Feature: National Youth Dance Festival

Friday 21 July 2006 by Melanie Nix

Over 130 young dancers and 20 leaders converged in Leeds for the National Youth
Dance Festival.
East London Dance Photo: Brian Slater The Festival, which was organised by Youth Dance England, brought together 11
youth dance groups from across the country (Sole Youth Dance Company and East
London Dance represented the London region) to dance, choreograph, perform and
party. Based at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance the Festival culminated
in public performances at the West Yorkshire Playhouse on Friday 21 July.

This was the first time that Youth Dance England* has ever staged a festival
in this format and it was the first National Youth Dance Festival since 1991.
The five day event included three days of dance technique classes and choreographic
workshops, led by a specially selected artistic team and two days preparing and
performing two shows for a public audience.

The types of dance performed included breakin’, contemporary, reggae, street
dance, hip hop and physical theatre with groups travelling from as far away as
Truro in Cornwall, Southampton, London, Fenham near Newcastle, Lancaster and Birmingham
as well as Yorkshire. Each group was selected not only on the quality of its
performance and choreography but also on its commitment to be part of an intensive
workshop programme.

RJC Youth [Leeds] Photo: Brian Slater The focus of the Festival was on Choreographic Investigation and the young people
worked with one of a team of six choreographers for the first three days and shared
their work with each other mid week. The team included: Director Bettina Strickler,
founder member of Protein Dance; Adele Thompson, founder member of Stomp; Stuart
Waters from Motionhouse Dance Company; Tom Dale, an independent choreographer
based at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds; Heidi Rustgaard,
Co-Artistic Director of h2dance; and Tom Roden and Pete Shenton, Co-Artistic Directors
of dance theatre company New Art Club. In the mornings the young people took part
in a range of technique classes from bollywood, ballet, contemporary, street dance
and pilates taught by experts from Leeds and across Yorkshire.

The next NYDF will take place in the North West in July 2007 – application packs
are available from YDE in September and the deadline for applications is the 30th
November 2006.

YDE asked the question ‘What have you learnt from the festival?’
Sole Youth Dance Company Photo: Brian Slater

“To work with strangers, be positive, open minded, try new things and never to give up when finding things difficult” _ __ ___“A lot! To try everything, learnt about all the amazing people – just loving the beat and what they can do with it.”
“I love Bollywood”
“That other types of dance are fun and there are a lot of good young dancers”
“How it feels to work with so many talented people”
“That there is more to dance than dancing”
“Just to go for it and not to have any inhibitions – give everything a chance”

Youth Dance England
Youth Dance England is the national agency to support and promote opportunities for young people in dance. Formed in February 2004, YDE identifies the full range of dance activities available to young people and seeks to create new partnerships between those providing and supporting these activities. Working across the arts, education, community and private sectors, YDE will position youth dance as innovative, transformative and committed to excellence and diversity.

Youth Dance England is funded by DfES’ Music and Dance Scheme; Arts Council England, Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

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