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National Youth Dance Company

Archive for February, 2016

Company Blog: Jasmine

Friday, February 12th, 2016

Counting down the days until my first NYDC residency was unbearable. I was packed full of nerves and excitement, so much so it was the only thing I was thinking about for weeks on end! On my first day I felt a mixture of all different kinds of emotions. When I got into London, I was looking around St Pancras for “dancey-looking-people” wheeling huge suitcases in the direction of the Northern Line…however being London, this was a lot harder than I thought! I bumped into by coincidence Tommy, one of the NYDC returning dancers from last year as I got off the tube at Angel station. I had met him before when I saw Apex Rising – it was so lovely to see a familiar face to calm my nerves a little!

When I arrived at Sadler’s Wells, the atmosphere was already electric. I recognised Ben, Bar, Isis and Monique who were friends I made at the final selection and I just beamed from ear to ear, “we’re here! We’re only freaking here!”

After an exciting talk from our company director, Jane Hackett, all 41 of us piled onto the company coach. The coach journey to Tring was a perfect ice breaker for all of us and when we arrived, it felt like we had bonded so much already!

Having our first class with our Guest Artistic Director Michael Keegan-Dolan and Assistant Choreographers Rachel Poirer and James O’Hara was unforgettable. They all greeted us with warm smiles and eyes twinkling with passion and excitement. Even just being in the same studio as these wonderful and experienced artists was a huge honour!

One of the highlights of my first residency was when we visited Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. As soon as I set eyes on the exterior of the building, I immediately turned to my friend Jamie. Being a returning dancer from last year he had seen Laban before; I think he must’ve thought I was somewhat hypnotised by my surroundings as I just looked in completely in love. It was surrounded by swatches of emerald grass and a snaking pathway leading to the tall mirrored doors. The interior was amazing. Colours bounced off every glass wall and everywhere you turned it oozed with architectural sophistication. The intense class we had there was undoubtedly one of the most incredible and memorable experiences!

Another one of my higNational Youth Dance Company 2015-16hlights had to be watching Hussein Chalyan’s ‘Gravity Fatigue’ which was created with Damien Jalet at Sadler’s Wells itself. It was one of the most thought provoking and beautifully crafted pieces of dance I have ever seen. It was a unique visual masterpiece which really showed off Hussein Chalyan’s fashion allure. One other thing that struck all of us was that it seemed utterly surreal that we were going to perform on that very stage next April…just a little chunk of a lifelong dream which seemed impossible but is about to come true!

Training at Tring was a luxury in itself. With Michael, we did quite a lot of improvisation during the week, drawing together ideas for the piece. Improvisation was the word all of us cringed at the start of the week, however, towards the end of the week, we came to love it. The turning point for all of us was when Michael put on ‘Vivaldi’s Four Seasons’ recomposed by Max Richter. Whether it was Summer 2, Spring 2, Autumn 1 or Winter 3, every single composition related to at least one of us. Suddenly everyone moved the way they wanted to move. It was there and then I felt like all of us started to really “dance”.

NYDC in such a short time period have become my family. Spending 8 days with 40 insane dancers will be something I will cherish all the way until the next residency and beyond. I learnt so much from them as well as from Michael, Rachel and James which I think is the true beauty of being a part of such an incredible company.

And so, with the melancholy scent of tiger balm still lingering in my NYDC hoodie, and a heart beaming in its fullest, I wait in excitement and anticipation ’til our next residency.

Company Blog: Daniel

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

Upon arrival at the first residency, I felt extremely nervous. Would I fit in? Would people like me? But when I got to see everyone dance for the first time, I knew that I was going to love the week ahead. I was expecting the day to be very intense and exhausting. However, Michael created a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere allowing us to get used to working together in a new environment. Tring Park had great facilities in a lovely setting and proved to be a great home for our first few days.

My initial thoughts of Michael, Rachael and James were very positive as they were really friendly and approachable. They made us feel very relaxed by saying ‘it’s ok to go wrong’. This took the worry about having to impress them away and allowed us to experiment with our dancing. It was great to hear about the backgrounds of the creative team and how they have managed to keep their individuality during their careers.

