Taking our seats in the packed auditorium of the Quarry Theatre, I was intrigued as to whether this would be an evening that left you squirming a little uncomfortably in your seat or one of true entertainment. I am pleased to say that it was, actually, the latter.
With twelve performances from youth companies aged between 11 and 19, all hoping to be the two chosen to perform at U Dance (a national festival taking place in Birmingham in July), competition promised to be fierce.
LWHS Dance Company opened with Brother, exploring the ruts of everyday life. With identical costumes and hairstyles, it was rather like a choreographed version of Stepford Wives, but there was no doubting the level of skill involved for these young performers to achieve such unison throughout the majority of the piece.
The StreetKingz followed – a 16 strong all boys urban dance company from Barnsley. Their aim “to tear down the barriers of social expectation” and with their high energy, gymnastic/street moves backed by a driving beat, they were certainly a crowd-pleaser.
Phoenix Youth Academy Seniors came next, dancing about Autumn but metaphorically relating it to the destruction of the immune system. Dressed in muted tones, Ever Changing was heavily floor-based but with some interesting inter-relation between the dancers.
The Me2 Inclusive Youth Dance Company (a group both with and without disabilities) explored the idea that whoever we are our wants, wishes and fears are not dissimilar. With some characterful moments, the joy of performing in such a renowned venue was clearly evident.
Borderline, presented by Mechanics Performing Arts, was my favourite piece in Act One. Inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis, it explored chaos, fear and the struggle to survive in a most dramatic and impressive way. The music was painfully beautiful, as was the dancing, including strong sections of lifting and leaping and using all the main choreographic elements.
DAZL Senior Dance Company concluded Act One with Pride, portraying the false social perceptions of the LGBT community. The music was iconic and the energy undeniable – the theme a little difficult to deliver.
Act Two opened with The McKeown Irish Dance Academy tapping with great skill, unaccompanied and stripped back.
Explosive followed, with a clever piece – I will not let an exam result decide my fate – driven by a bespoke vocal soundtrack. With powerful message and good visuals, this group was also a crowd-pleaser.
The Shachk Out Youth Dance explored intimidation and bullying, performing well for what looked like a relatively inexperienced group.
It was difficult to separate the next two pieces as they both had “stand out” qualities.
Momentum Dance gave a clever interpretation of two star-crossed lovers from rival groups. The dramatic start just got better and better and congratulations should go to not only the dancers but also the choreographer, Alex Bowen.
High Storrs Dance Company followed with Disparate Perplexion based on Picasso’s famous painting “Guernica”. From the opening siren to the powerful duets at the end, this had me on the edge of my seat! Again, hats off to both dancers and choreographer, Sean Anthony Selby.
The evening concluded with a group from Hull dancing a piece about the culture of Nomadic gypsies. It was always going to be tough following so many highly skilful and impressive acts, but the young dancers certainly did their best.
It was wonderful to see the huge range of talent within Yorkshire – and these were only 12 out of 50 entries this year!
Take a look at what’s coming up next at West Yorkshire Playhouse.