A Day in the Life of a Dance Company

by Fiona Hardie, Arts Editor

The National Youth Dance Company of Scotland (NYDCS) meet each month for a weekend in different locations around Scotland; I was privileged to be invited along to one of their rehearsals in Glasgow and was able to spend the morning with the company.

The NYDCS developed from Project Y, a residential 4 week summer programme for talented young dancers from Scotland, run by YDance, Scotland’s national youth dance organisation. YDance runs dance projects throughout Scotland for children and young people aged 3-21; Project Y (in which dancers work with a variety of top choreographers, and which must be undertaken before auditioning for the NYDCS) is now in its ninth year, and the NYDCS is in its second.PWP_5392

The NYDCS is described as the flagship company of YDance’s best young dancers – not only exceptionally talented contemporary dancers but also imaginative choreographers, as is evident from my time observing their rehearsals. Artistic Director Anna Kenrick works with the company in a particularly collaborative way, mixing both her choreography and the dancers’ own ideas, which develop over a period of rehearsals.

The company itself is made up of 8 dancers, aged 16-21: a range of young people who study different things and have different interests, but who ultimately, as a company, gel very well together; the intensive rehearsals definitely have a positive atmosphere. When they’re not doing contemporary dance with the NYDCS, their pursuits include other dance styles (such as ballet and jazz), performing arts, music, activities like trapeze or skiing – and in some cases, even more contemporary dance. This dedication to dance is evident: their ambitions in this field include both performing and choreographing, with a diverse range of different motivations and inspirations, too, such as other great dancers, or simply by gaining self-confidence. It’s obvious that there must be specific characteristics needed to do this amount of dance at this kind of level – and, indeed, I’m told that being motivated and focused, as well as having the dedication and work ethic to deal with long days, are particularly high on the list: this is definitely a lifestyle.

PWP_5389A typical day, or weekend, in the life of the company seems intensive, but thoroughly productive, and enjoyable. The dancers rehearse from 10am-5pm, the day split up into various sections of both creativity and practice. Arriving half an hour before the day is due to start, the dancers usually spend this time warming up before, as they call it, class. When I meet them, they spend most of the day rehearsing and developing their existing choreography, and constantly ‘getting it into their bodies’, but the earlier stages, I am told, are slightly different. Creative tasks are carried out such as finding movements for particular words in stories, out of which various movements emerge which then become part of the choreography. Anna’s task-based collaboration is to create choreography of a combined vision between her ideas and those of the company: it uses each of the dancers’ talents, as “they’re all very different” and it “shows a youthfulness” in the work.

When I meet them, they are currently in rehearsals for the Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival in July, an event where youth dance groups from across in the commonwealth will gather for 3 days of dance performance. NYDCS’ piece is called “If I Told You…” and Anna tells me about the ideas behind the piece: It draws on the concept of conversations, of “how stories wrap around us, and make us who we are, and how that’s passed on.”

It was a pleasure to witness the creative process of some of Scotland’s best young dancers. When I ask the company if there’s anything else they’d say to readers, the common response is “everyone should try dance” – for various reasons, including gaining confidence, meeting people, having a release from everyday life, and – apparently – because “it’s so much better than the gym”.

The Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival will be held at Tramway 10th-12th July.

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