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National Youth Dance Company

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Company Blog: Jasmine

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

National Youth Dance Company

Arriving in Hull on the morning of the 11th of February was a huge relief for all of us. After suffering from a painful, clammy and crammed train journey from Kings Cross, we were more than ready to gather our suitcases and clamber on to the couch to begin the final journey to the Hymer’s College Studios. Despite Hull greeting us with miserable weather, everyone’s spirits were high. Being reunited with the company was such a cherishing feeling; it had been over 4 months since all of us had been together again, including Christmas and New Year, and so when everyone was finally dancing together in the studio, the atmosphere was electric.
This residency, as well as working with the inspiring James O’Hara and of course Guest Artistic Director Damien Jalet, we had the honour of having dancer Aimilios Arapoglou join the artistic team. The energies of Damien, James and Aimilios combined, made the week of training overflow with creativity, every single one of us never stopped learning and growing as dancers. When each of them showed a specific movement, everyone was memorised.
In comparison to last residency, there was not an immediate need for ‘company bonding’ and so the main focus was to get a main skeleton of the piece. Damien had given us plenty of material to take home and practise throughout the 4 months away. Fortunately, myself and a few others from the company see each other every Saturday on a CAT Scheme and so we used our breaks and lunchtimes to fine tune the material.
The week itself put a lot of strain on us physically and mentally as the amount of information given to us day by day was relentless. It didn’t take long for us to gain multiple hip and shoulder bruises and very sore necks! One example of this was when we were dancing a rapid breathing phrase comprising of intense movements accompanied by rhythmic outbursts of inhaling and exhaling for around 6 minutes straight. Our breath started off as a sharp, desperate sound but slowly evolved into a soothing choir whereby the movement gave us a sense of empowerment rather than fatigue. Suddenly we were being moved rather than moving ourselves, feeling stronger after each exhale. This tired and fatigued state slowly evolved our dancing, making our movements free and abandoned, and the exact quality Damien wanted to find within us. As the week progressed we began to dance with gravity, allowing our bodies to be weighted and grounded to bring power and passion into our movement. Throughout the week we also worked on a section whereby the connection between our weight and the ground was paramount. We were throwing our bodies left, right and centre, making percussive beats on the ground, creating vast amounts of energy and vitality around us. What was particularly special was feeling how everyone’s energy around you, as you danced, had progressed so much since the previous residency. The determination and will power each of us had during the week, and pushing ourselves to the extreme, helped bond us even more as a company.
The feeling of being with NYDC each residency as I said before is a ‘home’ feeling. With the premiere looming in under two months, I cannot wait to see what Tarantiseismic is going to become.
Sadler’s Wells….watch out, this piece is going to send some shock waves…

Company Blog: Matilda

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

National Youth Dance Company

The three months between the October and February residency seemed to go very quickly, perhaps because it was such a busy time, both in and out of school. Yet, when I had only one week to go until the February residency, I realised just quite how much I had missed being with NYDC. The intense dancing, long days and amazing friends meant that I was super excited to get back into the swing of it as quickly as possible! Now, having had yet another fantastic experience with NYDC, being at school again feels like torture and I cannot wait to have the final residency in April.

So, on Saturday 11th February, I set off to spend my half-term holidays doing something I love! The company was reunited at the train station and had a few moments to do some excited catching up, before being whisked straight into the studio to begin rehearsals. The first session was particularly hard, as we had to get the movement and the quality back into our bodies, but after that the week’s classes went incredibly quickly. Each day we rehearsed previous material, learnt many new phrases and then later in the week, we started adding choreography together. It was amazing to see how a few bits and bobs of movement could suddenly expand and become 7 minutes of the piece, in fact it was thrilling! During the week, we got to know Damien’s way of working more and more, and, thanks to the toolbox sessions, we were also given an insight into his other works and choreographic career. This was particularly inspiring, as it reinforced for me how lucky we are to be working with such a renowned artist, who has made daring, exhilarating pieces before and is now working with us. We were also very lucky to have James and Aimilios on this residency, two of the most wonderful dancers, who were so inspiring to watch and also extremely supportive. By the end of the week, I felt that as a company we had achieved loads, and individually, I was also really happy with my week’s work.

NYDC is a commitment outside out of the residencies as well, and it is very important that we practice, because our time in the studio is actually quite limited in comparison to the length of work we expect to make. With this in mind, I had duly practiced and prepared, ready for February. This helped me to improve, and also, allowed me to pick up phrases on the second residency quicker than I had done on the first. For me, NYDC is all about challenging myself and getting out of my comfort zone, and on this residency, I pushed myself. I am proud of what I have achieved in NYDC so far, and this is definitely a continuing aim and I’m hoping that the next residency will help my confidence in dance even more!

