This year, Sadler’s Wells has once again been working in collaboration with BBC Young Dancer to provide expert advice and support across the biennial competition’s four categories: Ballet, Contemporary, South Asian and Street Dance.
With one day to go until the overall winner of BBC Young Dancer 2019 is unveiled at the grand final at Birmingham Hippodrome this Saturday, we ask judge and Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artist Jonzi D for the top five things he is looking for in the winning dancer.
This year’s winning candidate will have something powerful, and importantly something new to say. They will be a risk-taker with a fresh take on their style; one that transports us outside of the box and brings us closer to something truly special.
We were blown away by this year’s performance by our former NYDC member Adanna Lawrence in the contemporary final of BBC Young Dancer.
I’m looking for someone who inspires confidence – someone who puts me at ease through their movement. I’m not worried when I watch them perform, because neither are they.
Here’s the perfect throwback to Archie Sullivan performing the wonderfully playful Les Bourgeois for the Ballet Final of BBC Young Dancer 2015.
3. Technical Dexterity
Alongside a strong passion for
dance, our 2019 winner will have the full package of technique and talent that
speaks for itself – letting us know loud and clear that they have what it takes
to get to the next level.
Contemporary dancer Connor Scott became the first ever BBC Young Dancer winner in 2015, and you can definitely see why in his first solo, Get Up, which he choreographed himself.
The winner will have a rhythmic ear. They will be adept at interpreting music, repeating that music, and transmit that through their body language in ways that defy our expectations. It’s a skill of extreme precision, knowing not only how to hit the beat, but also when.
Take for instance Jodelle Douglas and Matthew ‘MindTrick’ Holt’s body-popping duet ‘Canvas’, performed at the BBC Young Dancer 2017 Street Dance Final.
Of course, we couldn’t forget Keiran Lai’s Transformer-esque first solo ‘Tinman’, which he performed for the Hip Hop Final in 2015.
…and not the marriage kind! We’re looking for a connection with the audience that runs deeper than the eye can see. It’s that special je ne sais quoi about a performance that can make our hair stand on end, something spectacular that grips us and leaves us wanting more.
We still get chills remembering the stunning kathak duet from South Asian category winner Vidya Patel and Jaina Modasia in the 2015 finals.
The Grand Final for BBC Young Dancer will be broadcast on BBC Two on Saturday 18 May at 8pm and be available on BBC iPlayer.
Get Creative is a major annual celebration of the nation’s arts, culture and creativity, highlighting the central role that creativity plays in people’s lives. From 11 to 19 May, Get Creative invites the entire nation to get involved and share its creative talents.
We are passionate about the power of creativity and believe it offers something special for everyone. For the fifth year in a row, we will be taking part in the Get Creative festivities with two dance workshops on 13 and 17 May: one for over 60s and another for young children aged 2-4 and their carers.
Ahead of this, we speak to Clara Andermatt, renowned Portuguese dancer and choreographer, who will lead the first workshop alongside our over-60 resident company, the inspirational Company of Elders.
What does creativity mean to you? Why is it important?
Creativity to me is when you are able to transform somehow, to transform reality. I think everyone has the capacity to be creative. Creativity depends on imaginative minds, the ability to materialise and realise creativity in a personal and unique way. Sometimes you are more creative in your head than whatever you are trying to show in your materialisation, because the mind is so immense. I also feel that creativity never ends. There’s this sense of constant possibilities, and I think everything can feed this creativity. It really depends on the way you look at things.
How does dance help you to express, experience and explore this creativity?
I think dance has the capacity to open up channels in your body and in your mind. I have a phrase that I say a lot to my students: “The more you can free your body, you free your mind, and when you free your mind, that’s when creativity happens.”
It’s an amazing and beautiful thing, to dance, to move. When you move, you don’t need to think about anything. It’s also something you can use to get more in touch with yourself. And you don’t need to make it beautiful – you can move and it can be ugly but it’s so wonderful to yourself!
It’s also really a physical thing – you make all your systems and metabolism dance also. That is so important for your creativity. You are able to open and relax, and when your mind relaxes your creativity can flow. Your body expands, your creativity expands. As Merce Cunningham said: “When we dance, we feel alive.”
How valuable are the arts?
Art has the capacity to transform people, and to make them think and feel. When you watch or experience some form of art, you also become that thing somehow. You experience it in your mind and on your body, even if it’s just through observation. It’s fascinating really and I believe it’s been proven. Art enables you to discover yourself, to get closer to your own thoughts and feelings. It opens up many questions, and questioning things is really a way of getting to know yourself and discovering things about life. The more you know yourself, the more you can participate in the world around you. You can be part of the whole. There’s a lot to do in life, and I like to participate.
