National Youth Dance Company (NYDC) is now in its sixth year and offers dance students from around the country the opportunity to train intensively over weekend and holiday residencies with a renowned director/ choreographer who takes on the role for one year. Students can stay with the company for a maximum of two years (three in very exceptional cases); the vast majority go on to graduate and become professional dancers in companies such as BalletBoyz or Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures.
NYDC being a stepping stone with high visibility (this year’s crop go on an extensive nationwide tour of Used to Be Blonde in the summer), the youngsters lucky enough to gain a place in the company grab the opportunity with both hands – and then some.
This they did with Sharon Eyal’s Used to Be Blonde, turning the Israeli choreographer’s pulsating, high-energy work into a compelling, no holds barred performance.
Dressed in black clinging lycra bodysuits, they inhabit a naked black stage moodily lit by Alon Cohen. We first see them in an elliptic shape around three sides of the stage, knees bending rhythmically to Ori Lichtik’s loud, pulsating, drum-dominated score.
Downstage two women face each other. They are also in thrall to the music’s powerful rhythm but their dance, more focused on arms and upper body, sets them apart from the others.
At irregular intervals all launch into a jerky movement: arms stretch forward in an aggressive lunge reminiscent of martial arts, while still the knees bend to keep the rhythm.
The perfect combination of sound, murky light and synchronised movement produces a near-hypnotic state in performers and audience alike, creating an atmosphere of ritual reinforced by the very serious – I would even say hard – expressions on the dancers’ faces.
Eventually, and throughout the piece, an individual breaks off from the mass and produces a singular little dance based on extraordinary isolations. Unfair as it may be to single out one among these remarkable young dancers, 17-year-old Alex Thirkle, heavy black-rimmed glasses firmly in place, stands out for the flexibility and powerful engagement of his slight body.
London had a first taste of Sharon Eyal’s choreography during a brief visit by Ballet British Columbia in early March, and Used to Be Blonde confirms her signature approach of moving massed ranks of dancers in repetitive pulsating patterns heavily reliant on predominantly percussive music.
However, Used to Be Blonde does not sustain its 50 minutes’ duration. About two-thirds of the way through its impact fades; and although the patterns vary, the underlying concept doesn’t.
Supported by a large team consisting of three assistant choreographers and a rehearsal director, Sharon Eyal has shown she can marshal a large group of students into a disciplined, committed and highly professional ensemble. Might she, perhaps, have stretched them a little further into more varied dance territory?
|What||NYDC, Used To Be Blonde Review|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
On 07 Apr 18, 19:30 Dur.: 1 hour approx
|Price||£12 (concessions £6)|
|Website||Click here to book via Sadler's Well website|