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Monday, 27 July 2015

The UDance2015 Experience!



Last week I took the 4-5 hour train journey from Leicester down to Plymouth to join over 300 people for UDance2015.



UDance is a National Youth Dance Festival which celebrates the talent of young people in dance on a yearly basis from all over the UK, who are selected through country platform panels since November/December 2014. It doesn't feel that long ago that I began my own journey through UDance2015 and it's great to reflect on those months and the National festival itself that I was lucky to be a part of.

My journey began when I undertook my first 'big professional' role in my career as Young Associate Programmer with Dance4 back in November, the role I undertook included that I became a part of the county selection panel for both East and West Midlands for UDance2015. I thoroughly thrived on the opportunity and the application stage was tough to say the least but a real great insight into what was happening in Youth Dance throughout my county, I didn't have much knowledge of this before so it was great to have that opportunity provided to me. I went through so many applications with a small team and then I began the journey with a panel to visit and decide through county level who should go through to the regional platform, MY Dance. The county platforms involved such a wide variety of Dance and it was great to see how each county celebrated their young talent. Being on the panel for this stage of UDance was really difficult, we could see up to 20 performances within an evening and then have to make the decision for one group to go to Regional, oh the pressure! The 5 platforms came and passed us by then it was onto the Regional platform of MY Dance in Nottingham back in April.

With the support and direction from the staff at Dance4 I programmed the MY Dance Festival Fringe that sat alongside the main event of MY Dance in the evening. It was a great opportunity and development in my professional career, you can read my post all about it right here. Deciding on the groups that would then go onto Plymouth was the most difficult decision ever but I am glad I was apart of that process and had an input into that final decision.



July rolled round and I headed down to Plymouth! Arriving in sunny Plymouth after a long 5 hour commute I headed straight for the insanely beautiful building of the Plymouth Guildhall for a volunteer brief and to set up ahead of the Welcome Party. The welcome party gathered all of the 305 participants, 71 group leaders, artists, 42 volunteers (including National Youth Dance Ambassadors) and the rest of the team to open UDance2015. There was so many people dressed up 1940s style and a real, exciting buzz began to build throughout the evening! We were treated to a variety of different performances from local young dancers in the area, all really delightful and pleasing to the eye, I particularly enjoyed the one when we saw the dancers move with beach balls through the aisles of the hall space. The party really felt like a wonderful welcoming event and there was even a swing dance towards the end of the evening, it felt like the whole youth dance scene in the UK came together to do what they do best, DANCE! 







For the next two days I woke up before 7am and joined the participants as well as a team of awesome volunteers and staff (who i'll talk about in a bit) for a day full of workshops with a host of artists whether that would be in the studios across the campus at Plymouth University or even down at the aquarium, where they created a Dance in a day (interesting right?). I wish I had time to go to the aquarium over the two days to within what was happening within that exciting space. The two days I was also chairing the Dance Career Panel within the university. I had a real fan-girl moment sitting alongside Adam Benjamin, he wrote a book about inclusive dance practice which was the first I ever read when building on an interest within the area and of which really inspired me. I also sat beside Theo Clinkcard, June Gamble, Dulcie Alexander, Sujata Banergee, Sue Smith, Adam Philpott, Tim Casson and Maryam Pourian. It was great to sit alongside professionals discussing the dance sector and hopefully encouraging the young people to seek a professional career within the sector. It was really inspiring and engaging for me ahead of releasing my new project WHYDance? in the upcoming weeks!  The participants were definitely provided with a variety of things to participate and be inspired by over the two days. In the evening we headed over to Theatre Royal for two evenings showcasing the width of youth dance talent groups from all over the UK had to offer. I felt like a proud mother watching the groups selected through the panels I was a part of in the East and West Midlands, they really showed the great talent we had around my home county! I really enjoyed watching the pieces, in particular Rise, Boyz United, Moving Together, RedXCo, Wheelfever Projects and SG Troop whose performances still sit with me. It was really inspiring to see the young people showcase their ambitions and passion through their performance on stage. 




On the last day, we headed over to the Piazza outside of the Plymouth Guildhall for a Mass Dance over 200 young people perform a dance inspired by the sea. It was a great way to celebrate the final day of the UDance festival, it was an amazing event full of surprise! The best part for me was seeing them sign 'oh i do like to be beside the seaside' which really added another great layer to the piece of dance. The Mass Dance gathered so many people to watch and their was a real enthusiastic and uplifting atmosphere on the performance square. I wanted to join in on so many occasions, if I had only learnt the dance!  





My experience at UDance2015 was definitely made 100000x better by the people I worked alongside with as a volunteer. Gemma Ward the Volunteer Coordinator managed to pull together such a happy, enthusiastic and hard-working group of people who wanted to make the festival a huge success (even buying socks on Friday when it threw it down!) I can't even tell you how great it was to be surrounded by such a great group of people plus the staff, who did as much of a great job as we did as volunteers to ensure it ran so smoothly. We helped to walk groups to venues, escorted them back from the theatre at night and genuinely tried to process enough energy to get through the long days we had. I think with any form of big dancing event especially as a volunteer it's key and an absolute must for us to have fun and I certainly did. I've come away from the UDance2015 experience with a new sense of motivation and determination to continue a career within the dance sector, especially after what seemed like a few months of giving up and looking elsewhere. That's the thing about the Dance sector is that it can seem impossible, really tough but there isn't anything like it out there that I enjoy and inspires me as much as Dance does. I really enjoyed the atmosphere in Plymouth and really hope I am able to return in the future to do some work! Thanks to the people of Youth Dance England and Plymouth Dance for allowing me to be part of the event. Thanks to the volunteers who kept me going even when exhausted and for making the experience just as awesome! 






thanks for reading,


1 comment:

  1. Sounds like it was such a great experience for you. I love the sound of the Mass Dance as well, I bet that would have been awesome to be a part of!

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