I had many highlights throughout the week at NYDC. One of the biggest standout moments was when we all improvised together for the first time and I could feel ‘the buzz’ all the way through the activity and for a long time after. I enjoyed the yoga although I am not used to the early session before breakfast! I also enjoyed seeing Zoo Nation’s ‘Into the Hoods’ performance at the Peacock Theatre. This was particularly special as a former member of NYDC was performing in the show – yet more inspiration! It was interesting to visit two top dance colleges, Trinity Laban and The Place. With thoughts of a career in the performing arts at the forefront of my mind, at present this is very relevant.

All the NYDC members bonded very quickly. On the first day, we told each other facts about ourselves and discussed our favourite dance styles. Everyone was so kind and sociable, creating a friendly and relaxed atmosphere throughout the week. Although I have only known everyone for a week, I feel that I have already established good lasting relationships, after all we do all have a lot in common. On saying goodbye to everyone at the end of the residency it was nice to see how close we had all become in such a short space of time.

National Youth Dance Company 2015-16By the end of the week we had created several phrases of movement that came from our improvisation sessions. Instead of the piece being choreographed by Michael it almost felt like Michael had inspired us to create our own piece of dance.

On a personal level, I had gained a lot of confidence in my improvisational skills and really enjoyed meeting new people from different backgrounds who, like me, love to dance. I arrived home tired and weary but was able to reflect on a fantastic first residency and I can’t wait for the next one!

Company Blog: Bar

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

The first residency has been such a great experience. When we all first arrived at Sadler’s Wells, I admit I was nervous, but I settled into the environment very quickly. Traveling together to Tring Park was exciting, as I found myself getting to know people quicker than I thought, meaning I was already comfortable on arrival. The first day was nothing like I expected, but it was the most amazing day because we started dancing straight away, starting with a long session of yoga. We continued yoga every day, it was a great way to start an early schedule, as it was relaxing, and by the end of the week, I found myself stronger than before. Then Michael set an improvisation task, which continued throughout the week, and this was a fantastic way to get to know each other. To finish this improvisation, all forty-two of us came together into the space and began a breathing pattern. As we slowly finished together, everyone began to clap; this created a sense of community after just one day. I didn’t only feel close to the company by the first day, but also to the artistic team. Michael communicated with us wonderfully, as if we were his professional company. This made it easy to settle in because we felt instantly connected to him, with his vibrant personality and his love for dance. His concept of getting to know everyone’s individuality also brought us closer, as he started to join in with moments during sessions. Having Rachel Poirier and James O’Hara there opened up many doors, we learned so much just by watching them dance.

On the sixth day, MiNational Youth Dance Company 2015-16chael stopped us for the first time during an improvisation and told us to simply ‘Dance’, after he had watched us having an independent dance battle during lunch. He said ‘Why can’t you do that. Simply battle’. After that day, we all started to enjoy ourselves more, and I found a new style of dance that I never knew existed inside me. I found that every day during improvisations, I experienced wonderful moments with different members of the company. Although I found myself so exhausted, I would find that I stayed focused in these moments nevertheless, as I couldn’t bring myself away.

Although we started very early and ended late, I loved dancing every day for hours, especially with this fabulous company. I settled in comfortably with everyone, as they were so accepting, and living together only brought us closer. After day three, the tiredness took effect, however, I soon got very use to the routine.
Each night we had a toolkit session, where we spoke about various topics such as: health, how to prepare for an audition, and we spoke to the Artistic Team. This was my favored and most memorable toolkit. It really effected me, as I remember Michael saying ‘Follow your passion, not your fear’. This I will always keep with me, especially during audition time, as it is always easy to be disheartened by fear. Further encouragement for me were James’ words, “Dance is what you want to do, no need for a master plan” as after many years of dancing, I feel I need a backup plan, but now have a different perspective.

Throughout the week, Michael’s ideas and thoughts became more evident, especially on the fifth day, when we started to create phrases with people’s movements, which he had taken from the improvisations. He started to pick out people to explore and create moments. As we watched a moment being explored, it was really interesting seeing Michael’s vision, as we observed the atmosphere he intended on creating within the space. By the end of the week, I felt like we’d achieved more than I expected to within such a short space of time. When we were creating moments and movements together as a company, bringing them to life, I could really visualise a piece forming.

Since I have been back from the first residency, I feel like a more versatile dancer, by learning new styles from other company members, and exploring new ways of dancing that I had never experienced. For example, I never thought that I would learn how to break dance, but I loved it. Although being back from such an intense week is difficult, I still find that I have kept routines, such as yoga every morning and keeping my thoughts fresh, writing them down after class. I am looking forward to the second residency and am ready to get back into an intense week once again.