Perhaps my favourite part of the February residency was seeing NYDC shift from a group of dancers to a company, and creating strong bonds with almost every-other dancer. At first, a company of 40 sounded very large, but it is amazing how quickly we connected in dance and as friends. On top of our classes, some members of the company decided to go into the studio after lunch and dinner and improvise. It was beautiful and very moving to watch, and even more exhilarating to join in with. I think it was this, and the quick developments of the piece which consolidated the company and proved our love of dance!

The February NYDC residency was absolutely brilliant, with never a dull minute. I am so excited for our next residency, the premiere and the tour and I’m sure that there are many amazing things to come!

Company Blog: Beth

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Starting the second NYDC residency personally evoked a whole cocktail of emotions. I was ridiculously excited to get in the studio with everybody again. I felt overwhelmingly happy to simply think about nothing but dance for an entire week with a beautiful bunch of talented and amazing individuals. Yet I was still slightly anxious as the premiere was much more visible than it was in the first residency which meant that I had to be prepared for an incredibly intense week of counts, new and familiar material, complicated spacing and physically demanding schedules.

National Youth Dance Company

With no time to waste, upon arrival at Hymer’s College we were immediately working in the studio with Damien, James and Aimilios who was joining us for the first time. In all honesty the nervousness never quite settled, however the excitement took the front seat as the room was filled with high spirits and raw determination, it was amazing to see everybody dance again. Almost as though we hadn’t been a part since October. One of the most profound differences in this residency was how much further we were bonding as a company, even finding time in our breaks and dinners to improvise together and make connections with as many company members as possible. Seeing each other improvise was such a highlight, even Damien joining in at one point! This made the entire process even more special, because by this point there was always someone to laugh with, go through things with and to motivate you.

As days passed by, more and more of the piece ‘Tarantiseismic’ was surfacing, building large chunks of material that initially felt impossible, but as we worked together as a company, we soon realised that no matter how tiring it is, we can and will do it, empowering one another to keep going and really adore that almost tangible energy building within all of us! The best thing also was working in the studio theatre in Hymer’s, which had no mirrors. At first this was a shock to the system but very quickly I realised that dancing without mirrors leaves less room for judgement of yourself, which essentially made dancing the material even more incredible. As we all emotionally said our goodbyes on the final day, even closer than when we said hello earlier on in the week, it was terrifying but more importantly so exciting knowing that the next time we are all together in April, it will be in preparation of the premiere.

Company Blog: Alex

Monday, February 27th, 2017

National Youth Dance Company

Ever since the end of the first residency, I’d been vigorously counting down the days until the second one. I couldn’t quite believe that I was being separated from such an aspiring and diverse group of individuals for (what seemed like) such a long time. However, the time went over so quickly and I began to get nervous for rehearsals to commence again… would I remember all of the movement? Have I forgotten something? Many questions raced through my mind, but when I arrived and was reunited with everyone at the train station, all of these nerves and anxieties began to settle, and I realised that everyone was feeling the same.

Similar to the last residency, we plunged straight into rehearsals with the artistic team into Damien’s legendary ‘washing machine’ phrase. At first, mesmerisingly confused looks appeared from everyone in the room, but when we started dancing it was intriguing to see the improvement from everyone in the group and how people approach the movement from a different perspective. I could really feel the uplifting, positive energy emerging from everyone from the very moment we started rehearsals again: I felt extremely happy to be back again!

One key highlight from the start of the residency was watching a preview of Verve’s ‘A Fable in our Time’ choreographed by James Cousins. I loved the controversial element to the piece and how it showed off the flaws and worries provoked in modern-day society. Alongside this, it allowed everyone to get an insight into life after vocational training and life at Northern School of Contemporary Dance as a Q&A followed this outstanding performance.

A second highlight was in a toolbox session near the end of week where we divided into smaller groups and wrote our name on the bottom of a piece of paper. Then we passed it around in a circle and everyone would write a positive quality or something they admire about you. This really made everyone believe in themselves a lot more, especially with this residency being very physically and mentally demanding. The morning after, there wasn’t a sad face in sight – forty faces of happiness gleamed across the studio all day.

Near the end of this tremendous experience, Damien began to structure the most complex parts of the piece together. From this point onwards everyone was more understanding of what the piece was about and how it links together. Everyone was so desperate to get everything right; breaks would be spent on practicing material or improvising with a particular quality in mind to get to grips with the material.

By the end of the week my head was baffled with mentally perplexing rhythms and severe breathlessness, but one key thing I understood was that NYDC is a family – we all love to feed off the collective energy of the group to get past our ‘off days’ and we are inspired everyday by everyone in the group.

