Scholarship forms arrived at The Place last week, much to the delight of Veronica Lewis, director of the London Contemporary Dance School there. The change in the law to allow more British students to receive grants is most welcome. Students come to the school from all over the world - auditions are about to take place in Lithuania and New Zealand - but for British students it has been a struggle. Ms Lewis says: "They are exhausted. They get 1,038 hours of dance during the three-year course. They work all day in practical classes or writing essays and learning about choreography and then you see them working in the hotel next door every night."
The 150 students follow some of the most respected courses in contemporary dance in the world. In the same building, near the new British Library in Euston, the Richard Alston Dance Company, which tours internationally, has its creative base. LCD, housed in this converted drill hall where Noel Coward, William Morris and Wilfred Owen once trained for war, has received a total of pound;7 million from the Lottery and other sources for refurbishment and to expand its outreach work.
Part of this is a pound;25,000 Millennium Award for the Education and Community Programmes (ECP) department to work with visually-impaired young people and Japanese choreographer Saburo Teshigawara and his company, Karas. This will involve partnerships with three other European companies, in Denmark, Belgium and Finland. Each of the four partners will recruit about 15 young dancers aged 15 to 19, up to half of whom will be partially-sighted or blind. Chris Thomson, director of ECP, says that in August 2000, representatives of the groups, having experienced regular workshops with Teshigawara, will come to London to create a full-scale production.
Mr Thomson, who works with the King's Cross Partnership, also runs evening classes that attract 20,000 students a year, regular Saturday classes for groups aged five to 16, and a youth dance company for teenagers. The new intake for the BA course at the school will include a talented 18-year-old boy who lives locally and has been coming to youth dance classes. Veronica Lewis says she hopes he will be a role model for other young men in the area and encourage more of them to come to the school. For information about ECP, tel: 0171 388 8956; about London Contemporary Dance School 0171 387 0152.
Now is the time (until May 2) to see contemporary dance in all its variety during the Spring Loaded festival at The Place, the South Bank and other London venues. If you are quick, you might catch Richard Alston's triple bill, including "Movements from Petrushka" at the Queen Elizabeth Hall tonight or tomorrow, but there are many visiting companies, daily showing everything from rap to folk and innovative new pieces. The last presentation is a Place commission, "Salome", performed by the Seven Sisters group, which promises "a trip through light, sound and movement" at St Pancras Chambers. (Tickets: 0171 387 0031).
Last week, we launched the TES anthem for the millennium. If you missed the special supplement, log on to the TES website, www.tes.co.uk, for the score and teacher's notes about "There's Only One of You".
Schoolsong 2000 will provide another reason for polishing up the school choir's performance. Students from Greycoats School in Westminster had civil servants peering out of their offices when they broke into song in the atrium of the Department for Education and Employment building while having a launch photograph taken with standards minister Estelle Morris. Ten preliminary festivals will take place in Cardiff and all over England in the autumn, and a national festival will be held at London's South Bank in January next year. Every choir taking part must draw all its members from one school. Schoolsong 2000, sponsored by CGU and Capital Bank and supported by the National Union of Teachers, is run by Music for Youth. Details: 0181 870 9624.
Anyone, in government or otherwise, who is ignorant of the groundswell of feeling about the importance of music in the curriculum must have been going around with their fingers firmly in their ears. Classic FM has been listening and the result is a search for the Classic FM Music Teacher of the Year. From June 1, schools, pupils and parents will be invited to submit up to 500 words and, if possible, tapes to support their nominations. The winner will go to the Tanglewood Music Festival in Boston for two weeks to enjoy performances, workshops and masterclasses. The winner's school will receive Sibelius software.
Roger Lewis, Classic FM's managing director, has fond memories of his own teacher, Alan Jones, who taught music at Cynffig Comprehensive in mid-Glamorgan. On his first day, he heard Mr Jones banging out The Marriage of Figaro, which later that year became the school production, on a battered upright piano. Roger Lewis went on to play in the National Youth Orchestra of Wales and to read music at university.
Five finalists will be interviewed on air between July 12 and 15, and Classic FM listeners will vote for the overall winner, to be announced by presenter Henry Kelly on July 19 during School Run.