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National Youth Dance Company

Archive for the ‘Behind the Scenes’ Category

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!

Company Blog: Bar

Monday, April 4th, 2016

The second residency was as amazing as the first, but it was a very different experience. It was more focused on creating the piece. Therefore, we had to knuckle down, work hard and create.

During the build up to the second residency, I really tried to envisage our piece and what it would become, however, I had no idea what Michael was imagining and what he had planned. I discovered why I felt that way, when Michael said ‘You all have no idea what the piece is going to look like, I’ll tell you a secret, neither do I’. I thought this was fabulous, as it meant we could all experiment together and create the piece as a company. It was really fascinating to watch Michael explore every moment within the space, bit by bit helping me to understand the piece’s intention.

Every day we would create new material, but it didn’t seem much, but by the end of the week we had created a full fifty-minute piece. As timing is a big factor in our piece, it was difficult to process the timing for each individual section. However, because there are so many of us, it is easy to feel each other’s rhythm and follow it together. This is why I think this process is so special. I feel one would not find this experience anywhere else especially at this age. Everyone is so dedicated and accepting of each other’s style and feeling that we all support each other. It is so different to any other creative process I have ever experienced, as Michael has used us and our individuality to make this piece, while bringing us all together.

Company Blog: Jasmine

Saturday, April 2nd, 2016


The babbling gossip of our title piece whirled around my head for the painful gap of fourteen weeks away from the company. I dreamt often of NYDC during my time away, reliving memories and reimagining the buzz of the company all being in the same room again and missing the energy transferring from one mind to the other.

Looking back in hindsight, the fourteen weeks between October and February passed very quickly, however, it seems like this residency passed even quicker.

One thing I loved about the week was the morning routine. Every morning, at 8am, we went down to the studio and did roughly an hour and a half of yoga. Michael spoke often of the importance of breathing and the “soft inner focus” he wanted all of us to adopt in our dancing. The warm silence in studio really geared us up the upcoming day.

Another thing I loved was watching the piece progress. I remember everyone on the third day saying “I can’t believe how much we have done in just three days” and the excitement of what the next day would bring.

I love the movement Michael, Rachel and James have created, mainly because it is completely out of my comfort zone. My performance experience before NYDC consisted of doing musicals: singing, dancing and acting where my focus has always mainly been out to the audience. Michael’s way of working however, takes the approach where the focus is very much softer and more internal. He helped us all really feel the music and to take our time so that the movement is natural and “human”.

One evening, one of our “dancer’s toolbox” sessions was taken by Robby, a professional drummer. That actually for me, stole the best toolbox of the week! We learnt all kinds of rhythms and skills to do with drumming. After the workshop, instead of going back to our rooms, we all grabbed an instrument and started dancing.

It is spontaneous moments like this in the residencies that I think are the most precious, where nothing is planned and you share and experience something beautiful.

Now begins the countdown towards the premiere…and I have never felt so excited in all my life.

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.

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.