I really can’t wait to see how all of the rest of ‘Tarantiseismic’ is put together… bring on the premiere!

Company Blog: Jasmine

Friday, December 16th, 2016

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!

National Youth Dance Company

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.’

Company Blog: Alexander

Friday, December 16th, 2016

You start the week feeling nervous, worried and excited, all wrapped up into one. From the moment you step into the studio, the hard work begins. Dancing from 9am-6pm every day. Doing something you love is one of the best feelings you can have. Though apart from that joy and love you still feel worried about being away from home, and nervous that you will be the only one who is worried, but the atmosphere you arrive in welcomes you to everything and makes you feel at home.

…By the fifth day you are tired, ache and all in all feeling shattered. It really tests your commitment to dance and how much you are willing to give. Because the professionalism you have to carry out if one of the hardest things to do, you have to remember you were picked for a reason, and that was because the Guest Artistic Director saw your passion and qualities and knew you were capable. So you keep striving to succeed.

National Youth Dance Company

NYDC in Residence in Hull

Friday, December 16th, 2016

NYDC in Residence in Hull

From 11th-19th February 2017, NYDC will be on residency in Hull, celebrating the City of Culture.


The company will be working with Guest Artistic Director 2016-17, Damien Jalet, creating their new work Tarantiseismic.

Over the course of the week we will be opening our doors to local young people, teachers and youth leaders, inviting them to open rehearsals and workshops and giving a greater insight into what NYDC is all about.

This includes:

Friday 17th Feb: Open Rehearsal and Artists Discussion for teachers and youth practitioners.

Saturday 18th Feb: Open rehearsal and workshop for young dancers aged 14-18 (or up to the age of 25 if deaf or disabled.)

Venue: Hymers College, Hull

Cost: Free

We will be announcing more plans and activity in the New Year.

Company Blog: Beth

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

National Youth Dance Company

As I arrived at Sadler’s Wells for my first residency, I felt incredibly nervous. Just being in the building felt very overwhelming, I was very worried about feeling awkward and meeting 39 completely new people and whether they would like me! My fears quickly disappeared as I met the dancers and NYDC staff, everyone was so so welcoming and warm, the energy in the room was so exciting and I knew this experience was going to be special.

As soon as we arrived at Tring, we were straight to the studio which was beautiful, surrounded by countryside, such an open, bright space to spend the week. Both Damien and James had this air of excitement and anticipation about them and I was bursting with excitement and very starstruck to see them move and hear their ideas. We started with a class, which set the tone for the week. I had never seen a human move so quick on the floor, Damien was literally like a helicopter whipping about his space and James’ movement quality was so effortless, I couldn’t help but wholeheartedly smile. All I could think was, I need to learn as much as possible from this experience, I immediately realised how utterly lucky I was to have the opportunity to learn from these two phenomenal artists.

Over the next few days, I found it really moving how everyone just seemed to click. A bond between us all was beginning to form as we would learn from different company members each day. Damien would pick out different dancers for us to observe and these moments were truly beautiful as the support and mutual willingness to find what Damien and James were looking for became really apparent. Even though we felt exhausted or sore, we felt the need and desire to keep striving for more and find things in ourselves we didn’t know were there.

A particular highlight, one of so many, was our first improvisation as a company where the buzz as a group was insane. Each of us were feeding off of one another, and experiencing so much joy from dancing together, sharing our passion and finding a real rhythm as a group.

I was just in awe of everything from how individual everybody was to how fab the meals were, to the toolbox sessions. One of my favourites being our last session with poet Yemisi Blake which solidified for me how close everybody had gotten within such a small space of time and how I now had 39 new, lovely friends that I still have so much to experience and learn with them in the coming residencies. On leaving London on the Sunday, I felt as though I had so much information, inspiration and precious memories to take with me and treasure for the next residency in February. I had this real warm, fuzzy feeling on the train home and I realised how genuinely happy I was when reflecting on everything that had happened that week, it was simply magical!

Company Blog: Matilda

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

National Youth Dance Company

On Saturday, 22nd October, the day of the first National Youth Dance Company residency, I was filled with nerves, anticipation and excitement. Travelling to Sadler’s Wells to meet the people I would be working with for a year was daunting and I had no idea what to expect, apart from a room full of forty dancers and an internationally renowned choreographer. No matter how many times the NYDC support team had emailed ahead, reassuring us that everyone was in the same boat, I didn’t believe them! But, as they had predicted, as soon as I arrived, the excitement began to take over instead. After a brief welcome session and journey to Tring Park, Hertfordshire, (by the end of which I had already made lots of friends), we had our first studio session with Damien Jalet. And from that moment on, we didn’t stop moving!

