National Youth Dance Company – Used To Be Blonde is “a breathtaking experience, a totally immersive and transporting piece”

National Youth Dance Company

Used To Be Blonde by Sharon Eyal, the 2017-18 guest artistic director of National Youth Dance Company, is a totally immersive and transporting work that directs attention to the incredible dancing abilities of this stunning group of young talents.

Eyal’s special choreographic approach, originating from her long experience as dancer and choreographer at the Batsheva Dance Company, combines eclectic dance language with intriguing visual tricks to create a style that is strongly connected with the entire body and the music.

The overall experience of watching 41 dancers delivering intense emotions through movements is breathtaking. All performers are always present on stage, arranged in multiple lines, huddled together or organized in semi-circles; the captivating fresh energy that unites them is clearly visible from the beginning to the end.

Used To Be Blonde by the National Youth Dance Company and Sharon Eyal. Photo by Stephen Wright
Used To Be Blonde by the National Youth Dance Company and Sharon Eyal. Photo by Stephen Wright

An introductory video opens the evening, presenting short extracts of interviews with dancers and offering the audience a background about the company and the work. We immediately come to know how the uniqueness of every dancer is preserved through the performance and how this feature served as starting point to create something unique together.

Feet anchored to the ground and legs bent in second position, reminding the idea of a warrior, they sway side to side with open arms and fists clenched. In a intense connection with the music, every gesture reflects each beat.

Used To Be Blonde by the National Youth Dance Company and Sharon Eyal. Photo by Stephen Wright
Used To Be Blonde by the National Youth Dance Company and Sharon Eyal. Photo by Stephen Wright

In Used To Be Blonde, Eyal’s signature style can be perceived in the extensive use of collective dance where at times single performers emerge from the group to execute a different phrase infused with elements drawn form their individual background. It is a piece that requires lots of coordination as they often advance together, with quick and jerky movements, or on tiptoe with hands clasped over the chest. Sometimes their faces acquire dramatic expressions, their body arching backwards as they were in agony.

The choice of using total black bodysuits, so that the focus is only on face and hands, is visually fantastic and at times turns the dancers into a crowd of blurred figures, especially when scampering erratically around the stage. The score, mainly techno music, is insistent and repetitive, a unique sound experience curated by Ori Lichtik – DJ, composer and Eyal’s long term collaborator.

Used To Be Blonde by the National Youth Dance Company and Sharon Eyal. Photo by Stephen Wright
Used To Be Blonde by the National Youth Dance Company and Sharon Eyal. Photo by Stephen Wright

The National Youth Dance Company is a wonderful ensemble, a harmony of different talents that shows great maturity in dance and the ability to juggle a variety of vocabularies.

The company, supported by Sadler’s Wells, fosters young dances from across England and offers them the opportunity to work with renowned choreographers. Now in its sixth year, NYDC features dancers aged 16 to 19 and over the summer will be touring around UK with Used To Be Blonde.

Reviewed at Sadler’s Wells on 7 April

Subscribe