Preview: Excellent!, Sadler's Wells, London

An excellent adventure for young talent

Through means-tested funding, the Music and Dance Scheme (MDS) offers crucial access to high-level training for exceptionally gifted young people; its current crop of 1,600 11- to 18-year-olds will one day enter a list of alumni which includes the violinist Nigel Kennedy, the dancer Darcey Bussell and the composer Debbie Wiseman.

In celebration of the MDS, and for one night only, Sadler's Wells is set to sparkle with the treasures of the programme. Excellent! offers a cavalcade of compositions, choreography and enticing collaborations which link MDS trainees with some of the best professionals.

"The MDS truly stands for a fantastic opportunity for young people, who couldn't perhaps have afforded individual tuition, to afford it at world-class level," says Nicolas Chisholm, headmaster of the Yehudi Menuhin School in Surrey, one of the many MDS centres nationwide that are participating.

"It's about access and opportunity; I know they're buzzwords, but it's absolutely true. We get applications from people from all walks of life. And from the school's point of view, it ensures our existence. Without it, we wouldn't be able to operate."

Among the array of performances, Chisholm's charges will provide an original live score for a new piece of choreography from the Royal Ballet School, the Place Centre team up with the Royal College of Music for a scintillating site-specific marriage of music and dance, and Dance City Academy partner the Sage Gateshead Weekend School in an enticing collaboration. There are big bands, fanfares, choristers, a "cutlery concerto"; and, the following day, also at Sadler's Wells, a chance to discuss the issues that the MDS throws up.

"I'm looking forward to the variety of it all," says Chisholm, "because it isn't just classical music and classical ballet. We've got south Asian dance, we've got contemporary music and contemporary dance.

"I'm looking forward to seeing a celebration of a scheme that has been a hugely well-kept secret. Potentially, it's going to be absolutely extraordinary."



15-16 July, Sadler's Wells, London EC1, (0844 412 4300), www.excellent.uk.com

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