DanceReviewSouth East

Latitude Festival: NYDC – Used to be Blonde, Waterfront Stage

Artistic Director: Sharon Eyal

Reviewer: Robin Winters

The National Youth Dance Company have, in previous years, occupied the final slot of the weekend on the Waterfront and closed down Sadler’s Wells dance proceedings in style; but this year they arrive in droves to perform to a Saturday afternoon audience. With the last few years’ offerings being highly rated, and Latitude tending to draw in repeat visitors, it is easy to see why the riverbank is packed full of eager festival-goers keen to see what NYDC have got to offer this year with Used to be Blonde.

The 41-strong company made up of under 25-year-olds (although most look far younger than the maximum age) arrive on stage in black bodysuits. Lips are adorned with red lipstick, male and female alike, and hair is tied back as identically it can be, giving a very androgynous feel to the piece. The style is bold and visually appealing although leaves questions later on in the piece at the decision to allow male and female groups to perform separately in parts, potentially rendering an androgynous set-up a little pointless, and any intended meaning gets lost. 

As always, the dancers are strong. It is clear that the sweltering heat is getting to them towards the end and they falter more than they otherwise might have done although each one goes the distance which is a feat in itself! When the timing is on, the awkward, sometimes zombie-esque and haunting, jerky movements pack a mean punch and the piece uses the number of dancers to its advantage, a common trait of NYDC productions. Unfortunately, it felt like the choreography lets the company down at a few points and the use of repetition is overdone for the most part, causing attention to wander when scenes were seemingly being repeated. Movement around the stage was limited by design of the piece, which is another thing that NYDC do so well and it is a shame to not have seen more of it, what we do get to see is well executed, however, and the dancers bring their usual levels of talent with them and make sure their performance is still a pleasing one to watch.

With Sharon Eyal’s work not giving much away in terms of intention, it’s hard to know if she succeeded in her aims, but there isn’t really much to grab on to plot-wise. It is mesmerising at times, it flows well in places and the young dancers certainly do their best to sell what they have been given, but it could have been half an hour shorter without losing anything vital.

An ever-talented bunch who are still worth a watch just doesn’t quite live up to expectations.

Reviewed on 14 July 2018 | Image: Johan Persson

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