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Best Schools for Performing Arts, Abu Dhabi, Dubai

Dubai English Speaking College (DESC)

Performing Arts at DESC brings together the three discrete subject areas of Drama, Music and Dance (one of the few schools to offer this as a discrete subject) within the Faculty of Performing Arts. There is a commitment to the arts and its importance in providing students with a holistic education. The faculty feels it is important to offer students the opportunity to perform at the highest level while also remaining inclusive to all, offering students a broad range of opportunities to develop their performance skills within the performing arts.

Students are given numerous opportunities to become involved in the individual disciplines of Drama, Music and Dance, as well as collaborative opportunities where two of more art forms combine. The Faculty recently underwent a significant renovation which included the refurbishment of three Drama studios, one with a full lighting rig, and 3 Music classrooms, one of which is a fully equipped Mac Suite with adjoining Recording Studio.

Students are encouraged to get involved in Performing Arts even before they attend DESC. DESPA (Dubai English Speaking Performing Arts Academy) was the first Performing Arts Academy to be established by a UAE-based school. Run by colleagues from DESC’s Primary sister school,  Dubai English Speaking School (DESS), students and staff from both schools work collaboratively.

Since DESPA’s inception in 2014, DESC students have been involved in a variety of ways. They have acted as role-models and coaches to the students at DESS through their involvement in DESPA, taking on many of the lead roles in an array of performances, including Flash Mobs in malls and restaurants, Hallowe’en and Festive performances and a recreation of We Will Rock You.  Encompassing students from the ages of 4-18, DESPA is currently the only non-selective performing arts academy in Dubai. Students from both schools are regularly invited to participate in public performances at events such as the Emirates Literature Festival.

Drama is a thriving curriculum area at DESC with all students from years 7-9 receiving one lesson a week. Students are also able to participate in extracurricular Drama either through ECA’s hosted by staff or through DESPA. The College is a centre for LAMDA examinations and currently offering grade examinations in Acting, Musical Theatre and Public Speaking. The first 50 candidates all passed, with most receiving a Merit or Distinction. Students in years 10 -11 can opt to take the Cambridge IGCSE Drama course and in Sixth Form, GCE A level Drama and Theatre Studies is offered.

Music flourishes and is expanding within the faculty. Year 7-9 students receive a discrete lesson of Music each week where they study different genres through composition and singing, theory and practice. At KS4 (years 10-11) and 5 (years 12-13) Music is an option subject at GCSE and A level. The College has recently introduced Music technology at A level which is proving very popular.

Beyond the classroom, students can participate in an ever increasing range of extracurricular opportunities including Junior Band, Senior Choir, Chamber Choir, Boys Ratpack, Glee club, Show Orchestra, Brass Group, Training Band, Junior Choir, Staff choir.



Instrumental lessons are provided by the school and take place during the school day offered by 13 Peripatetic teachers who provide a range of one to lessons. The majority of orchestral instruments are catered for with vocal lessons being the most popular. Peripatetic numbers are impressive; 112 students at DESS and 173 students at DESC (13% of the school) study across the following instruments: Voice (Classical and Rock and Pop), clarinet, flute, drums, guitar, electric guitar, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, cello, double bass, euphonium, Piano and Jazz Piano.

Dance was newly introduced at DESC in 2016. As a GCSE course, it provides the students with the opportunity to develop their skills as a choreographer, performer and encourages them to enhance their appreciation for Dance as an art form. Through studying various famous pieces, creating solo compositions and performing dance-works that are prescribed by the exam board, students learn to interpret and analyse their own work and the work of others.

The College is in the process of incorporating dance/movement work within the KS3 (years 7-9) Drama curriculum as a way of encouraging students to expand their Drama experience and produce work which is more physical in nature, being influenced by current trends in contemporary Theatre.

DESC runs a biannual Visual and Performing Arts residential trip to London where approximately 70 students participate in a wide range of workshops, backstage tours and theatre visits. There are  also regular school trips to the Dubai-based Courtyard Playhouse, in order to view National Theatre Performance and network with other schools, encouraging and supporting visits by touring theatre companies to the schools.

DESC has completed in and won ChoirFest ME and participated in and won the soloist category at the BSME Young Musician of The Gulf competition in 2014. The College also won the Emirates Literature Festival Qasidah Par Couer poetry recital competition in 2016 and were runners up in 2017. In 2016, a DESC student won the Cambridge iGCSE Best in the UAE Drama Award.

Public examinations offered are: ABRSM, LAMDA (Acting, Musical Theatre and Speaking in Public, where in 2017 62% of students achieved a distinction), Trinity, Rock and Pop and Rock School. The College is an examination centre for all of the above.

At a glance:

Dance Drama Music
Number of staff 2 4 (2 also Dance) 4  (13 + peripatetic)
Grade/year groups taught Years 7-9 included in Drama curriculum;

Years 10-11 iGCSE Dance option;

Years 7-9 part of core curriculum;

Years 10-11 iGCSE Drama option;

Years 12-13 GCE A Level option;

Years 7-9 core subject

Years 10-11 GCSE Music option;

Year 12-13 GCE A Level option

Instruments are taught as part of the core curriculum n/a n/a pitched percussion, African drums, Ukulele, Guitar and Keyboard
External Examinations LAMDA ABRSM, Trinity, Rock and Pop, Rock School


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Lis ONeal

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