Performing arts

Philosophy of the performing arts department: We cultivate creativity and expression by fostering the development of outstanding performance skills and aesthetic awareness in all our students through high quality experiences in dance, music and drama.

Past performances in drama, dance and music are available to stream on our media page.


The high school's performing ensembles are open to all qualified students in Grades 9-12. All ensembles perform at least three major concerts during the year. One of the special features of the high school music program is the annual Music Tour, when ASL's musical ensembles travel and perform. Music Tour takes place during semester II. ASL music students have performed in Paris, Bonn, Prague and Leuven to name a few. Participation in Music Tour is a requirement of enrollment in Concert Choir, Concert Band or Chamber Orchestra. Students must pay tour expenses of approximately £600. Financial aid is available to help with the cost of trips in order to enable all students to benefit from these programs. Families interested in financial aid for this trip should contact Ken Craig in the admissions office, 020 7449 1301 or ASL welcomes all financial aid inquiries, whether or not the family currently receives aid, and holds all information in strict confidence.

Students may audition for the following festivals: International Honor Band, International Honor Choir, International Honor Jazz Band, and International Honor Orchestra. These events bring together students with exceptional musical ability from international schools around the world for several days of rehearsals and performances. Students must pay for their expenses when participating in festivals. Actual costs vary depending upon the host school location. European locations cost approximately £700; Asian locations could be approximately £1,500. Financial aid is available to help with the cost of trips in order to enable all students to benefit from these programs. Families interested in financial aid for this trip should contact Ken Craig in the admissions office, 020 7449 1301 or ASL welcomes all financial aid inquiries, whether or not the family currently receives aid, and holds all information in strict confidence.


Training in the dramatic arts develops creativity and encourages meaningful artistic expression. The program provides a hands-on approach to dramatic art, refining the students' sensibilities and adding to the richness and depth of their overall educational experience.

Students mature in discipline through technical skills that foster deeper expression in voice and movement while tapping into the emphatic inner life of creating character. Student actors apply their skills to text, in particular, acting in scenes and full dramatic works. Scene work using film scripts provides a modern approach, as students examine content and technique appropriate to this media. The benefit of their diligent work can be seen in their heightened communicative, and overall presentational, skills.

Students are invited to participate in the International Schools Theater Association (ISTA) festival, held during the school year, as well as the International Thespian Festival, held during the summer.

As London is a center for the creative arts, it is important that students take advantage of this resource. The program invites guest artists to teach and inspire students in various areas of dramatic form. Students attend professional performances in theater and dance, developing an appreciative yet critical eye for production values. The cost of tickets is covered by the performing arts department budget.


The study of dance addresses the use of the human body and physical movement as an expressive art form. Consisting of vastly varied genres and styles, dance has been a consistent feature of most cultures throughout history. The dance program is intended to allow students to develop their understanding of meaning and expression in bodily movement, and to refine their technique and skill in the medium.

Students explore the art of dance through observation, physical movement and choreography. An emphasis is placed on reflection and critical thinking, as well as skill development. Through the study of dance, students learn to observe, analyze, document, synthesize and integrate both theoretical and applied knowledge. Students in the dance program engage in problem solving and risk taking, and develop anatomical understanding through their own physicality. The historical development of modern dance is explored from various cultural and social perspectives. Students may fulfill their second 1/2 credit of required physical education with a semester of dance taken in Grade 10, 11 or 12.

Semester electives

Acting classes marked with an asterisk* are for the student who wants to combine various acting areas or combine semesters of acting with courses in another discipline. Future enrollment in Advanced Acting for students in semester drama courses requires departmental permission. Progression of training: students who complete semester electives should be able to move on to Advanced Acting: Television and Film.


Concert Band

1 credit; full year

Concert Band is the most advanced wind and percussion ensemble in the School. Emphasis is placed on the high-quality performance of outstanding literature written for the modern American wind band. Membership is open to any high school student with previous woodwind, brass or percussion experience. Concert Band students function within a “pool-of-players” concept that allows for various performance opportunities including Jazz Band, Percussion Ensemble and various chamber ensembles. The development of appropriate technical skills is emphasized, and advanced students are encouraged to audition for the International Honor Band via the Association for Music in International Schools (AMIS).

Chamber Orchestra

1 credit; full year

The Chamber Orchestra is the top string orchestra at ASL, and the musical home for experienced violin, viola, cello and string bass players in the High School. Chamber Orchestra is the main ensemble, where we work to develop ensemble and interpretive skills with a high degree of musical subtlety and historical context. Repertoire includes a variety of music spanning from the baroque to contemporary, giving special attention to stylistic playing. Rehearsals address the refinement of advanced technical skills through exercises for shifting, rhythm, keys around the circle of fifths, dexterity and overall facility. Students develop various aspects of their musicianship through rehearsals, regular home practice, short projects and ensemble performances. Chamber Orchestra offers additional special opportunities such as small chamber ensembles (trios, quartets, etc.), a student leadership council, service activities and eligibility to audition for the High School International Honor Orchestra, part of the Association for Music in International Schools (AMIS).

