Activate is the managing organisation of Dorset Youth Dance (DYD), an unincorporated organisation steered by a group of experts in the field. It was founded in 1998 to provide, improve and maintain education in the art of dance for young people in Dorset. It launched as Fish Tank, then later renamed Portrait in 2007, a youth dance company recognised by Dorset’s art and cultural industry and beyond, for the quality of its work and the opportunities it offers gifted and talented dancers aged 14-21. Portrait re-launched as Dorset Youth Dance Company (DYD) in September 2016, with progressive feeder and company classes, followed by a creative class for 7-11 year olds in May 2018. Since then DYD have had the opportunity to perform in U-Dance SW and PDSW’s Origins, and have worked with highly regarded artists from Motionhouse and Alleyne Dance.
Since the company re-launched, several young people have followed in the footsteps of previous company members and have gone on to study dance and choreography at Higher Education. Recently, company members have been accepted to Universities and conservatoires such as Laban, Chichester and Falmouth. We recently caught up with previous DYD Company dancer, Zoe Cochrane, to find out what she’s up to now and how her experience with DYD has impacted on her dance journey. Here’s Zoe’s story.
When and why did you originally audition to be a part of Dorset Youth Dance Company?
I originally auditioned to be part of DYD in 2016, to continue my exploration of contemporary dance. As someone who was part of a dance school studying ballet, tap and modern; contemporary dance wasn’t a readily accessible form of dance that was taught outside of school in my area. I was excited about the possibility to work with Claire (Benson), who had spent a long time as part of Motionhouse, which was a company I had been a big fan of. I was also interested in establishing new connections and being part of a new local community, as it was a great opportunity to meet people with the same interest in dance.
Do you have a particular memorable moment or experience from your time with DYD?
Throughout my time dancing with DYD, there were a lot of performance opportunities. My fondest memories revolve around travelling to youth dance platforms and participating in workshops during the day, before culminating in performing a piece we had been working on as part of the show. These days were very enjoyable and enriching in terms of being introduced to various styles of dance, like: Capoeira, Charleston, Hip-hop and contemporary workshops introducing me to various new artists/choreographers. It was also really great to experience performing in front of an audience, as this was when I was at my happiest.
Is there a key learning from DYD that you’ll carry with you and use/remember?
Through establishing friendships and connections with the members of DYD, I’ve learnt that its valuable to be yourself whilst in the studio because it not only makes for a more interesting and expressive dancer, it also makes for a better working process and enjoyable experience. From my experience of working with Claire, I have learnt to approach every movement class with a rigour and dedication, and this is a work ethic that has served me well in my training.
What are you up to now? Did DYD help you on this journey?
After leaving DYD, I began training at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and am now in my third and final year. It’s always invaluable to get as much diversity of experiences, as it makes you a more versatile performer and this was definitely something that DYD offered. Whilst working with Claire, I learnt ways of moving that were acrobatic and athletic and unfamiliar to me. Each class was a new experience for me that was challenging and enriching and went hand in hand in my preparation for vocational training. I learnt more about my individual style through improvisations and learnt how to work with another body through contact work. Both elements that are essential as part of your training. For anyone aspiring to be a part of the contemporary dance world, DYD is a perfect company/collective that can offer such diversity of experience through collaborations, performances, workshops and studio work.
You can see Zoe in the Dorset Youth Dance film ‘Tess’, created in partnership with local dance group Movers & Shakers, launched on Wednesday 16 December on the Company’s Instagram page @dorsetyouthdanceco and on the Activate website.