The first series of BBC Young Dancer burst onto our screens two years ago and it was a revelation, bringing four different styles – street, ballet, South Asian and contemporary – into the homes of new audiences. One viewer was proofreader Pamela Covey, who has been working with Pulse for a number of years.
BBC Young Dancer – A Beginner’s Eye View
This may sound remarkable, but BBC Young Dancer 2015 was my first ever viewing of classical South Asian dance. Remarkable because, since 2004, I have been privileged to work with the production team of Pulse magazine as their proofreader; therefore I have become well acquainted with South Asian dance in descriptive terms as well as through the beautiful images regularly featured in the magazine.
However, it is one thing being conversant with all the terminology of the various dance forms but quite another to finally witness the beauty, expressiveness and remarkable skill of South Asian dancers in performance! My only previous experience of classical dance had been a number of visits to Covent Garden many years ago, where I was enthralled by several of the best-known ballets including Swan Lake, Coppélia and others. Sadly, my viewing of South Asian dance had been limited to the non-classical forms of Bollywood and bhangra, thanks to film and TV.
Unfortunately my personal circumstances prevent me from attending any live performance nowadays, but when I saw the trailers for Young Dancer in 2015, I knew it was a must-see series for me, if only for the South Asian category. Ballet was familiar to me; I had some idea about hip-hop; contemporary was (and still is) something of a mystery – call me old-fashioned, but I personally prefer any dance form to have definite structure, technique and recognisable required elements rather than being so ‘freestyle’.
So my focus was very much on the South Asian dancers and my goodness, I was simply awestruck by all the performances! Naturally I had some idea of the required elements from my work with Pulse, but to see these brought to life by emerging young talents was something else entirely. It was also fascinating to know the background of each of the girls and to witness the transformation from their everyday lives into these ‘magical creatures’ with their elaborate costumes, stage make-up, accessories and bejewelled hairstyles, even before they had performed a single step!
Space precludes me from mentioning all the girls, but I must single out two in particular ‒ Lakshmi Ranjan and, of course, category finalist Vidya Patel ‒ for their exquisite performances of bharatanatyam and kathak respectively. I may have some understanding of both dance forms but Lakshmi gave me a far greater insight into the complexity of bharatanatyam – surely a combination of dance and acting, requiring the dancer to not only demonstrate great technical skill but also portray several different characters and the interaction between them, all as a soloist! To a novice spectator like myself, Lakshmi’s solo performance had all these elements in spades.
As for Vidya, to me she was the stand-out performer of the whole series and definitely a star of the future. She has such beautifully expressive, eloquent, fluid movement – particularly of her arms and hands – and her surely dizzying sequences of kathak spins were a joy to watch.
In summary, my congratulations to all the participants in all four categories and of course to Connor Scott, the overall winner. I look forward with huge enthusiasm to Young Dancer 2017 but especially the South Asian category – if only the TV programmers would wake up and show us more of this exquisite dance style!
The 2017 category finals – for which Shobana Jeyasingh was cross-category judge – will be broadcast in March-April, leading up to the live Grand Final at Sadler’s Wells on 22 April.
24 March, BBC 4 – Street Dance Category Final
31 March, BBC 4– Ballet Category Final
7 April, BBC 4 – South Asian Category Final
14 April, BBC 4 – Contemporary Category Final
22 April, BBC 2 – Live Grand Final
Tickets from www.sadlerswells.com