On Wednesday evening, I went along to a good friend’s birthday party.  Like at any good party there was a celebratory feel and the room was full of love, laughter and long lost friends.  Project Y heralded in its 10th year in great style at Glasgow’s Tramway as 23 young dancers from across Scotland and beyond took to the stage in fine form.  I was lucky enough to catch this glimpse of the next generation of dance artists as Project Y cut their teeth with the premiere of their new programme of dance. 

Project Y is a hugely successful touring company made up of young dancers aged between 16 and 21 who spend four weeks working with professional choreographers to gain experience of creating and touring work as part of a contemporary dance company.

Sadly, due to an errant sat nav and the rush hour migration of Glasgow’s 9 to 5 workforce, I rather ironically, missed Matthew Robinson’s work Office.  I had really been looking forward to seeing this work having watched Matthew’s previous works at Scottish School of Contemporary Dance. In the fervent water cooler moments after the show, there was a real buzz about this work.   

balletLORENT are well known for their beautifully emotive and visual feasts and longtime collaborator, Gavin Coward, wonderfully captures this spirit in his creation, The Art of Letting Go.  Evoking images of playfulness underscored with a sense of foreboding, this work has a rich emotional landscape that shakes the dancers to investigate their inherent emotional literacy. Jack Butler, the physical manifestation of fear, awkwardly shifts around the space, weighed down with fears and anxieties before emerging with beautiful, mercurial grace that is a pleasure to watch.  These young dancers elegantly swim through these beautiful choreographic waters, always aware of the risk of drowning in their fears yet mightily pushing through. 

Tamsyn Russell joyfully brings a sense of fun to the evening.  A wicked, extraordinary humour underpins this work.  There is a strong sense of female camaraderie, reminiscent of a war time spirit of getting along and working together peppered with a heavy dose of jubilant mischief.   Tamsyn’s youthful choreographic voice clearly resonates with these young dancers.  Individual dancers stray from the group to make their own expressions and explorations before being scooped back, with sardonic wit, to the order of the herd.  One of the most striking moments comes as the dancers form an almost iconic image that conjures up notions of non-specific religious figures with an arresting result.

Anna Kenrick, Artistic Director of YDance, acutely understands the rules of developing work for young dance artists.   Her work, Rules, demonstrates the importance of developing not only a dancer’s performance skills and technical proficiency but also highlights the significance of developing them as confident, responsive and empathic individuals.    Each dancer has been given an equal opportunity to truly explore and mine their craft.  They are put through their paces with ever increasing layers of complexities and movement material that tests and challenges the performers.  This mindful choreography captures the fervor and gusto of these young people’s thirst for life and is the cherry on the top of these birthday celebrations. 

Having created work for Project Y in 2007 and 2012, I have witnessed firsthand the dedication and passion of not only these brilliant young people but also the sheer devotion and commitment of the staff behind the scenes at YDance.  If these young dancers are any kind of glimpse into the future of dance in Scotland, then the future is certainly looking very bright.  In this celebratory event, the support and experience of Project Y is the best present that YDance has given these young dancers.   Happy Birthday Project Y!