Goring student secures place with country’s flagship company for young dancers

Phoebe DowglassPhoebe Dowglass
Phoebe Dowglass
Phoebe Dowglass, from Goring, is relishing the chance to deepen and broaden her love of dance as part of the 2020-2021 cohort of young talents with the country’s flagship company for young dancers, National Youth Dance Company (NYDC).

A year 12 student at Brighton Girls school, she admits her future is hovering between dance and engineering at the moment. Last week it was engineering. Today it is dance. Next week, as she says, who knows.

But her time with NYDC has given her the perfect foundation to make that choice, whichever way it goes: “We have also been talking about NYDC alumni who don’t go into dance.”

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Now 16, Phoebe started dancing when she was about 12 or 13: “Our school holds regular dance shows, and I sang and performed in the shows, and I loved watching the dancers and thought I would give it a go. I hadn’t really danced before, and at first I hated dancing. I just didn’t like moving in front of people. I would get embarrassed, and sometimes I still get embarrassed, but I started to tap into what dance means and what you can explore through dance, the themes and the concepts and working collaboratively.

“I started and it was just like something clicking into place. I can’t really describe it. It just felt enjoyable, what I wanted to do. Every Thursday when I would be dancing, I just really found myself looking forward to it.”

Auditioning successfully for NYDC has proved a very important next step – even in this pandemic year: “I knew it was going to be difficult, and that has been the most difficult thing, not being able to be in the studio and connecting with the others. Not being in the studio can be quite a lonely thing because dance is such a community thing. We have been working on Zoom, but we took the time to really get to know everybody first, and actually it has been great. And actually I think working on Zoom has enhanced the experience because of how we have had to overcome the difficulties.”

Phoebe is delighted to say that her NYDC experiences have broadened her understanding: “They have enlightened me and broadened what I perceive dance to be. There are so many things you can still do, even online. Dance really doesn’t just have to be in the studio.”

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NYDC has responded to the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic by embarking on virtual taster workshops, Q&As, live online workshops and digital sessions to ensure that the residencies were able to continue for 2020-2021 intake. Run by Sadler’s Wells, NYDC has now completed its second fully digital residency led by guest artistic director Alesandra Seutin.

“Alesandra has a really good way of choreographing that I haven’t seen before. She works really collaboratively with her dancers so that you really feel part of it. I haven’t been part of that creative process so much before.”

The young dancers will now continue to work with Alesandra and her team of artists from Vocab Dance on two further residencies before embarking on a short UK tour this summer, including a performance at Sadler’s Wells on Saturday, July 24. Work will continue digitally until government laws allow for the company to meet in person.

“It going to be fantastic,” Phoebe says. “I can’t imagine what it will feel like to have danced at Sadler’s Wells.”

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