What happens when two worlds collide? We were delighted to bring together two groups of young people: musicians from NYO, and dancers from the National Youth Dance Company (NYDC) and watch the creative sparks fly! This unique collaboration was led by dancer and choreographer, Akeim Toussaint Buck and musician and composer, Laura Ayoub. Through music-making, dancing and group discussions, the young musicians and dancers were encouraged to get out of their comfort zone to collectively share their skills, explore and be inspired by each other’s creativity.
NYO musicians Ruby (flute), Danushka (cello) and Eliza (trumpet) came digitally together with dancers Jacob, Leo and Sonny from NYDC, to reflect on their collaboration: what they learned by working together, the impact of this connection to their creativity and what they will be taking forward to their practice.
When we were asked to join this project, I wasn’t sure how it was going to work over Zoom, how good the quality would be, and even how to communicate with musicians who have an understanding of each other. I had no idea what to expect, but it was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. We were divided into breakout rooms, where we had a chance to work on smaller groups. That really helped us get to know one another and create a connection between us.
We were also given creative tasks focussed on improvisation to work on, by Laura and Akeim and at first, I was wondering how these would work. But for me this idea of improvisation was so inspiring, it never stayed the same, it was always new, and it was quite refreshing. It was different: no one played the same instrument and everyone had their own rhythm, so as a dancer, it was interesting for me to respond differently to what was played by each one of them, because they brought something else.
And even though it was over Zoom, the project of my group got quite driven; we wanted to make it look nice and make it look as good as possible. Working digitally didn’t stop us to make a strong connection and we managed to produce something probably as strong as it would have been in real life in the same room. It was actually so much easier to keep a connection with everyone, because everyone had their own input. It was really nice that we didn’t know each other, but very quickly we were so comfortable with each other to share our opinion.
I have personally experimented with musical improvisation through jazz and I didn’t really enjoy it very much before, but I felt like this process has been a lot more freeing and it almost felt easier because it was structured around dancing, which I wasn’t expecting it; I was expecting it to be harder. And being able to actually physically see it… It was inspiring being able to watch people improvise in dance.
Working over Zoom forced us to get more creative. I feel like if we were in person, it would be a different experience, more immersive and would allow us to get to know everyone in the orchestra. But working on Zoom, we all came in very open-minded, and ready to work and try to create something, regardless of the situation. I think it was very successful. And it’s been really fun to try and explore different ways in which we can collaborate. I think this collaboration has been really special: two different artforms, but at the end of the day, it’s all art.
Myself, I’m a violinist, so I felt like I could understand both aspects of the project. At the end of the day, we are performing, it doesn’t matter if it’s dance or music. And when working here with NYO musicians, it was a safe space, so we thought, ‘let’s just improvise and just see what happens!’ and I think all of our groups have created something beautiful. This is a collaboration we all believe in and it would be great to see it happen again, on a physical space with us all being in one room together.
I have done improvisation classes before and I do have a background in dancing, as I used to dance when I was younger, but I actually haven’t danced in years. It was so wonderful to participate in this project and take two very different aspects of the performing arts that are linked, having them collide and create something that is free and imaginative. It was freeing, being able to explore our imaginations. Witnessing what the dancers could create with their bodies and us, musicians, with our instruments, that was very special.
This activity has really put me in that mind of discipline as well as creativity. Because we’ve all had a chance to experience it differently, physicality-wise and music-wise and we all had a chance to blend in and play around with different sounds and shapes. It’s been such a pleasure! It was such a nice feeling to get back to improvising and participate in something like this to finish off the year. It was so interesting to work with NYO musicians and see how they can show the language, which we all interpret differently with our movement, through an instrument. It was just lovely to see how everyone interpreted this differently and let their imagination run free.
This project has been new to all of us. I was surprised of how only after three sessions we managed to come up with something really amazing! It was also very nice to have had time to talk and find out more about each other. And by working on the creative improvisation tasks set up by Laura and Akeim, I’m able to say, I’m actually more comfortable with music improvisation.
When improvising on your instrument, working with young dancers gives you another route to go down, rather than having to go from scratch and it helps direct what you may be thinking. I have always loved dance, but I didn’t really know much about it, I just thought it looked amazing. Whereas after these three days, I began to understand more about it. And I can see the similarities with music. I think the joining element of both artforms, performance, gave me a lot to think about.
For a lot of us, all this time, we’ve only had one way of communicating, through words, but with this project we had another dimension of communication. Communicating through our artforms and collaborating to create something together. Going forward, when we can come back together in person, I think it’s really important to show how we are able to communicate with each other in a different way, to as many people as we can.
Follow our hashtag #NYOConnections and keep an eye out on NYO’s social media channels to see what young musicians and dancers have come up with through this unique collaboration.