The National Youth Dance Company is an inspiring outfit. A pre-performance film shows how life-changing the experience can be for this group of mostly 16- to 18-year-old dancers, of coming together to work at a professional level. There’s a lad who failed his English GSCE and is now performing poetry on the Sadler’s Wells stage; a shy 17-year-old who suddenly feels less lost; a girl who’s standing up for herself; a non-verbal dancer in a wheelchair whose emphatic, powerful movement leaves no doubt about her place in the company (NYDC has long been a model of inclusion).
There is a new cohort of dancers every year, and a new guest director. This time it’s choreographer Alesandra Seutin, who conducted most of the early rehearsals for Speak Volumes over Zoom. More than previous NYDC shows I’ve seen, this one feels like the voice of the dancers themselves. In fact their own voices feature prominently, in spoken word, beatboxing, rapping and singing, as well as through the dance solos that burst from the mass of bodies with flying, kicking, flinging limbs and raw spark.
Speak Volumes is full of the contradictions of youth: angst and confidence, attitude and vulnerability. And there is masses of energy going into movement that goes from rangy, gloopy bodies to sharp footwork and jacking torsos (hints of krump, house, contemporary and Seutin’s west African training). They have an eye on the world outside, and it’s coloured with anger and fear – one scene sees a sinister crescendo from petty school rules to authoritarian rule. But the dancers also know how to claim their space; this is a cry to be seen, heard and valued. Not every move or word is polished, but that’s authenticity for you.
• Speak Volumes is performed at Amata, Falmouth, 22 August, and Bold Tendencies, London, 28 August.