INYD Irish National Youth Dance
A lecture by Anica Louw
The only way I can feel personally successful as a dance educator, is if I can see a real link between dance education and professional dance.
Teenage students must also see and feel this link: a real bridge between them and the professional world, a world that is in their reach and not something they cannot imagine.
Every attempt I make in teaching and creating courses is to keep these goals and links clear.
How can I, as a dance educator, prepare students to audition successfully for 3rdlevel dance education colleges, prepare them to be on the road to become a dance artist, and to become an educated intelligent member of a healthy dance audience.
I could not teach dance or facilitated dance courses and be satisfied that they were taught posture, discipline, social behaviour, teamwork, dedication and so forth. Because in my heart I know that plenty of other disciplines like Taekwondoo, yoga, gymnastics, to name a few, can do all those things and more.
But what they cannot teach, is the art of dancing and dance making.
Story telling, music and folk dancing are completely part and parcel of what it is to be Irish. And therefor it is not surprising for Ireland to produce important choreographers? Choreographers who are well known in Europe and America (less so in Ireland!). When doors open magically for me by inexcusably dropping names like Michael Keegan Dolan, or Marguerite Donlon, any where in Europe, my chest grows with pride. They just happen to have Longford links as well!
So how does all this fit in with creating a youth dance ensemble? Well, perfectly:
These days it is crucial for teachers to recognise that choreographers take it for granted that dancers would contribute to the creative process of making a new dance piece. This dance making/ the ability to improvise must begin at an early stage to prepare them for professional life. More and more demands are made on dancers to contribute to the development of the dance movement and material. Dance students must be encouraged to be part of the creative process, able to change, to reinvent themselves, and not categorised.
This important part of a dancer’s education is called on when they do their audition for 3rdlevel education. It is also the most important ingredient that a company director looks for in a new potential dancer auditioning for a place in their dance company. ( use Sarah as example)
My students have been involved with European auditions where they were given an hour’s ballet class and 10 minutes of improvisation as the initial part of selection.
How on earth can the panel judge on that? (Especially as a lot of applicants would never have done ballet?!).
They choose people who are:
who can follow and adapt quickly
who can remember movements,
who are supple all over,
who have a healthy degree of turnout,
who can turn, spin, jump and move,
who are working like blazes at the back of class and give it everything when asked to execute,
who is not afraid (rather go wrong than not try at all).
Apply all these points together to any ballet student and if they all fit, you have a probable candidate.
And in the improvisation session that follows all these things will be revealed, and to crown it all, the ability to make things up as you go, to respond instinctively to music and other people.
When you have past this stage you, are allowed to show your minute and a half prepared piece, where hopefully your artistry, style and performance come through.
This is what we try to teach and convey to The National Youth Dance Company.
In practical terms we do the following:
Four teachers teach at 16 residential weekends, which run from January to June. For strong technique we teach RAD vocational graded syllabi,
For dance style RAD Upper grades
For rhythm and musical theatre ISTD vocational graded syllabi,
and for strength, centering and endurance a Contemporary dance class.
The Contemporary teacher is usually the professional choreographer. She /he is also normally a well-known Irish choreographer and dancer.( This is where the important links start happening). In these workshops they learn to choreograph, improvise, contact improvisation and partnering.
For stage presence, stage personality, theatre skills, they take part in the backstage theatre dance awards.
They also get the opportunity to work with other professional artists creating the piece with them. ( examples)
They attend all visiting companies’ workshops and performances, thereby learning at first hand, the skills that are expected from them and repertoire from the company. The dancers sit down and chat to them. The students get the chance to ask important questions like: where did you study dance, how old were you etc.?
LD dance organises NYD to travel to see important companies performing in Dublin. For example their patron’s latest work Giselle, or Mark Morris and Rosas.
We are 6 years old, and have received gratefully a small Arts Council grant for the last two years. All the students that have auditioned for 3rd level places in the last 5 years have been successful.