Feature: Big Dance youth dance day 2013

Monday 1 July 2013 by Lise Smith

Big Dance youth day, as part of Dancing City, Canary Wharf, Greenwich & Docklands International Festival.
Photo: Gigi Giannella

The weather gods smiled on Canary Wharf this weekend for the Docklands debut of the Big Dance youth dance day as part of Greenwich and Docklands International Festival 2013. Previously held at The Scoop, City Hall as a London Youth Dance initiative, the youth dance day featured for the first time on Saturday in Dancing City as part of the wider GDIF festival of outdoor performing arts.

Twenty youth dance companies featuring performers aged 5 to 21 years old and working in diverse styles including ballet, contemporary dance, Afro-contemporary, jazz, hip hop and classical Indian dance took to the stage immediately in front of Canary Wharf tube station. The day was hosted by the effervescent Katie P, who also led a workshop teaching the Big Dance Pledge dance choreographed this year by English National Ballet artists Laura Harvey and Jenna Lee.

The aim of this year’s event was very much to celebrate the wide array of dance styles taking place in the capital and bring youth dance to a wider audience of festival attendees and passers-by. As well as being thrilled to perform to a public audience, many of the young dancers enjoyed the opportunity to watch other groups – “It’s nice to see something different from us – other types of dance,” says Emily from Copthall School in Barnet, performing in classmate Lauren’s GCSE dance choreography. Lauren agrees: “It was really fun, a really nice atmosphere, nice seeing people!”

A number of the young people performing at this year’s event represented youth groups connected to professional touring dance companies, including Impact Dance’s Fully Functioning Individuals, State of Emergency’s Re-position, and Myself dance company’s youth group Me.I, directed by choreographer Khloe Dean. “Our piece was originally created to celebrate International Women’s Week,” explains company member Saskia, “so it has a lot of songs from current female MCs and it’s about representing female power in terms of MCs.”

Like many of the dancers present on Saturday Saskia hopes to continue dancing and is looking forward to training at an institution such as Trinity Laban or London Contemporary Dance School, both of which were represented on stage. A group from The Place Centre for Advanced Training presented a piece created over just three days at their recent intensive training week, looking at connections and relationships entitled Em Nós, Nós Confio (“in us we trust”); while the Trinity Laban Youth Dance Company paired up with integrated youth company Cando2 to create The Butterfly Effect.

“Trinity Laban and Candoco now have a partnership,” explains Laban Youth Company director Stella Howard, “and we thought what a lovely way to start it would be to bring the two youth companies together.” The dancers worked together for term with Stella and Cando2 director Sarah Blanc to create material devised from a series of creative tasks. “Once the kids came together, they got on so well and worked so well creatively together. It was a real pleasure to see two groups of teenagers come together, work together and create material.”

Some of the youngest performers came from Sanskriti Limited, a school teaching the classical South Indian dance style of Bharatanatyam. Despite the public setting and a large audience, the tiny dancers weren’t in the least bit daunted and presented two traditional pieces, one seeking the blessing of Lord Ganesh and the other portraying the triumph of good over evil.

“It’s about coming together and celebrating dance,” says host Katie P, a passionate advocate of youth dance and a regular fixture at previous London Youth Dance days. “Youth dance is so important – it’s basically the future, so we need to inspire, get these young people involved. Having a platform for it shows that dance really is for everyone, and you can start at any age!”

Report & video: Lise Smith

Big Dance youth day, as part of Dancing City, Canary Wharf, Greenwich & Docklands International Festival. Photos: Gigi Giannella

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