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National Youth Dance Company’s Apex Rising

© Tony Nandi 2015. Having completed two sold out UK tours, National Youth Dance Company returns to Sadler's Wells to premiere a new work created by the 2014-15 Guest Artistic Director Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.Cherkaoui is one of the most prolific choreographers working today; a Sadler's Wells Associate Artist, he has created more than 20 works. For this new commission Cherkaoui reimagines outstanding moments from his repertoire.
© Tony Nandi 2015.

Sadlers Wells’ project to create a National Youth Dance Company was first initiated in 2012 and since then has gone on to achieve success both for the dancers who have taken part in it and the world renowned choreographers and dance artists it has attracted involvement from.

The draw for young dancers is obvious; collaborate with professional choreographers, perform at world class venues, perform original work and widen your skillset. Of course, evening such as these are of huge value to them and the excitable gossip of proud parents and friends filled the Sadlers Wells Theatre on Friday night, eager to enjoy the rewards of their work.

The attraction for a more objective audience is the opportunity to see new work from the likes of Jasmine Vardimon and Akram Khan and these young dancers certainly attacked the complexity and physicality of their work admirably as shown in the VTs that preceded each of the three pieces. As a reviewer, it would be unfair to evaluate the younger performers aged between 16 – 19 years, all of who did themselves proud. The ensemble in all the pieces was so large it was hard to pick out any standout stars, the story here for any dance fan was the choreography.

The first two short pieces from Vardimon and Khan showed promise but seemed unfinished or only began to tell half the story.

Vardimon’s work is of course known for its physicality but I didn’t enjoy the aggression and power conveyed through her piece, [in between]. Vardimon spoke in the rehearsal footage how the title was meant to reflect how the performers were at an in between stage in their lives between being students and professionals and I’m afraid I didn’t get that from it. The piece moved between the exuberance, joy and energy of youth and brutality of adulthood portrayed through dancer being knocked off tree stumps with a good deal of screaming and shrieking. It was the weakest piece of the evening for me.

The pulsating rhythms in Khan’s piece, The Rashomon Effect was far easier to appreciate. The work tells a cyclical story that always starts and ends in the same place, each time told from a different perspective, in the same way different perceptions can be had from a shared experience. Story aside it’s the way the company perform as a whole synchronised unit in the absence of any musical accompaniment that is the most impressive, guided only by the stomping of their feet it’s powerful and moving.

Siri Larbi Cherkaoui’s Frame[d] concluded the evening and out of the three pieces, this felt by far the most complete story, containing Cherkaoui’s trademark fusion of different styles, everything from synchronised techno moves to a moving pas de deux centred around the sense of touch which the young dancers perform with careful precision. The cast is large and anonymous, all in alternating mis-matched costumes as they struggle to assert their individuality over the frames that restrict them. Cherkaoui’s skill in moving a piece from calm to frantic so swiftly is engaging and stops the work from ever dragging, instead creating a sense of several enjoyable mini works one after the other.

All in all, an at times hit and miss evening due to the ambitious nature of the choreography but the strength of the performers can’t be denied and Sadlers Wells should be commended for creating such a worthwhile initiative.
3 Star Review

Review by Vikki Jane Vile

Following its world premiere at Sadler’s Wells in April, the National Youth Dance Company (NYDC) now tours its newly commissioned piece Frame[d] created by this year’s Guest Artistic Director, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, to Birmingham, Newcastle, Leeds, Suffolk, Ipswich, Bournemouth and Plymouth. This year’s cohort of 38 NYDC young dancers selected from all over the country in 2014, which includes BBC Young Dancer 2015 Connor Scott, then graduates at the end of July before returning to London for a retrospective performance in September, as part of the inaugural Apex Rising festival.

The new commission Frame[d] sees Cherkaoui, an Associate Artist of Sadler’s Wells, revisiting moments from his established catalogue of work: Babel(words), co-choreographed with Damien Jalet, Puz/zle, Loin and TeZukA, incorporating new ideas and movement material from the young dancers.

ane Hackett, Director of NYDC, said: “We believe in the importance of identifying talent at an early age. These young people have the potential to be the future leaders of the dance world and we want to provide them with as many tools as possible to excel and succeed.

Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist and NYDC Guest Artistic Director 2014-15, said: “It was a pleasure to be selected as NYDC’s Guest Artistic Director. I have always believed that more needs to be done to nurture young talent, and it is initiatives like these that have the potential to truly change the dance landscape for young people. I am confident that these dancers will excel beyond expectations.”

Claire Niesto-Bame, 18yo NYDC dancer from Hertfordshire, said: “Although we are all from different areas of England and come from different backgrounds and circumstances, we were all born with the same passion. NYDC brings us together and feeds our hunger for dance; it has already provided us with knowledge and experience that we will undoubtedly carry with us throughout the rest of our dance journeys.

Alistair Spalding, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Sadler’s Wells, said: “It’s vital for the health of the dance sector that there is a pipeline of talent feeding it. I firmly believe that those performers should have the opportunity to work to the highest standards and with world class resources, to gain real insight into the dance profession.

Sunday 6th September 2015


  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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