Review: Used to Be Blonde ★★★★ – Tomorrow’s dance stars shine in Sharon Eyal’s thrilling vision

To watch 41 very young – and very talented – dancers executing Sharon Eyal’s exacting and precise choreography is to share a life-affirming and exhilarating experience with the rest of the audience and the young company themselves. The Israeli choreographer and Guest Artistic Director at Sadler’s Wells has created a dazzling work for, and with, members of the National Youth Dance Company. They move so seamlessly together that they seem like one coiling, shimmering organism, clad in tight, shiny black bodysuits and boots (the costumes are Eyal’s concept too), their hands and faces caught in the chiaroscuro of Alon Cohen’s stunning lighting. All this is driven by the insistent techno track created by Eyal’s long-time collaborator and pioneer of Israel’s techno scene, Ori Lichtik.

Although there’s room for some dancers to lead from the front (including Alex Thirkle, not afraid to dance in his specs) this is very much a group performance, highlighting not just the talent and technique on show, but the commitment and discipline, the sharing and give and take, as the dancers create Eyal’s restless, sexy, fluid stage pictures with body language that’s assertive and precise. They are both figuratively and literally supportive of each other.

There is an opportunity for the audience to get to know some of the individual dancers, caught on film to open the show, describing eloquently and enthusiastically Eyal’s process of creation, the satisfaction and fulfilment of hard work shared together, and especially what they learn from each other. Watching Sundaresan Ramesh executing graceful Indian bharatanatyam steps while describing what he has learnt from his fellow company members; seeing how different students bring their love of hip-hop and tap, ballet and jazz to the table (or dance studio) reveals the rich diversity that makes up the whole.

It was life-affirming, too, to see the Sadler’s Wells auditorium packed with young people, as well as mature fans, friends and family – dance enthusiasts from so many ethnic backgrounds. There were slender, graceful girls wearing hijabs and I heard plenty of Ivrit too in the queue for the ladies.

The dancers come from all over the country and blogs by some of them, included in the programme, which describe working on the show in a succession of residencies around the country, give real insights into Eyal’s working methods, the process of creating the show and the progress made at each session. The students eloquently describe building their technique, as well as relationships and connections. NYDC tours the country this summer – catch these stars of the future now, so you can say you saw them first!

By Judi Herman

Photos by Stephen Wright

This review is of Used to Be Blonde at Sadler’s Wells, Saturday 7 April 2018. Visit http://nydc.org.uk for further info.

Read our interview with Sharon Eyal in the Apr 2018 issue of JR, p27.

Used to Be Blonde is currently touring:

Yorkshire
Sunday 24 June. 7.30pm. £12, £8 concs. Riley Theatre, Leeds, LS7 4BH. 011 3219 3018.

Tyne & Wear
Saturday 30 June. 7.30pm & 2pm. £13.50, £11 concs, £8 students/under-18s. Dance City, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4BR.

Midlands
Sunday 8 July. Phone for times and prices. Curve, Leicester, LE1 1SB. 011 6242 3560.

Suffolk
Thursday 12 & Friday 13 July. 7.30pm. £12, £9 concs. Jerwood DanceHouse, DanceEast, Ipswich, IP4 1DW. 014 7329 5230.

Cornwall
Wednesday 18 July. 7.30pm. £12, £6 concs. AMATA, Penryn Campus, Falmouth University, TR10 9LX. 013 2625 9349.

Sussex
Friday 20 July. 7.30pm. £12, £8 concs. Brighton Dome, BN1 1UE. 012 7370 9709.