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.