This year’s BBC Young Dancer surely begs the question: is my eyesight failing or was I watching a completely different series from the judges??? The gender bias was purely unbelievable, but at least it was a welcome relief to have a deserving female overall winner!
For me, the absolute shining light of the whole series was Uyu Hiromoto whose effortless transition between classical and contemporary ballet simply took my breath away and she can surely go far in either direction, if not both. Fingers crossed on that score, as in the last series I would have selected Vidya Patel as the overall winner and she seems to have been going from strength to strength ever since.
Unfortunately I couldn’t really see a future star among this year’s South Asian finalists. Each of the dancers had their strengths and weaknesses, but none had Vidya’s outstanding performance quality. Akshay Prakash was clearly impeded by his recent injury (perhaps rather foolish to have been playing football before such an important competition); however, I thought he had the most remarkably expressive face capable of telling a story all by itself! Jaina Modasia was as charming and engaging to watch as ever, yet I felt disappointed not to see more improvement in her general technique. In the 2015 series she had been juggling her studies with dance practice, but as she has now decided on dance as a career I was expecting to see much more finesse and fluidity of movement. Anaya Bolar – what a stunning girl – clearly has potential but seems currently lacking in core strength in her classical performance. However, her Woven duet was an intriguing piece so perhaps her future lies more in contemporary South Asian dance.
Regarding the category winner, Shyam Dattani, I was frankly shocked that the judges singled him out as the best. He certainly has great performance style and stage presence, but unless my eyes were deceiving me he seemed to have a distinct loss of balance in one of his performances; only a momentary flaw, but surely enough to rule him out as the best? Last but not least, I was most pleasantly surprised by Anjelli Wignakumar. Having described herself in the pre-performance interviews as ‘short and stubby’, she greatly impressed me by overshadowing these physical drawbacks with her fluidity, extension and grace. She also struck me as one of the most expressive dancers in her storytelling and, much to my surprise, I think I enjoyed watching her most of all.
It would be marvellous to see some feedback on the series from other readers. Pulse always welcomes ‘Letters to the Editor’, yet we see so few of them. So don’t be afraid to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard)!