The arts are different from science and mathematics. There is no right or wrong. It’s something that can expand your own being and the way you express yourself. The more you discover in your interior, the more you can then exteriorise it. The arts have this amazing power to be able to do that.
In your opinion, do the arts offer something to people from all walks of life?
Absolutely – from all ages and all bodies. My work has a lot to do with that. We all have unique bodies. It’s the expression of this singularity, of each person and each body, which makes up the full potential of the performance and of the world. Otherwise we’re all the same, we all do the same, and that’s so narrow. What is beautiful is to showcase the many expressions of different bodies and personalities with different qualities. Different forms and deforms. The importance lies in mixing it all. We learn so much from experiencing and by watching and seeing. It’s important for us and it’s important for others.
Your career as a world-renowned dancer and choreographer spans over 30 years. What are the key ingredients for a long creative career spent doing what you love?
There’s no secret (laughs). When we have secrets, we don’t profit from them – the more you share, the more you gain! I would say my key ingredients are the passion and the love. My dad used to say that love is attention and dedication and the older I get, the more I understand this. So if you love something that you do you, put that energy there. The energy is precisely that attention and dedication you give, as well as the time you spend on it.
Of course I can’t put luck aside.
Luck is also something that life presents to you. It’s up to you to grab it,
you know. And I jumped into life from my mother’s womb straight to a dance
studio! There was no question about it. In a way, the questions only appeared
later. Dance was something I always loved to do.
It’s also important to live in the present, to be fed by the present. That and the energy that other people give me keeps me going. I’m much more of a collaborative than a closed person. That’s where you really generate creativity. There’s no secret really – I just like to feel the intensity of life, to be in the world and not of the world.
What words of advice or wisdom can you offer to first-timers considering attending our open session for over 60s?
Again, as Merce Cunningham
said: “The only way to do it is to do it,” (laughs)
so if you are willing to experience something new, just come and have the
experience. I think experiencing new things in life is a sign of being alive, of
being curious about things. Of
course it takes courage, but when you take that step you continue wanting to
discover yourself, to keep transforming yourself and the things around you.
I also think it’s a very strong and powerful experience to actually be in a class with other people that are moving, and you are communicating and sharing things with your body. You don’t have to talk. There’s a kind of language you are using to communicate with yourself and the others.
There’s a first time for everything, and it’s important not to take things too seriously, to feel uncomfortable sometimes. Maybe you won’t like it, but maybe it will just connect with you and suddenly it may change everything. You have to be willing to continue finding different connections in life. Maybe it’s not dance, but you’ll never know until you try!
You can find out more about Clara’s work and keep up with her company via Facebook and Instagram.
The Company of Elders will perform a mixed bill of exciting works in the Lilian Baylis Studio on the 14 June. The evening will see a revival of Natural, a piece combining text and dance created by Clara for the company in 2005. For more information and to book tickets, click here.
Get Creative is led by BBC ARTS and What Next?, in collaboration with various arts, cultural and voluntary organisations across the UK. For more information about the campaign, and how we are getting involved, click here.
Breakin’ Convention is the UK’s biggest festival of hip hop dance theatre. World-renowned for representing the origins and evolution of hip hop culture from around the world, it is one of the most prestigious platforms for dance theatre globally. True to form, this year’s festival at Sadler’s Wells promises a lineup of exceptional dance talent from the UK and beyond, with international companies hailing from around the globe.
We speak to Michelle, Head of Breakin’ Convention, about the festival’s genesis, its evolution and what audiences can expect from its 16th year.
What is the meaning behind Breakin’ Convention?
The name is something a lot of people get confused with, because hearing it they think of a breaking competition or that you’ll just see breaking performances. The name Breakin’ Convention actually comes from the aim to break convention – of what people think hip hop culture is and of what you’re used to seeing in the theatre. It’s breaking conceptions about the conventional way you see hip hop – at a convention (laughs).
How would you describe the Breakin’ Convention experience?
The festival encompasses all of the elements of hip hop. We commission artists to create graffiti on the walls of Sadler’s Wells. You have DJs, and not only that but the original DMC champions like Cutmaster Swift, DJ Billy Bizznizz, DJ 279 – some of the biggest names when we think of London hip hop culture. We have cyphers in the foyer, rap and freestylers in our front-of-house spaces, we even have a special menu for the occasion – lots of jerk chicken, soul food and West Indian cuisine.
You get to see the best of the UK and the international hip hop scene, so it’s everyone coming together. We break down the fourth wall; the artists come into the foyer and mingle with everyone. It’s the true hip hop experience.
It’s also open for all. As much as the idea behind the festival was to bring in hip hop audiences and let them know that theatre is for them, it makes people that wouldn’t usually be into hip hop see that hip hop is for them too. There are no barriers. It makes everyone feel welcome and comfortable.
