By Mia Lyndon, of auditionquest.co.uk (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Just a few months ago, young dancers up and down the country, were in the midst of their dance training and optimistic for the year ahead. However when the Covid-19 outbreak reached our shores, dance schools, universities and colleges closed down indefinitely, leaving students without training and without hope. With classes cancelled, shows postponed and auditions halted, being a dance student in the middle of a global pandemic has been tough.
Yet the UK dance scene has adapted even quicker than the virus has spread- with many companies innovatively moving classes and opportunities online. Dance students have been inspired to rearrange their bedrooms into makeshift dance studios and companies have come to terms with Zoom, all in the shared aim to keep the dance industry afloat.
But no UK dance company has grasped this better than Northern Rascals, a Yorkshire-based dance theatre company. Built upon years of creating successful, thought-provoking multi-disciplinary theatre, Northern Rascals have excited audiences across the country- casting celebratory messages of individuality and imagination everywhere.
With the solid intent of creating opportunities and engaging young dancers, who are currently shut away from their normal dance training, Northern Rascals’ Sunny Side Virtual Intensive was bounced out into the dance world. Involving an array of three full-days of contemporary, film and creative work, Northern Rascals’ Virtual Intensive offered more than just training, it provided a sense of belonging, too.
Utterly free of charge, the Sunny Side Virtual Intensive welcomed any young creative from any background- with the only entry requirement being an appetite for imagination. Spanning from Monday 18th May to Wednesday 20th May, participants could access training, tasks and support from the comfort of their own homes.
Each day began with a contemporary-based class, built upon improvisation, bodily awareness and execution of expression. Connected via Zoom, over 30 young dancers had the opportunity to dance in harmony, united by Northern Rascal’s Founders Sam Ford and Anna Holmes. Despite the confinements of bedrooms walls or living room sofas, the morning classes created a unique sense of connection and tenacity- an energy that no pandemic could interfere with.
Participants took part in a selection of improvisation tasks, with the aim of exploring both the physicality and mentality of their bodies. Exploration was encouraged and ‘wrong answers’ simply did not exist within the sphere of the morning classes- dancers were allowed to move in whichever way felt right. The morning classes also involved deliverance of a contemporary-based routine, perfectly crafted to both stretch and challenge dancers of diverse abilities. Sam and Anna were fantastic- their words of encouragement and praise were the soundtrack to these classes.
Following the morning classes, dancers would cool off with a creative workshop. Exploring alternative creative avenues, participants explored filming, writing and collaboration. These would often inspire a new way of thinking and approaching dance- offering new levels of training that perhaps had previously left unexplored. Aaron Howell of Howl Creative guided participants through the building blocks of dance filming, encouraging participants to explore new angles and perspective, regardless of success or failure. Later in the week, Anna led participants through a writing session, leaving participants with handwritten pages oozing raw, emotional depth.
Each day, following a morning of dancing and creative stimulation, participants would be left to their own devices, challenged with a selection of creative tasks. Dared with creating videos, recordings and photography based on isolated thoughts, participants could explore the opportunities and limitation of their own homes, minds and bodies.
The creative work that was produced had purpose, too. The tasks were made even more rewarding when participants discovered that their material had the possibility of inspiring Northern Rascals’ next professional work. Instantly, young dancers that had previously been left without routine, training and normality, had a new purpose.
The days came to a close with a cool-down class, taking the shape of flexibility training or yoga. Offering a relaxed time to condition the body, they proved highly effective in calming the curious mind. On Wednesday, the final day of the intensive, a cool-down class was replaced with a check-in session to wrap up the exciting week and praise each and every participant.
Every participant later received personalised feedback for their work, offering extension tasks, suggestions and commendations.
By the end of the intensive, comfort zones had been demolished, restraints had been leapt over and young minds had been challenged- with hours of original footage to prove it. In just three days, young dancers, located all across the country, had been brought together, accepted and encouraged- fuelling them with energy for the long weeks of lock-down ahead.
Creativity is the blossoming force knitting the dance industry together right now, with young peoples’ ideas more relevant and valued than ever. Creating such an accessible, welcoming programme of creative inspiration, Northern Rascals’ Sunny Side Virtual Intensive ticked all the boxes. What a wonderfully inspiring and beautiful few days it was.
A huge thank you goes to Anna and Sam for such an fantastic, engaging week.
Northern Rascals are planning on run weekly classes soon, alongside another intensive for late June/early July.
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