Review: YDE Young Creatives 2011 at Linbury Studio, Royal Opera House

Performance: 28 April
Reviewed by Lise Smith - Wednesday 4 May 2011

XY by Michael Lowman Photo Credit: Brian Slater Courtesy of Youth Dance England

Youth Dance England’s Young Creatives initiative has been providing a mentoring and performance opportunity for young choreographers aged 15-19 annually since 2009 and the past three years have seen the programme go from strength to strength. Over a four-month period at the beginning of this year, fifteen Young Creatives from all over the UK worked with a mentor to create short dance theatre pieces in a range of styles from ballet and contemporary to afro-influenced and urban work. This year’syoung choreographers were mentored by professional dance artists including Place Prize finalist Freddie Opoku-Addaie, Katie Green, Protein Dance’s Bettina Strickler, The Royal Ballet School’s Bim Malcomson and winner of the Sadler’s Wells Global Dance Contest*2010 *James Wilton.

The fourteen pieces on show tackled a range of themes. Opener Fragments of His Mind by London-based choreographers Robia Brown and Michael Johnson-Gotte explored personal relationships, using physical and spatial connections between the dancers to suggest hidden bonds. Based on vigorous, angular street dance fused with jazzy piqué turns and barrel rolls, the piece was meticulously rehearsed and strongly performed by its five dancers. Interpersonal relationships also formed the basis for Michael Lowman’s all-male trio XY, in which three young men come together, connect and move on to their own separate paths.

Boys were happily well-represented at this year’s platform; one of the evening’s strongest performances was Jack Humphrey’s quintet Energised. A student at Laban, Humphrey makes excellent use of energetic contact work to bring his dancers together and then fling them across the stage. There’s a hint of Lloyd Newson to the highly physical material, the men leaping onto one another’s bodies and rolling nimbly across the floor, coupled with robust hand and arm gestures.

London’s Jordan Ajadi reflects on his own contemporary dance training in First Steps, a piece about formative experiences in the dance studio. Andrew McNicol, a performer with the National Youth Ballet, is no stranger to the stage – his ballet piece Le Carnaval des Vérités subverts the classical pas de deux structure by having two men alternately supporting their female partners and hauling them bodily around the space. At one point, female dancer SumireTakamoto is tossed lightly aside by her partner and caught, thrillingly, in a fish dive by the other boy. Still only in his teens, McNicol is definitely a name to watch for the future.

Many of the young artists had clearly been inspired and informed by professional dance works. Declan Whitaker, now training at Northern School of Contemporary Dance, has absorbed Wayne McGregor‘s bodily dislocations, making good use of his distinctive angular flow in a solo exploration of water movements. Joe Bovis plays a sophisticated game of observation and role reversal with the audience in Your Seat, using a spoken soundscore (”We are all observers“) and clever lighting to reinforce his theme of watching and judging.

Two of the pieces handled topical themes – Jade Aitchison’s duet Crisis portrayed a couple hit by economic difficulties, while Katie Griffiths used the last parliamentary election as the basis for her comic Electional Threeplay, the three UK party leaders physically scrambling over one another to get ahead. Other pieces struck a more personal note – Joshua Massey’s solo Isol took the idea of the daily grind and translated it into a repeating movement cycle performed in silence; London’s Rachel Lloyd was inspired by the defiantly individual lyrics to Nicki Minaj’s recent track with Rihanna’s Fly. Another expressive solo, choreographed and performed by Ruth Seager from the West Midlands, finds the dancer imagining herself torn between her life in dance and her husband.

Royal Ballet School student Mariana Rodriguez illustrates the stages of sleep in the sweet quartet Sleep Cycle, using her able dancers to portray slumber, dreams and the night terrors with languid stretches and agitated partner work. Kinetic Dance Company’s Celina Liesegong takes inspiration from a novel by Anna Gavalda’s in Attends-moi, the five young dancers pacing urgently across the stage and back in search of human connection.

All fourteen pieces demonstrate an impressive level of thoughtfulness, commitment and – in many cases – creative sophistication. The young artists are not afraid to experiment with sound, form, lighting or audience expectations, producing mature and capable work informed by a range of sources.

Wayne McGregor describes the platform is a “phenomenal opportunity for young choreographers to find their voice,” adding that the fifteen choreographers involved in Young Creatives will soon be chomping at his heels for his job. He may be right; despite some concerns about the future of Youth Dance England as an organisation following March’s funding announcement, the future of youth dance as a practice is on this evidence looking stronger than ever.

Photo Credit: Brian Slater Courtesy of Youth Dance England
XY by Michael Lowman~


What’s On