A Tale of Youth

13 May 2019

An article written by Imogen Kinchin, Executive Director

On my first day as Executive Director of New Adventures in April 2018, we began our nationwide search for the brightest young dance talent aged 16-19 to form part of our world premiere production of Romeo and Juliet. Inspired by the success and enduring legacy of Lord of the Fliesthat engaged over 8,000 young men and boys with little or no dance experience across 13 venues in 2014, and as part of our on-going commitment to support the next generation of on-stage talent from across the UK, we set out to find the most exceptional young dancers and we were not disappointed. 

Lord of the Flies, 2014 Credit: Helen Maybanks

This time round we wanted to give both young men and women the opportunity to perform alongside our professional company, and were overwhelmed to receive over 1,000 applications. The New Adventures team travelled across the country from Plymouth to Newcastle auditioning over 400 teenagers. We cast 6 young dancers from each of the venues – 3 men and 3 women – a total of 80 young dancers across the 13 venues. These young casts then began working with our Resident Practitioner and Young Cast Rehearsal Director, Paul Smethurst and our Young Associate Choreographer, Arielle Smith on a series of intensive workshops in each city to start preparing and training them for the rehearsal process.

Some of the 80 young cast are already in training, some are about to graduate and some are still to begin their vocational studies, so these intensives were designed to not only teach them techniques and choreography unique to New Adventures, but to develop them as artists and mentor them through this year-long process.

Many of our audiences and venues have asked when Matthew Bourne and New Adventures would adapt the timeless and iconic story of Romeo and Juliet in our unique trademark storytelling style. It’s a story about youth and Matthew felt strongly that the whole production needed to be created with and performed by young dancers. Alongside the nationwide search for the young cast we continued to audition and seek out the best young and emerging talent for the professional company and give bigger opportunities to our current crop of young company members.

As a company, New Adventures works closely with leading conservatoires and vocational colleges to identify and support the best of the UK’s dance talent. Each year we deliver various talent development initiatives including masterclasses, residencies and Swan School, which is a week-long intensive designed to prepare dance graduates for auditions. It has been a real achievement of this project to have five third-year dance students from Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Performers College, Tring Park School, Urdang Academy and Central School of Ballet completing their final year of training whilst on tour with this production. 

Professional Class at Sadler's Wells
Professional Class - A talent development initiative Credit: Alicia Clarke

In addition, there are sixteen young artists making their professional debuts with New Adventures, including two Lord of the Flies young cast participants. They join nineteen members of the current New Adventures company, to complete the full casting for Romeo and Juliet.

The whole theme of this project is young people, and continuing our commitment to developing off-stage talent, we recruited a team of six Young Associate Artists to work alongside the creative team including Arielle Smith, our Young Associate Choreographer, who has not only delivered the intensives across the UK with the young cast, but has worked closely with Matthew to create this reimagined world of Romeo and Juliet. She joins five other Young Associates in Set and Costume Design, Sound, Lighting, Orchestrating and Conducting. 

Young Cast Intensives
Young Cast Intensives Credit: TEAFilms

Over a year on from where this all started and I’ve been inspired each day by the talent and determination from everyone involved who has made this production possible. We have one hundred young dancers and artists from across the UK making their debuts with New Adventures in this world premiere production, bursting with youth and vitality. Our work is a crucial mechanism for finding and nurturing the next generation of dancers, artists and audiences but is only possible due to the generosity and dedication of our supporters.

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