: Bill Clarke)

The performance will take place The Octagon Centre on Western Bank at 7.30pm of July 7.

Tickets will cost £15/£20 depending on seating area, with concessions priced at £12/£17 and students/under 16's £5.

They are available online via www.oratorio.org.uk, from the Blue Moon Café on 2 St James Street in Sheffield or on the door.