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Dance far and wide;Arts

The Scottish Youth Dance Festival has gone national, reports Kay Smith

The Scottish Youth Dance Festival is no more. After 10 years of producing a vibrant week-long residential event for more than 100 young people in one area, it has metamorphosed into Scottish Youth Dance, which aims to provide a focal point for contemporary youth dance throughout Scotland.

Each year, instead of being located in a single area, the festival will go on tour. This summer, Angus, East Lothian, East Renfrewshire, North Lanarkshire, Argyll and Bute and the Highlands will find large numbers of young people occupying local schools, halls and theatres for an intensive week of dance.

To survive in its original form, the Scottish Youth Dance Festival needed a local authority to buy in the pound;36,000 event. In return for the kudos generated by hosting the UK's only national youth dance festival, the authority benefited from a period of outreach workshops for local young people. But since local government reorganisation, the new, smaller authorities have been reluctant to find the cash. Last summer, for the first time, the festival had no backer lined up for the following year.

Now it has six, each of whom has to come up with pound;5,000, and together the authorities and theatres, such as the Brunton in Musselburgh and Eden Court in Inverness, will fund a tour that could benefit up to 600 young people.

The festival has hitherto relied on the vibrancy of the local youth dance scene. Now Scottish Youth Dance, with a new artistic director, Andy Howitt, and a team of four freelance tutors, aims to secure a solid customer base. Already they are giving workshops in the areas to be covered by the summer tour, to as wide an age range as possible.

Andy Howitt says: "The Scottish Youth Dance Festival had a fantastic history. But we are looking to become a national dance agency."

With six regional events to run, the number of tutors at each will need to be reduced and the breadth of classes and workshops slimmed down. There will be less input from professional dance companies, and resources for the integrated special needs work, for which the old festival was renowned, look unlikely.

But in addition to the summer tour, Scottish Youth Dance hopes to set up a bi-annual national event. In 2000, the first will be a huge multi-arts celebration, says Mr Howitt. It will be a festival of dance, video, design, music and text, to be held in Stirling for 500 youngsters, thanks to a pound;95,000 award from the Millennium Fund, part of pound;5 million which will go to arts and community projects in Scotland.

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