Dance review: Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival, Glasgow

You could sense the atmosphere the moment you entered the building. The sound of hundreds of young people who had come to Glasgow to share, learn, create and most of all – dance.

All-male Brit School company Khronos showed fearless physicality and ability to generate excitement
All-male Brit School company Khronos showed fearless physicality and ability to generate excitement
All-male Brit School company Khronos showed fearless physicality and ability to generate excitement

Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival - Tramway, Glasgow

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The first of its kind, the Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival was curated and run by YDance, Scotland’s national dance organisation for young people, and as the standing ovation at the end of each night demonstrated, it was an event to be proud of.

Out of 115 original applications from youth dance groups around the world, just 36 made it to the final cut. A decision based not necessarily on technical excellence, but in order to achieve a fine balance of dance styles, geographic location and inclusion.

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They came from Australia, Canada, India, Malta, Namibia, Singapore and across the UK to perform ballet, contemporary, hip hop, and traditional African, Aboriginal, Indian and Scottish dance styles. As each short work unfolded over the three nights, the audience learned to expect one thing – that each performance would be entirely different from the last.

In among the diversity, however, there was one commonality, regardless of where they hailed from – hard work. Not just of the dancers giving their all on stage – but the choreographers and group leaders who invested time and energy to create these opportunities, and potentially change lives.

For some of the 400 young people taking part, this was the start of a blossoming dance career – for others a valuable lesson in team-work and boost to their self-confidence. But for those of us watching there was nothing but enjoyment. Over six hours of performances, and not a single second that didn’t engage or entertain in some way

Inevitably, some groups shone brighter than others, when strong technique, exciting choreography and polished execution came together in perfect alchemy.

The Children & Youth Dance Theatre of Toronto and Canadian Contemporary Dance Theatre both did their country proud. The former with a vibrant and energetic celebration of African dance, the latter with a professionalism that belied their age.

Cardiff’s Nuworx served up some excellent hip hop dance theatre with a social conscience. Retina Dance’s youth wing benefited from strong choreography by Filip van Huffel. Renfrewshire streetdance crew Jump had the crowd in the palm of its hand with slick, feel-good moves.

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Aberdeen-based Danscentre delivered a tender, witty and technically strong tribute to Robert Burns, blending ballet, contemporary and traditional dance. The Brit School’s all-male dance company Khronos, demonstrated a fearless physicality and ability to generate excitement that few could match.

And one of the finest dance pieces I’ve seen, not just in the youth dance sector but anywhere, came from the National Youth Dance Company of England. Choreographed by Akram Khan and Andrej Petrovi, The Rashomon Effect was dark and unforgettable, with 30 dancers moving as one like a swarm of bees or slicing through the air in perfect unison.

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But ultimately, this was a festival with no weak links – just a perfect illustration of the power of youthful creativity.

Seen on 10-12.07.14