Honing Performance Skills at ISTA
The Yew Chung International School of Beijing’s Performing Arts Department was filled with excitement last week Thursday as 11 of our students from our Lower Secondary School prepared themselves for the four day long International Schools Theatre Association (ISTA) Festival in Shanghai.
Chaperoned by our Drama Teacher, Freda Humber, and Pastoral Care Coordinator, Casey Fanning, students were set for yet another weekend of learning with artists, teachers, performing professionals and ensemble leaders (as they were in previous years), who were invited to the festival to give theatre workshops to students from 8 international schools from around the world, including our sister school, YCIS Shanghai – Pudong.
International Schools Theatre Association (ISTA) is an international schools theatre festival which “seeks to connect artists, teachers and students from around the world to create, learn and inspire” said Freda. Because the festival runs throughout the year “You get to choose which one to attend, depending on the availability. You look at yours and your students’ schedules then the location before booking the trip” she added. The festival has previously been hosted in Beijing, Seoul, Guangzhou and countries such as Malaysia and Turkey.
A Variety of Cultural Activities
The weekend kicked off with a cultural excursion in The Bund and Old Shanghai where students explored old and new parts of Shanghai – an activity that played a crucial part in the workshops students took part in and the “final presentation of a performance at the end of the festival” added Ms. Humber.
The weekend was made up of late nights and early mornings due to the vigorous nature of the workshops. Students were challenged to explore their performance abilities and interests through over five theatre workshops which included: Bunkuru- a Japanese style puppetry which requires artists to work in groups to control movements of an almost life-sized puppet, Let Music Be Your Guide which worked as a stimuli for drama and Crouching Tiger – where students learned the emphasis of quickness, explosive power and relaxed movement, to name a few.
These activities were designed to allow students too explore different areas of theater, performance and foster collaborative skills as they worked with fellow students from other schools and cultural backgrounds.
An Opportunity for Professional Development
The Festival is not only a great way for students develop their theatre skills, but is also a way for teachers to improve on their skills and techniques by learning from their colleagues with different experience from other places around the world. “I think we can also learn from our colleagues and also get ideas on how we can adapt certain lessons for our students.” she said.
The Importance of the Festival
It is crucial for students to participate in these kinds of events and a commitment for YCIS Beijing towards the holistic development of each child and performing arts related activities are an important way students can fortify their creative side. According to Freda, theatre in general “enhances confidence in students, they become spontaneous, creative and responsible. They also get to connect with their peers from all over the world and network.” she concluded.
Many friendships with students from other countries also started at the start of the festival, and, by the end of it, our students did not only make new friends, but they deepened their love of performing as well.