TRAVEL / Hobby Holidays: Singing & dancing

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The Independent Culture
Most practical musical and dance holidays are based around summer schools - usually residential courses run by colleges and institutions for a few weeks in July or August. But don't be put off by the apparently academic nature of these - as well as providing highly serious master classes for gifted amateurs and budding professionals, nearly all will also cater for beginners (although you may feel a little out of place if you're completely tone deaf or unco-ordinated). The other option is to choose a more fun-based holiday where the emphasis is on a 'get-together' atmosphere rather than on honing musical or dancing skills. Alternatively, you could take the easy option and enjoy other people's performances by booking a European city break with concert or ballet tickets included. Some programmes won't be finalised until January, so prices and classes may change. Prices quoted include board and tuition (and travel for overseas holidays only). All the practical courses listed are held in Britain.

THE FUN FACTOR: 'Everyone can sing; some people need more persuading than others,' says the introduction to the Singing for the Tone Deaf weekend at The Old Rectory near Pulborough (079882 306; prices around pounds 100). Acorn Activities (0432 357335) holds dance weekends for those who want to brush up their ballroom techniques (pounds 175). The widest range of choices is offered by H F Holidays (081-905 9388). Musical options cover Gilbert and Sullivan, music hall, Singing for Pleasure and Let's do a Musical as well as visits to British music and folk festivals. On the dance side, you can choose between Circle Dancing, Scottish Country Dance, Latin American and so on. Prices are from around pounds 250 for seven nights.

Some of the best fun must be had at English Touring Opera's (071-820 1131/41) summer production - put on after a week's rehearsals. The principals and directors are professionals but amateurs play minor roles and chorus. pounds 170 plus around pounds 20 per night for accommodation.

THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE: The most famous summer school is the Dartington International (0803 865988). This year's programme has not been finalised, but last year's courses included All Comers' Orchestra, Choir Training, Song Writing, Choreography and specialist instrumental training. Emma Kirkby, Bernard Roberts and Ruggiero Ricci gave master classes last year (students are selected by audition); but there are also courses for musicians 'of all standards'. Prices are from pounds 200 to pounds 560 per week.

For dancers, whether they are beginners or advanced, the London Contemporary Dance School (071-388 8430) runs courses in the evening, at Easter and in summer - based at The Place in Euston - that include classical ballet, jazz and flamenco as well as modern dance. Cost is approximately pounds 50 for a week's tuition only.

Next year's International Summer School at the Laban Centre (081-692 4070) in South London has a similar range of courses aimed at those with some dance experience. Jazz, ballet and contemporary dance also feature at the Thamesdown Dance Studio's summer school in Swindon (0793 610378).

SPLASHING OUT AND TAKING IT EASY: If you prefer to sit back and watch, plenty of tour operators put together city-break or touring packages which include tickets to the big operas, ballets and festivals of Europe - however, they don't come cheap.

Aria (081-994 0977) has a flexible programme of trips to the Staatsoper in Vienna and La Scala, Milan (among others) - three nights in Milan with a

ticket to Don Pasquale costs from pounds 745. Cavendish Tours (071-352 6565) specialises in Vienna and Budapest: seven days including concerts in both cities and visits to the houses of Beethoven, Schubert and Haydn cost pounds 800.

For classical ballet at the Bolshoi in Moscow contact Intourist (071-538 8600). Other operators with musical programmes include Austria On- Line (071-434 7399) and Martin Randall Travel (081-742 3355).

FAMILY FAVOURITES: Some schools and courses allow non- participating guests who come to listen while a partner polishes up their skills. Children, especially those with a particular talent, are welcome on most, although there may be an age limit - for example 16 - if they are not accompanied by an adult. Dartington (see above) charges half price for children aged 3-12 who share a room with their parents.

SOLOISTS: Many, if not most of the people who take part in these holidays come alone - to improve their skills, or just to meet other enthusiasts.

CUTTING COSTS: A few summer schools offer scholarships or reduced fees for talented dancers and musicians. British Youth Opera (071-815 6090) holds auditions for scholarships to its summer school for singers aged 22-30 and instrumentalists aged 18-30. English Touring Opera (see above) has a pounds 50 reduction for OAPs and students, and bursaries for young singers. Dartington Summer School (above) has a full range of scholarships and bursaries with no age restrictions.

THE INDEPENDENT ARTISTE: If you'd rather avoid a full-scale residential course but still want to improve your skills, the National Federation of Music Societies' (071-828 7320) 'Making More of Music Initiative' is running training events for amateur singers and musicians 'from teenagers to octogenarians'. These will take place all over the country until autumn 1995.

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