Concert Choir

1 credit; full year

Concert Choir specializes in the rehearsal and performance of outstanding choral literature representing a broad variety of cultures, time periods, languages and musical styles. Students develop a functional understanding of musical notation and its application to sight singing. Concert Choir is open to all students in Grades 9-12, regardless of prior experience or singing ability. While there are no auditions for Concert Choir, students are encouraged to audition for the International Honor Choir via the Association for Music in International Schools (AMIS) and/or participate in the smaller Chamber Choir, which meets extracurricularly. 

AP Music Theory

1 credit; full year
Prerequisite: departmental approval

This university-level course develops the student's ability to recognize, understand and describe the basic materials and processes of music that are heard or presented in a score. Students develop skills in listening, sight-singing, composition and analysis. The theoretical fundamentals of notation, intervals, scales and keys, chords, meter and rhythm are the basis for performance and written work. All enrolled students take the Advanced Placement Music Theory exam.



1 credit; full year

This course introduces students to acting through performance and criticism of rehearsed material, primarily scene study. The course concentrates on specific areas such as spontaneity through improvisation, movement, mime, masque as seen in the tradition of commedia dell'arte and technical vocal production. Students also learn the technical aspects of production, including staging and lighting. This is the preferred course for the student who wishes to obtain the training required to move on to either Advanced Acting: Television and Film or Advanced Acting: Play Production. Progression of training: Students who complete Acting should be able to move on to Advanced Acting: Television and Film or semester electives.

Advanced Acting: Television and Film

1 credit; full year
Prerequisite: Acting or a similar elective in high school drama, and departmental approval

The subject matter of this course introduces an important strand in training the actor for both stage and film. Students study and perform in contemporary film and television scripts and screenplays submitted by those taking the Film and Literature course to develop acting skills relevant to these media. Students also learn the technical use of camera, including terms used during film production. The final project, a short film, is presented to the School. A section of the course looks at radio performance and the vocal and technical skills necessary to bring about convincing radio dramas. This course highlights the role of the solo performer, looking at performance techniques needed for the production of one-person shows. The course also gives students training in improvisation; the performance of stand-up comedy material includes comic sketch writing. Students attend various performance venues in London throughout the year. Progression of training: students who complete Advanced Acting: Television and Film should be able to move on to Advanced Acting: Play Production with no audition necessary. Alternative options include a second year of Advanced Acting: Television and Film or semester electives.

Advanced Acting: Play Production

1 credit; full year
Prerequisite: Acting or equivalent, and departmental approval

This course, the most intensive course in the theater arts curriculum, is designed for students who have discipline and a genuine dedication to acting. The actors' work is geared to performance and advanced professional training. This includes individual analysis of acting problems, specifically voice, movement, and depth and definition of character creation. The business aspects of career acting are examined: learning how to audition, types of professional schools, theater companies and actors' agencies. The course culminates in the preparation and production of a play to be performed before the public during semester II. Progression of training: students who complete Advanced Acting: Play Production can take the course for a second year (no audition necessary) or they can take Advanced Acting: Television and Film or semester electives.

Acting: Character, Movement and Voice*

½ credit; semester I

This semester course concentrates on stage performance skills. The course focuses on script analysis and the principles of character development through the rehearsal process of scene work resulting in further believability of character. Students train in movement, with the assistance of a guest dance instructor. They also learn skills in technical voice production with an emphasis on projection, range, clarity and vocal strength. All work is filmed and critiqued.

Acting: Physical Theater*

½ credit; semester II

Acting: Physical Theater encourages student expression using the power of the human body within a theatrical context and increases student confidence in the physical life of the actor. Students study aspects of physical theater beginning with commedia dell'arte, applying the skills of precise masque work to the creation of acting scenarios using large and comedic characters. Mime is also examined, enabling students to create illusionary life through physical movement in the tradition of Marcel Marceau. Circus skills are taught as a form of entertainment and in a manner that encourages agility and coordination, individually and with an ensemble. Instruction in stage combat helps actors explore physical conflict and develop links between physical dialog and the acting process.


Intro to Dance: The Language of Movement

½ performing arts credit and/or ½ physical education credit; semester I or II

This course is designed for students who want to explore the language of movement as an expressive and creative art form. Through physical activities, technical exercises, improvisation and composition/choreography, students develop their understanding of the elements of dance, including body, effort, shape and space. Considering a range of different genres, from contact improvisation to hip-hop, the course serves as an introduction to the world of dance and addresses dance as a concert, social and embodied form, with an emphasis on principles of anatomy and kinesiology. Students create, perform and respond to the work of a range of choreographers and performers, while physically and critically exploring the evolution of contemporary modern dance. Students demonstrate in-class projects and informal public performances. All students interested in dance are welcome to sign up for this course.

Not offered in 2018-19

Advanced Dance Performance and Choreography

½ credit; semester I or II
Prerequisite: departmental approval and may include an audition

This course is designed for disciplined and passionate students with previous dance experience and technique. Through intensive study and creative exploration of modern technique, improvisation, choreography, composition and cross-cultural forms, students deepen their dance practice, strengthen their bodies and technique, and develop their performance, compositional and analytical skills. Classwork directs students toward advanced practice and creative understanding of dance as a performing art form. Class requirements include: engagement with technical, performance and compositional material; public performance of student and professional choreography; attendance at two professional dance events in London; and reflection on the diverse aspects of dance as a performing art, including the role conditioning and anatomical awareness play in the life of a dancer. This course can be taken more than once.