Performance Studies is the integrated study of dance, drama, and music in one subject. It involves both practical and theoretical studies.

The Performance Studies course at the sixth form college focuses on each of the three art forms of music, dance and drama, giving equal weighting to each, with two periods (1½ hours) dedicated to each one. Classes consist of both males and females; however, recent years have shown the course to be fairly female dominated, with considerably more girls than boys in classes. Each art form is taught by a specialist in that area.

Performance Studies at the Sixth Form College is for all-round students, and those that participate in the course are usually proficient in at least two of the three art forms while also willing to learn and develop the third, with which they are not completely unacquainted. The course is not designed for those that wish to focus purely on one of the arts and those to whom this applies are advised to look into different courses such as Drama or Music.

Student performance

The course focuses on practical work where possible, as the staff feel that the students learn better by ‘doing’ rather than just being told. By actually putting techniques and ideas into practise, students gain a more thorough understanding of the effects that they give, for example, why physical theatre is so effective in Berkoff’s Metamorphosis.

In addition to practical work, group discussion features in lessons along with note taking on various topics. Performance Studies encourages creativity and originality, and this comes across heavily in practical performances, where students are given the freedom to experiment and try out things which they as individuals and as a group have extracted from a script.

While the three art forms are taught separately from each other, there is a strong degree of emphasis put on how they link together in performance, and how this creates dramatic effect. Students on the course will look at a range of practitioners in their studies, from Stephen Berkoff and John Godber in drama, to Christopher Bruce and Richard Alston in dance, and the work of Gershwin and various jazz artists in music.

The course is examined through practical performance accompanied by a coursework piece, and also by a written exam at the end of the year. The practical exam is done via a ‘community performance project’, which is performed in a community venue, for example, Colchester Arts Centre, and must link to a community event or figure. Practical performance accounts for only 30% of the AS grade; however, it is also used to reinforce the theory of the arts. The community performance also requires a 3000 word accompanying piece to explain the process of developing the final piece and describing techniques used etc.

Students on the course are very enthusiastic about Performance Studies and enjoy their lessons; however, all of the students are very aware that this course is not an easy option to fill in the gaps on their timetables.

Molly Richards said that “Performance Studies is an interesting and active subject with an eclectic mix of students. However, it is not to be forgotten that it requires hard work and determination.” While the course attracts a range of students, from those who want to go into performance as a career, to others who do it simply out of enjoyment, commitment to the subject is vital, and as put by Molly Jones: “It’s not a hobby, it’s a passion.” And passion is certainly required to succeed in Performance Studies.

Please see the Course Details box on this page for links to downloadable subject information sheets.