Review: BBC Young Dancer 2017

Performance: 22 April 2017
Reviewed by Ruby Embley - Sunday 23 April 2017


Finale reviewed: 22nd April 2017

There’s a restlessness in the stalls at Sadler’s Wells tonight. Two huge television cameras dominate the middle of Row G. Next to me is a long glass table with six empty seats waiting for Marc Brew, Kate Prince, Kenneth Tharp, Kevin O’Hare, Jasmin Vardimon and Nahid Siddiqui. The dance-world heavyweights who will later crown finalist Nafisah Baba BBC Young Dancer of the Year.

Despite the pressure of the competition and the cameras, the atmosphere feels hugely supportive. Hosts Anita Rani and Ore Oduba ask Kenneth Tharp for his advice to the five competitors, his reply ‘Forget the judges, forget about us… and remember to breathe.’

The finalists; Jodelle Douglas (Street Dance), Rhys Antoni Yeomans (Ballet), Shyam Dattani (South Asian Dance), Nafisah Baba (Contemporary) joined by wildcard John-William Watson each perform two solos and a duet to much whooping and hollering.

The work is short, punchy and designed to ‘wow’ but we relish the quieter moments. Kathak dancer Dattani’s flitting, intricate gestures are captivating. There’s a simple beauty in Douglas’ duet with Harry Barnes when both bodies pop metronomically from side to side. Yeomans gently guides partner Misato Isogami en pointe, she floats for a moment before gliding on, blown by the wind.

The final solos are the real highlight though, products of hours with professional choreographers. Each of the five seem completely immersed in the world of their work, no longer really performing. The opening of Watson’s solo, choreographed by Caroline Finn, is striking. In a dark spotlight his limbs easily shoot away at impossible angles. Baba shines in her final solo, choreographed by Laila Diallo. She tumbles seamlessly through the space demonstrating the incredibly natural, human performance style that eventually wins her the title.

Finally 2015’s winner Connor Scott returns with an extract from his new work brave Echo. He eats through the space, diving in and out of the floor with ease. He demonstrates maturity and artistry as well as amazing physical ability. He’s an encouraging prospect and taste of the future for 2017’s BBC Young Dancer finalists.

Ruby Embley is a professional dancer and dance teacher. She studied at the London Contemporary Dance School and is a reviewer for

“BBC Young Dancer is an excellent platform for talented young dancers of different backgrounds to showcase their abilities, and for audiences to enjoy a wide range of performances and find out more about dance styles they may be less familiar with.” Alistair Spalding, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Sadler’s Wells. To read full article please click here

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