Founded in 1982 by Ann Stannard and the late Christopher Gable CBE, Central School of Ballet offers vocational degree courses in dance at undergraduate and postgraduate level. Central School of Ballet provides world-class professional dance training leading to careers in renowned international dance companies and musical theatre productions, including Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, Scottish Ballet, Ballet Black, Phantom of the Opera and Nederlands Dans Theater. Earlier this year, when Central School of Ballet moved to its new home, the Countess of Wessex Studios in the South Bank arts community of London’s Southwark neighbourhood, it also undertook a major new audio installation. Adlib worked with Central to deliver an L-Acoustics Ai Series system that offers a multifaceted solution throughout the entire new venue.
Boasting a fully equipped studio theatre, study, multiple resource centres, and a state-of-the-art health suite, the Countess of Wessex Studios provides vital space to grow, nurture creativity, cultivate dreams, propagate ideas, and allow talent to blossom. The only thing missing from this world-leading training centre was an equally impressive sound system. UK-based supplier of sound, lighting, and audio-visual equipment, Adlib, was called on to work with Central to deliver an L-Acoustics Ai Series system that offers a multifaceted audio solution throughout the new venue.
“Adlib was recommended to Central’s project manager by a mutual acquaintance at Live Nation, who suggested that ‘concert-level’ sound should be aspired to from the outset,” says Tim Robinson, who led the project for Adlib. “The project began ten years ago, but as it was essentially a bare shell, it needed a Capital Campaign to provide sufficient funding. I joined the design team in 2016 and provided design consultancy, with numerous revised quotations delivered throughout the project timeline, including budget and even architecture. Due to the UK Government restrictions associated with the COVID pandemic, there were various delays. We finally started the installation of the systems earlier this year, which I managed, and the project was completed in June when the government lifted restrictions, and in-person dance training was allowed to commence on site.”
According to Robinson, though the project’s remit changed over time, the principal focus was always on having professional loudspeaker systems in all studio spaces throughout the Central building. “L-Acoustics was able to offer an ideal loudspeaker product for each application required and, as such, enabled an integrated, one-brand solution to be deployed throughout the entire venue, offering great consistency,” he explains.
As construction costs increased and pandemic-related pressures squeezed budgets even further, the timely launch of Ai Series meant that a meaningful cost saving could be delivered, without compromising on the acoustic performance specification of the original A Series design.
"In the main studio theatre, two A15i Focus and one A15i Wide per side perfectly match the audience geometry. A 1:1 ratio of KS21i provides prodigious low-frequency extension, with X8 used for monitoring," Robinson continues. He also notes that by utilising the L-Acoustics Ai Fixbracket, the team could install the central cluster of four KS21i up against the ceiling and out of the way. "We did something a little bit clever with the subs," he reveals. "A large concrete beam spanned the room, approximately where we wanted to site the PA, which meant we could install them facing the beam, achieving an additional acoustic gain."
The other studios at the school are served by either stereo pairs of X12 or X8, depending on their size. The coaxial enclosures deliver good low-frequency contour out-of-the-box, which imparts clear, natural sound at the SPL required in those spaces.
During the design and installation process, Adlib still knew they could always count on L-Acoustics support when needed. "After the team discovered that one of the LA4X had been damaged by a water leak onsite, the L-Acoustics team moved with great speed to get a replacement delivered to the site, which mitigated any delay," says Robinson.
Robinson reports that the Central team is delighted with the overall result, quoting Adlib's professionalism and competency, and the high quality and versatility of the L-Acoustics sound system, which has been in constant use since June 2021.
"A professional high-quality sound system is essential for a leading training and performing organisation like Central," concludes Mark Osterfield, Central School of Ballet Executive Director. "Audiences at our recent Winter Showcase shows benefitted from the exemplary acoustics, contributing to our dancers' sublime performance of new choreography in the Gable Studio Theatre."