DanceFest: why I love youth dance
Teenagers may get a bad press elsewhere, but our dance editor has nothing but praise for young people dancing their way to adulthood
It’s July 2014, and for the third evening in a row I’m sitting in Glasgow’s Tramway. Each night I’ve travelled for nearly four hours, and used six different buses and trains to get here and back. But every second, and every step, has been well worth it.
Because each night I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of watching 400 young people from around the world take part in the Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival. It turns out to be one of the dance highlights of my whole year.
On the final night, after the show ends, most of the performers race to a convoy of coaches and head to Buchanan Street in the centre of Glasgow. There, in the pouring rain, they take part in a public performance with a live link-up to other dancers in London and Sydney. The smiles, the energy and the commitment never drop, and it’s a joy to behold.
Which pretty much sums up what I love about youth dance. A company of adult professionals may offer stronger technique and more complex choreography, but the sheer enthusiasm, vigour and sense of fun that young dancers bring to the stage is just intoxicating.
At the risk of patronising, I’m also deeply moved by the hard work and desire to do well they exhibit, which is in such sharp contrast to the way teenagers are often portrayed in the media.
On 19 January, 17 youth dance groups will arrive at Edinburgh Festival Theatre, to perform on Scotland’s largest stage. It’s an opportunity few, if any, of the dancers will ever forget. A number of them may want to take up dance as a career, for others it’s just a fun way to pass an hour or two each week. For some of them, their involvement in dance will be life-changing in terms of confidence building and self-esteem.
But the pleasure is most definitely not all theirs. DanceFest, like Destinations at Tramway in March and Go Dance 16 at the Theatre Royal in May, will give audiences real moments of diversity, in terms of dance style, technique and design.
Whether it’s a student from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s BA Modern Ballet course taking steps towards a professional career, or a young dancer from a community group who just loves being able to express themselves physically, you know everyone will give their all. And I, for one, can’t wait to see them.
DanceFest takes place 19 Jan, 7pm at Edinburgh Festival Theatre