41 bodies move as one.
That is Used To Be Blonde: a skilful and professional, emotionally and physically demanding dance performance which unites the young dancers and the audience in a trance-like, spellbinding, immersive journey.
Used To Be Blonde is a one night only performance at the Sadler’s Wells, which gives fresh young talents a stage to work professionally as a company and to shine in front of an audience. It is the sixth year for the National Youth Dance Company: a meeting platform for the most talented young dancers from across England to practice, inspire each other and be trained by Sadler’s Wells renowned Associate Artists and visiting companies. This season the young dancers created Used To Be Blonde together with the Guest Artistic Director Sharon Eyal, an Israeli choreographer and dancer.
In two intensive residencies in October and February, the eager and talented teenagers pushed their limits physically, mentally and emotionally in order to connect to Eyal’s dance style and to grow together as a group. Each of them brings a personal dance technique and self-expression to add to the body of the whole group. Although the young dancers are trained in several styles and work together in unison, their own dance signature is the most important ingredient to flourish as a company. This cross-fertilisation of each other is what makes Used To Be Blonde so hypnotic: 41 bodies breath and move as one, but the robotic, synchronous movements display a variety of individuality.
Used To Be Blonde explores the mentality of a group of people together in an organism. The urge to break out and to fit in goes hand in hand. The scenarios vary within the audience’s imagination also revelling a sense of humour: a robotic machine as static and controlled is opposed to the image of a swarm of fish or group of chicken where a re-organisation always singles out a disorientated member.
The focus on details invites the audience to watch closely and thus drags them into the world of this 60-minutes performance. The space on stage is explored within different shapes of the group’s outstandingly connection and concentration. Repetition is an important essence of the performance and ignites its absorbing power culminating in a trance experience for dancers and audience alike. The lighting design by Alon Cohen and the DJ Set by Ori Lichtik support, interact and trigger this spatial and temporal transformation.
The documentary film at the beginning of the show (Ben Williams) allows insight into the rehearsal process and gives voice to a handful of participants who share their stories and experiences. This is a great opening to understand the mentality and spirit behind the performance. Nevertheless, it urges for more personal connection and perceptions. The opportunity of the National Youth Dance Company is a gift to every participant in order to develop and grow together with like-minded people and experienced mentors. Therefore, a more individually shaped performance is desired to break the anonymity of the group circle. A suggestion could be the exploration of more dance scenarios in smaller groups or more frequent break-out attempts within the group force. Furthermore, the introduction film could be expanded to shortly introduce every participant as this is their special night as part of this amazingly skilled company.
Used To Be Blonde is a visual treat that should not be missed. The energy, determination and level of professionality of these 41 young dancers is astonishing, highly convincing and profoundly moving. Their connectedness and focus created a stage world of an organism, which lives as one and which would die through competitiveness. Deeply, deeply inspiring!!
Used To Be Blonde played at The Sadler’s Wells on 7 April
Photo: Stephen Wright