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Youngsters dancing to the Commonwealth beat

Dancing feet from all across the Commonwealth are about to take to the stage at Tramway - some 400 pairs of them, dancing to different beats and in different styles, across three nights of public performances.

CREATIVE: Youngsters across the globe are coming together in a festival of dance and friendship.
CREATIVE: Youngsters across the globe are coming together in a festival of dance and friendship.

Even on paper, it's a tremendous achievement: on-stage, it promises to be an uplifting kaleidoscope of cultures. The energy that's already piling into Tramway is off the Richter scale. Come opening night on Thursday, that energy will translate into the same kind of pride in nationhood, participating and excelling as any felt by athletes competing in the Commonwealth Games. What especially excites Anna Kenrick, creative director at YDance, is not just the prospect of 36 youth groups coming together in one festival, it is how future networks can be forged in the process and undiscovered doors opened on collaborative opportunities.

Even if this Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival (CYDF) was purely an end in itself, the whole event - which the Glasgow-based YDance team have organised - would still mark a significant stage in the evolution of the company, something that Kenrick feels is a real springboard for new ambitions and a reflection of the dedication and skill of her team.

"I really think that organising a festival of this kind reflects how far we've come, and how much we've achieved," she says. "What started out, 26 years ago now, as a small Scottish-based festival of youth dance is now hosting this huge international showcase - and there's so much talent in it, so much in it that I think will surprise audiences who come along maybe not expecting much. They'll be blown away by what they see!"

What audiences will see is a far-ranging mix of styles from young dancers who represent all parts of the UK as well as Africa, India, Canada, Malta, New Zealand, Singapore and Australia. What they won't see is the equally important behind-scenes schedule of workshops and masterclasses that allow the young dancers to meet in studios, share creative experiences and get to know one another informally as well. Kenrick and her team have worked strategically to ensure that this interaction is part of the whole project.

She explains: "We all know how it is in a strange environment - you want to stick with your mates. We've organised the workshop lists so as only two people from each group are in the same session. By the end of the first day, a lot of ice has been broken. By the end of the week, when people are going home, they'll probably have at least 200 new friends on Facebook - maybe even 400! And because of today's social media, there's every chance that some of those new friendships will have staying power. So alongside the dance and the chance to learn new things, there's the whole benefit of meeting other young people from other parts of the world and from within other parts of the UK. When we had our Scottish selection event at Stirling's MacRobert in February, it was wonderful to see groups from up North spending time with those from the Central Belt, just finding out about each other. And yes, there always seems to be a lot of giggling and noisy rushing about, wherever a group comes from!"

Given that there's a whole gamut of activities outwith the workshops and classes and programmed performances, rushing about seems likely for everybody. During the festival, there's a photography exhibition at the Briggait, where YDance have their offices. Films made by, or featuring, young dancers will be screened in a special film night (on Friday) while the members of the Hothouse Choreographic Residency - a scheme run by YDance and Scottish Ballet - will show their work on Saturday. There will, of course, be a party - a funky ceilidh, what else? Kenrick loves the idea that the visitors will get a taste of Scotland, but she has her fingers crossed that - funding permitting - YDance can take that further.

"We've been invited to take work to JOMBA!, Durban's Contemporary Dance Experience Festival in September. If we do go, then I'd hope we could travel on to Namibia and connect with the group that's coming here for our festival. They are so eager to set up creative exchanges and so are the dancers from India, who would love to explore contemporary dance with us. Actually, it's like ripples spreading out from this one very special event. It's the world coming together in a dance, and we want this dance to go on, after this festival has ended."

Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival is at Tramway, Glasgow, from Thursday to Saturday.

www.ydance.org

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