Q&A: Joce Giles of the National Youth Dance Company

In February, the National Youth Dance Company (NYDC) descended on Hymers College for two days of dance rehearsals, talks and workshops with local dancers and their tutors. The visit came ahead of the NYDC’s Tarantiseismic, a story of melancholia, rituals and abandon told through the medium of contemporary dance and choreographed by the company’s Guest Artistic Director Damien Jalet.

As the flagship youth dance organisation in England, the NYDC takes on around 40 young dancers each year as part of a residency, where they work with high-profile choreographers to create a new piece of work that is performed on the main stage at Sadler’s Wells in London and in venues throughout the UK.

With a commitment to developing diverse and ambitious dancers for many years to come, NYDC regularly delivers outreach programmes around the country which include workshops, partnership projects and work with young dancers living with physical and learning disabilities. The company is run by Sadler’s Wells and funded by the Department for Education and Arts Council England.

We took the opportunity to catch up with Director of Learning and Engagement, Joce Giles.

NYDC Open Rehearsal. Photo: © Patrick Mateer

What brought the NYDC to Hull?

The NYDC is committed to engaging with more young people in Hull and East Riding, and with Hull being UK City of Culture in 2017, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to establish a programme of work in the city to raise the profile of youth dance. We want to support and celebrate the work of local dancers and identify exceptional young dancers who could work with us in the future.

NYDC Open Rehearsal. Photo: © Patrick Mateer

Who was involved in the open rehearsal and choreographic discussion?

We worked with 22 local dance teachers, artists and youth leaders who watched as Damien Jalet, this year’s Artistic Director, created his new piece of work for NYDC that will be shown in Hull and around the UK later in the year.

The dance leaders then took part in a discussion with Damien and his Assistant Choreographers, Aimilios Arapoglu and James O’Hara, focusing on the challenges faced when working with such a large group of young people and how we can push the boundaries of youth dance.

What do you hope they have taken from this unique experience?

I hope the people who attended gained an insight into the work we produce at NYDC and were motivated to continue their own work inspiring young people locally. Hopefully they came away feeling like they had a good chance to meet other local people working within youth dance.

NYDC Open Rehearsal. Photo: © Patrick Mateer

What was the purpose of NYDC’s Experience Workshop and how did it go?

One reason we ran the workshop was to give local dancers the chance to sign up to NYDC – Hull, a project we’re delivering in partnership with Hull City Council. This new dance project will involve a team of dance artists creating a new work on young dancers from Hull and East Riding that will be inspired by Damien Jalet’s Tarantiseismic.

In April, the specially selected group will attend the premiere of Tarantiseisemic at Sadler’s Wells before working on their own exciting creation which will be performed as a curtain raiser to NYDC’s performance at Middleton Hall on 20 July.

Aside from the NYDC – Hull project, we wanted to give young, local dancers the chance to find out more about a national dance company and to give them a taste of what joining a company can entail. We hope that a number of talented dancers from the area will be interested in joining us for a residency in the future.

NYDC Open Rehearsal. Photo: © Patrick Mateer

What can young dancers expect from a residency with NYDC?

When we take on new dancers, they can become fully immersed in the process of creating new pieces of dance work on a very large scale. Dancers will learn to stretch their creative and technical abilities whilst collaborating in teams, building confidence and becoming more resilient. These things are very important in dance but are also essential skills that will help with any career.

Around 80% of the young dancers we work with have gone on to full-time dance training at conservatoires in the UK and Europe. Later this year, several dancers from the first NYDC cohort in 2013 graduate from their full-time training and we can’t wait to see what they go on to achieve.

NYDC Open Rehearsal. Photo: © Patrick Mateer

Will there be any additional opportunities open to Hull dancers?

In addition to our dance project in Hull, we will be delivering another Experience Workshop in June to provide a snapshot of NYDC life to local dancers, so look out for more details about that.

Don’t miss the NYDC – Hull dance project taking place as part of Damien Jalet’s Tarantiseismic at Middleton Hall (20 July).