Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.
Three words to reflect my honest emotions on the morning of beginning my 2nd year with The National Youth Dance Company. The thought of 30 new faces with new experiences, dance styles and personalities seemed overwhelming and I didn’t quite know how to feel. Being a returning dancer this year, there was a feeling of familiarity of what the year was going to bring, but at the same time, complete mystery and excitement.
Meeting the new company was, I admit, incredibly nerve racking, but when we all gathered in the Rosebery Room at Sadler’s Wells that morning where hugs were exchanged, experiences were shared and excitement thrived, I knew there was nothing to be afraid of. All of us immediately had this indescribable connection between us. Soon enough, I felt as if I had known these people all my life.
Alike last year, this residency was at Tring Park School of Performing Arts. When we arrived, we went straight to the park studios into company class. We were greeted by the artists Damien Jalet and James O’Hara who asked us all to sit in a large circle. As person by person filtered in, I just sat and looked around the circle. This is it. This is the National Youth Dance Company 2016-17. I couldn’t stop smiling!
The week itself was incredibly intense. By day two we had learnt tonnes of material. Break and lunchtimes were often spent writing frantically in our dancer notebooks, praying something would stay in our heads the next day. The way Damien worked with us was unlike any choreographer I’ve worked with before. He had an impeccable, precise eye for detail and pushed us to limits we didn’t even know we could reach. He made us pay attention to clarity, quality and finding a sense of abandonment in our movement, finding a vulnerability to make our movements honest, true and effortless. He let us play with gravity and how it can manipulate the way we all move. Being a musician, I particularly enjoyed the high levels of musicality Damien and James brought to the week. We worked a lot with rhythms, working off a score Damien had created and embodying them into our movement. Whether it was clapping and breathing to these tricky cross rhythms, falling onto the floor, or twisting our bodies in diverse trios, I felt completely casted away, hypnotised by the freedom and consequential movements which followed the next. I remember dancing a phrase James taught us and feeling that I wasn’t controlling my body and something exterior was letting my movements speak. It was beautiful.
Being at NYDC reminds you why you dance. Why you get home from school and rush straight to ballet class, or why you stumble half-alive, half-crippled into your front door after a contemporary class and why you love what you do.
This year’s company have truly become my new family. You grow so close to so many people in such a short space of time and the thought of not seeing them until February is almost unbearable.
NYDC became home once again. A home. My home. And I believe it’s true when I say:
‘Home is where the heart is.’