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Dorset Youth Dance in 2021

We look back on a year of fantastic moments for Dorset Youth Dance – despite the challenges of 2021

Although 2021 was still filled with uncertainty and change, the year has been crammed with fantastic moments for Dorset Youth Dance. The start of the year found the country in lockdown, which meant our DYD Sundays were still taking place via Zoom with families giving up living rooms, kitchens and various digital devices in order for our dancers to #KeepDancing. All our dancers coped beautifully and their energy, motivation and sense of community really shone. Working online also opened up the opportunity to make new connections, with DYD Seniors and Company dancers engaging in an online exchange with Bristol based youth dance company RISE core and performance group dancers, in early March. This was a great weekend of sharing different styles, ways of working and meeting other young dancers.

March also held another first for DYD Seniors & Company dancers, in the form of a Zoom workshop with one of the UK’s leading Krump dancers Joshua ‘Vendetta’ Nash. This two-hour workshop, made possible by our friends at Artsreach Dorset and the Rural Touring Dance Initiative (RTDI), was a real eye opener (and arm ache-er!) Joshua guided the dancers through Krump technique, movement vocabulary and so much more in a way that made the style accessible and enjoyable to the dancers. This experience inspired DYD’s contribution to 2021’s Street in the Park short film Last Night a DJ Saved My Life, which featured local young dancers and dance professionals.

Street in the Park was a performance platform which included music technology, dance and film. The event was conceived as an end of year work experience opportunity for music technology students from Weymouth College. The event hosted an Up & Coming DJ Competition and was supported by Arts Council England, Activate Performing Arts, Air107.2fm, Weymouth College, Dorchester Town Council and Dorset Council. The commissioned dance film Last Night A DJ Saved My Life was funded by Arts Council England and directed by Michaela Shaw in collaboration with film artist Richard Tomlinson and music and sound artist Andy Cleeton. DYD filmed their snippet in mid-April, the short film then premiered in a one-off digital live event on 22 May 2021.

The end of April heralded the return to in-studio classes for DYD, which was a real moment of joy & warmth. Although classes looked slightly different, due to Covid-19 restrictions, it was clear how much the dancers enjoyed being back in a shared space together. This was also a particularly exciting term for our Company dancers, as DYD began creating and then filming two further short dance films, Tess II and Tess III, as a continuation of Tess, created out of lockdown in summer 2020. Inspired by themes found in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, the trilogy of short dance films were a unique experience for the Company dancers to be a part of and an incredible opportunity to work with professionals in the arts sector, including Director and Choreographer Claire Benson (DYD Artistic Director) Photographer and Filmmaker Dan Tucker, Composer and musician Steve Wilson and Costume Supervisor Mel Draper. All made possible by funding from Arts Council England.

The Tess project then swept into late July, as DYD collaborated with South West based community groups Movers & Shakers, The Remix (East and West), Rise Youth Dance, Coast Youth Dance and Co-Evo (the latter two both run by PDSW), to create an outdoor, live performance piece which was then performed as part of the Inside Out Dorset festival in September. This moving and inspiring work was performed on Christchurch Quay by DYD, Remix East, Coast and Co-Evo, with DYD, Rise, Movers & Shakers and Remix West taking over the reins in Tithe Barn Gardens on Symondsbury Estate.

The performance culminated a really special time for DYD, with one audience member telling us, “I went to watch Tess and I was moved to tears, in a good way. My friend’s foster daughter with special needs gave me a hug before the start and told me she was scared and nervous. I went on to watch her perform confidently with her friends with a beam on her face. The way the Tess dance started with the young dancers and then the older versions of themselves came in, made me think about changes in time. The second performance I viewed from the top part of the hill and the flowers and the trees around them added a midsummer country fair vibe. Very special. The last part of the dance where they all merged was really emotional. Inclusivity at its best. I walked away with happy tears streaming down my face.”

After the intensity of the spring/summer term, we returned to the studio with two more opportunities for our dancers to sink their teeth into, thanks again to our partners Artsreach Dorset and RTDI. Our Seniors and Company were lucky enough to get to work again with Joshua Nash, this time in-person! In early November, Joshua delivered a wonderful two-day residency that allowed the young people to gel with a new style of dance and to work in a professional environment to create a curtain raiser for Joshua’s double bill Black List / Figleaf at The Bay Theatre, Weymouth. It was great working with Joshua and the young people gained a great professional experience of what it would be like in industry-related practice. The DYD dancers really relished the experience and the opportunity to see his work after they performed their curtain raiser Vendetta. There was a great audience who gave lovely feedback about their work.

Our Juniors were treated to a workshop with the fantastic Sonia Sabri Dance, then attending their performance of professional work Same Same…But Different at The Exchange in Sturminster Newton. The workshop focused on giving the dancers an experience in other styles other than the contemporary technique classes they are used to. They explored Asian dance, looking a creating imagery with their bodies and hands, some Kathak dance and also some of the language that was demonstrated in the performance the next day. They were also taught some street dance and a contemporary phrase, which was followed by creative tasks too. They really enjoyed learning the different techniques and have been inspired, using it in their own creative tasks in later DYD sessions!

As 2021 draws to a close, DYD is set to have a great start to 2022 with more exciting projects on the horizon (keep your eyes peeled to find out more!) If any young dancers aged 7+ are interested in getting involved with DYD classes, our first session of our winter/spring term is open to new starters and will take place on Sunday 9 January. Please email Sammy at dyd@activateperformingarts.org.uk to register your interest and for more information.

The DYD team send their warmest thanks and virtual hugs to all our friends, partners, funders, dancers and their grown-ups for making 2021 so enjoyable through dance. We’ll see you in 2022!

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