NYDC always claims to have a great spread of dancers from across the country, and prior to this residency I assumed that this was a cliché, and actually the intake would mainly be from London. Therefore, one of the first things that I noticed was the massive range of accents and backgrounds of everyone! NYDC truly is a national company, and I think it is this diverse opportunity which makes it so special. Another assumption which I was happily wrong about was that the dancers would be overly-competitive. Every single member of the company is friendly, kind, funny and supportive and the connections we made over one week were amazing. The bonds were strengthened by the emotions of the week: the challenges and difficulties as well as the inspiration and moments of euphoria, and the cherry on the cake was of course that we are all passionate about dance. I made so many memories just on the first week!

Working with Damien Jalet and James O’Hara is an unforgettable, amazing experience. By the end of the week, everyone agreed that they have opened our minds to a completely new way of moving and dance. Damien constantly asks for more, and we are willing to try our very best to encapsulate his ideas in our movements. Watching Damien and James move as they demonstrate a phrase is mesmerising, and to envisage even some of his plans for the final piece is quite overwhelming. I think that one of the most valuable prts of working with Damien Jalet, is that he is an artist and not a teacher. He doesn’t lower his expectations of us as dancers because we are young, and though that means he demands a lot, and always challenges us, it also means that we have a clear insight into the professional world of dance. Throughout the week, my determination grew as I wanted to improve on both specifics and general aspects of dance. On one of the evenings, we had an informal interview/discussion with Damien and James, to learn about their work as choreographer and dancer so far. Both of the artists had some great words of wisdom and were very encouraging to all the dancers in the room. “Negativity is the only enemy of creativity” was perhaps my favourite quote of the session from Damien.

Aside from dance, the week was perfectly structured and organised, and for that I am incredibly grateful. The NYDC support team did a great job and it was very nice to be able to focus on dance and enjoying ourselves, without having to worry about anything else. During the day, we had six hours of dancing, interspersed with breaks. Then in the evening, we had informative and useful “Toolbox” sessions, in which we learnt and discussed a variety of things. A OneDance UK ambassador came in to talk about Health and Nutrition, and on other evenings, we discussed the media, auditions, and the life of a dancer. During the week, we also had the chance to have a physiotherapist assessment, a one-to-one tutorial, walking meditations and we learnt about breathing practice (different breathing techniques for digestion, relaxation, energy, and sleep). The whole week was beneficial and proved what a great company NYDC is, in all areas of dance.

My first experience of being in NYDC has been absolutely wonderful. The standard of dance was fantastic, the overall week was spectacular, and most importantly, the people in NYDC are brilliant. It was difficult to end the first week, and I am already looking forward to the next residency in February. I had no clear expectations of what my time at NYDC would be like, but already anything I had envisaged has been exceeded. I can’t express how excited I am to have been given this opportunity and I can definitely say that it was an absolutely incredible week.

Company Blog: John

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

During the second residency the focus shifted from creating a bond as a company to working towards the exhilarating premiere at Sadler’s Wells in April; it’s unbelievably exciting!

The way we’re working with Michael is unlike any choreographer I’ve worked with before, the way we create work with him is honestly and truly influenced directly by every member of the company; it feels so personal! All of the phrases we work on, that Michael, Rachel and James teach us are inspired by our improvisation from the previous residency. It’s such a unique way of working as not only are we a close knit company in regards to the way we dance and work together in and out of the studio but we are all connected through the work!

It’s a wonderful feeling dancing with what have now become such good friends and thinking “This is Molly’s section, okay how do I embody Molly?” or “Lucia’s is coming up, I need to be calm and beautifully precise!” Or “I remember when Chad first did this in improvisation, it was amazing!” for example. That connection with every member of the company and as a result every step, every phrase, every moment within the piece is completely unique and a big change to anything I’ve ever done before; a welcome change at that, it’s beautiful.

There’s something so incredible about NYDC as you’re only together with the artists and other company members for 4 weeks in total before the premiere however it feels like a lifetime; in the best possible way! You feel like you’ve been working with and you have known the company for years, you become so connected with everyone, know exactly how everyone moves and it’s wonderful! You learn so much from the artists that you’d only think you could learn from working with them for months, however at the end of the second residency I’ve already learnt an unreal amount and been inspired over and over again!

With the next residency approaching fast the feeling of anticipation and excitement is indescribable! Bring on the premiere!

Roselynn, Manchester

Roselynn started dancing in her bedroom as a self taught dancer. She auditioned for the Lowry CAT scheme in 2022 and is in her second year of training. She has experience in Contemporary, Commercial, and a bit of Kathak but would love to dance every style if she could.