Skip to main content

Live from BDF: A Conversation with Our Young Dancers

ydwAs we hit our halfway point, a few of the young dancers graciously agreed to gush about their experiences thus far at the Young Dancers workshop. An exceedingly talented and articulate group, these four dancers gave us an opportunity to experience the festival through their eyes. Read on to see what, Lihle, age 18, from South Africa, Nyna, age 15, from Denver, Colorado, Sophia, age 17, from Dallas, Texas, and Zaria, age 18, from Atlanta, Georgia have to say.

What has been unexpected in your time here so far at YDW?

Sophia: The most unexpected thing has been this environment we exist in; it is so unique and so special. Everyone in the environment is so respectful and so supportive of each other; everyone is celebrating everyone else’s successes. I am trying new things and progressing in every mode. There is such a focus on growing as a human being and not just growing as a dancer, and that has been really wonderful for me.

Lihle: Everything was so unexpected to me because I am not used to four classes a day. I usually do one and that is it. It is physically and intellectually draining, but really good.

Nyna: Just being here is really unexpected for me, I wasn’t sure I would be able to come, but I am so grateful I got to come. I feel like I’m really improving and learning as a person and it is a lot of information but I am really grateful.

Zaria: It has been a really eye-opening experience for me, I am very used to a traditional approach to dance and this has challenged me to see dance from so many different angles and perspectives. Who knew that just walking and using nonverbal communication could be so powerful, even more powerful than words. That with this intimate sense of community gives me a new perspective on dance. You don’t always have to do big tricks, it’s about moving with passion and conviction.

What is something a teacher has said that has stuck with you or resonated with you?

Sophia: Everything Lida says. I just want her to be my life coach. The two things that I really like are: “don’t apologize for taking up space,” and, “if the dance is boring it is your responsibility to change it”. It is all about having accountability for what you’re doing.

Nyna: Something Dante said really resonated with me when we were working on the solo piece in rep. He told me to dance for myself and not try and imitate other people. He told me I didn’t have to do what I thought other people would think was right, but to do what I thought was right.

Lihle: All the teachers are very encouraging, which makes me want to do my best and keep trying even when I am exhausted.

Zaria: Another thing Lida says in her class is “you have nowhere else to be but here”. I realized that I am always thinking ahead, but when she says that, it reminds me to be present in the moment and give 100% to this moment because we can’t know what’s next. This is our life right now.

Aside from the dancing, what is your favorite thing about being here?

Nyna: Getting soaked twice in a monsoon on our way to the improv jam.

Sophia: Generally at summer programs I’ve been at, the counselors are just there for liability. But here, I feel like they are making such an impact on all of us. It is so cool to have role models like them to look up to and get to be close with. I think that is really special about this program.

Zaria: I think all the leaders that are here are always encouraging and want to see you succeed. They want to help your abilities and are always pushing you to try harder, but the whole time they are right there next to you.

Lihle: It is really fun with the counselors and the teachers. Being here for me is really special. Yeah, it’s just really special.

What is one thing you are seeking or working on?

Sophia: It was kind of by chance that I ended up here. I’m very interested in modern but do a lot of ballet at home. I am looking for the grounding modern dance brings, and I have realized all the different outlets for dance. Laura has said a couple of times, “dance is a vehicle to change the world” and I think that is so cool. Coming away from this, I have a goal of using my dancing to make an impact in some way.

Lihle: One of the big reasons I am here is because I want to make a change. Where I come from, people can be so judge-y. They think ballet is just for white people, just for gay people. I am here to start making changes. It is my dream to become a professional dancer here.

Nyna: Before I came to Bates, I was considering quitting dancing because I felt kind of stuck, but once I got here, my mind started to change. I think I’m going to keep up with it. It’s hard, but I want to stick with it.

Zaria: One of my goals is to reach outside my comfort zone while I’m here, exploring new styles and stretching my abilities and myself and really just learning as much as I can. Observing all these professionals in these classes will really help me in my future career because I think I eventually want to teach and learning from them will really help me.

Anything else you want to add?

Bates is great.

It’s amazing.

It’s unlike any other program I’ve been at, in a good way.


This post was written by Phoebe Ballard. Phoebe Ballard is the Social Media Intern for the 2017 summer.