A Leeds-based dance company wants to help young, unemployed people to find their feet, reports Kevin Berry
"SHAHCKING out?" says Edward Lynch. "It means having a good time, feeling the music! It's about being cool!"
Edward Lynch is the artistic director of RJC, a Leeds-based dance company with an international reputation. He is explaining "The Shahck Out Project", a recruiting drive aimed at setting up a satellite company of young dancers. The qualifications needed to join are simple. "You have to be young and have some talent," says Lynch. "And you have to be unemployed. We will train you."
Lynch and RJC dancer De Napoli Clarke have been on the lookout for exceptional young dancers and their word-of-mouth publicity has created a stir.
Dancers will be invited to a series of intensive dance classes with auditions taking place in mid-December. A dozen of them will go on to form the Shahck Out Company and a two-month tour of night clubs in Yorkshire and Humberside is planned for the spring of next year.
Dancers have to be aged 16 to 24 and must never have danced professionally. The 12 selected will be paid a wage once rehearsals begin and there will be sessional pay throughout the tour. The future is really up to them, Lynch says, if they want to stick at it they will be encouraged and another tour of clubs is in the pipeline.
Clarke, who will choreograph and direct, will be leading the classes in Huddersfield, Hull, Doncaster and other towns in the Yorkshire and Humberside region.
RJC was founded by Clarke and Lynch who were childhood friends. Its initials stand for Rhythm, Jazz and Contemporary, the main influences in their choreography. RJC's dancers are often to be found in night clubs where they go to relax and pick up new moves, styles and fashions.
Its work has been lauded
by critics and public alike for
its edgy, exciting style. But the founders get most satisfaction from teaching and their zeal seems to be almost evangelical.
Edward Lynch says: "We love dancing, we love it and we want to pass that on. That's always been the case with us from the very beginning."
"How do you spot a good dancer?" I ask De Napoli Clarke. "How they listen to the music, not just one sound but all of the instruments," he says. "Somebody who creates, who goes on the floor and really let's go - and doesn't bother about getting sweaty."
Clarke is saddened by the trend which has seen dancing in nightclubs become subsidiary to drugs and drinking and fighting. An important objective of the Shahck Out project is to enliven club dancing by example.
"We want to show what you can do on natural substances, using your energy within," he smiles. "If you see a good dancer in a club, people are thinking - what's he on? What sort of substance has he been taking? They even ask me if I'm in a club and shahcking out."
The first batch of hopefuls at the Yorkshire Dance Centre were a mix of the unemployed, part-timers and students, ranging from people who had never had a lesson to those whose only instruction has been in ballet.
Some of the students have missed out on a scholarship to a dance school, if they can get into the new company they will take a risk and opt out of their current courses. Given RJC's reputation a place in the Shahck Out company could open some important doors.
Clarke puts on some garage music and the people start to move. "Come on, people, I want big," says Clarke. "Don't want no smallness ... give me massive! You like this music? Then you better dance good!"
They give him massive. The dancers begin to look good, very good. Any awkwardness or nervousness has gone and they are looking comfortable. But this is only the first of many classes and the auditions will be even more intense. Perhaps only one or two of them will get a place in the new company. At any rate, the quality of dancing in northern night clubs is in for a massive boost.