You’ve worked your way up from festival volunteer to projects coordinator, to finally heading the Breakin’ Convention team. What are some of the personal highlights of your career?
When we started touring internationally in 2013 and brought the festival to the Harlem Apollo – that was a major highlight! There have been quite a few. I’d say the global effect of our work, but also the development of the UK hip hop scene and of our artists, especially in theatre.
The festival is one thing, without it we probably wouldn’t have been able to create the platforms for professional development that we now have, and to develop the kind of work we’re now developing within hip hop in the UK and internationally. I think over the years it’s been seeing the development of the scene in the UK and how it’s grown, and how a lot of these artists are now on the same level as the international ones, which wasn’t the case when we first started.
What is it like to run the festival?
I’ve been here since the very beginning. I volunteered for the first festival back in 2004 and knew Jonzi [Breakin Convention’s Artistic Director] from way before, since we were in our teens. I grew up in the 80s when hip hop first got big in the UK, and it’s the same feeling now as it was then – the feeling of wanting to be part of it all. I remember walking in the building on the Tuesday after the festival, and almost feeling like I’ve come off a high!
As Mufasa [French hip hop dancer] said last year after her debut performance at the festival, ‘you just feel love’. You’re in the building and that’s what you feel, from the Wednesday when you see the graffiti being put up on the walls, to the next day when the companies start coming in for their tech runs. It feels like a family within our team, but also within the wider context of hip hop.
How do you keep Breakin’ Convention feeling fresh and exciting from year to year?
It’s different every single year. There’s a blueprint of course, but with every single year we’re constantly thinking: ‘How can we top that?’ For our 10th anniversary in 2013, we commissioned 10 UK artists: the whole night was dedicated to just UK artists on the main stage. Last year, we had a 15-piece orchestra as part of a new piece marking our 15th anniversary. We are already looking at how to top that for our 20th.
We try and make sure there’s something for everyone. We look at the programme every year and ask ‘Have we got something for the older generation? What’s something that’s a little more innovative? Are we representing enough females? Are we representing rawness? Are we representing more of the theatrical, the artistic?’ We try and do things organically, so that we’re not dictating what the scene has to have – it’s more a case of what is needed and what is wanted.
What in your opinion is needed in the scene? How has Breakin’ Convention facilitated that?
Hip hop artists don’t have the same kind of opportunities as ballet and contemporary dancers – there are no hip hop conservatoires. You can’t go to a school where you can learn and study hip hop in that sense. So doing things like our artist development programmes Open Art Surgery and Back to the Lab means that artists are not only able to develop their craft, but they’re also learning how to direct their pieces, they’re looking at lighting -all of those things they don’t usually have the privilege of doing.
We need to develop our artists to be on the same level playing field, and so the professional development side of Breakin’ Convention has really started to grow. It’s nice that within Sadler’s Wells on the whole, we’re working with a lot more hip hop artists. It’s a real pleasure to work with the artists we work with. Professional development and education are the things we’re really pushing now. Looking towards the hip hop theatre academy that Sadler’s Wells will establish as part of our new venue in east London in 2022, it’s definitely about incorporating those things.
Something that Jonzi always says is that we’re at an advantage, in that even though hip hop has been going for 40 odd years now, we still have living legends. In 2008, we started doing training with the legends of hip hop under what we called the Pioneers project. The fact that we can invite people down to a workshop with Popin’ Pete [one of the originators of the “popping” dance style and member of the Electric Boogaloos], for instance, is something that you can’t always do in other, more classical dance styles.
What does Breakin’ Convention have in store for our audiences this year? What can we expect?
The best from around the world and around the corner – just like our slogan says! On the international front, everyone we have apart from B-Boy Junior [world-renowned Congolese break dancer] is quite new to the Breakin’ Convention stage. We’ve got Jinjo, a crew from South Korea who are B-boy champions, and France’s Geometrie Variable. We’ve got someone like Logistx, a B-Girl from California who is 16, so very much the new generation.
And then even on the UK front, we’ve got an influx of new companies on the stage like The Archetype and Cocojam. Boy Blue is one of the regulars, having performed at the festival almost every year. We have some familiar faces performing in a new capacity at Breakin’ Convention such as Fiya House, a collective consisting of founders Brooke Milliner and Dickson Mbi. It’s all very fresh and really exciting.
If you could choose a word that captures the essence of the festival, what would it be?
Sensory. There’s just something about the senses – all of them are aroused. There’s music, there’s the smell of different foods, there’s the energy of the people coming in. The building just comes alive. I always tell people that no matter how much you can describe it or watch a Breakin’ Convention video, you have to be there to experience it yourself. When you come to the festival, how you then experience it, and sit in it… it’s different, you know? It’s a sensory experience.
Breakin’ Convention will take place at Sadler’s Wells on Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th May 2019. Tickets are available here.