Entertainment & Arts

BBC launches contest to find future dance stars

Tamara Rojo and Esteban Berlanga Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Dancer Tamara Rojo says: 'Dance is a natural instinct - every society, every culture around the world dances, so I think maybe we just have to push people out of their sofas a little bit and let them join us'

Dance stars of the future are being sought in a contest run by the BBC.

Young Dancer 2015, launched on Thursday at Sadler's Wells dance house in London, will see 16-20 year-olds compete in four categories: ballet, contemporary, hip-hop or South Asian.

Judges for the grand final will include celebrated dance names, including choreographer Matthew Bourne and ballet star Tamara Rojo.

Category finals will be on BBC Four and the winner chosen on a BBC Two show.

"I really believe that this award can raise the profile of dance once again," said Rojo.

"We have seen a growing interest in dance in the UK, and I hope that this contributes to open up this art-form to as many people as possible.

"Dance is a natural instinct - every society, every culture around the world dances, so I think maybe we just have to push people out of their sofas a little bit and let them join us."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Carlos Acosta acts as proof that it's possible to succeed in the arts despite coming from a underprivileged background

When taking up his post as BBC director general, Tony Hall said he aimed to put the arts at the forefront of the corporation's broadcasting.

The hope is to the make the competition a regular event similar to the biennial BBC Young Musician contest.

Other well-known judges for the grand final are choreographers and dancers Wayne McGregor, Akram Khan and Kenrick Sandy.

"This will be a wonderful chance to celebrate the many good things that young dancers bring with them as they approach the professional dance world: drive, talent, hard work, perseverance and most of all, a fresh and enquiring approach to dance," said Khan.

"I know from my experience of working with young people that there are many young dancers prepared to give the hard work and considerable time that is needed to develop their technique, artistry and interpretive skills. I am really looking forward to seeing the young dancers in the competition - they are our future."

Cuban ballet star Carlos Acosta is the competition's ambassador.

Alistair Spalding, the chief executive and artistic director of Sadler's Wells, who will also be on the panel, said: "Carlos is there to give star quality but his story is one that should appeal to everyone.

"He came from a very poor background in Cuba and achieved what he did through a competition - the Prix de Lausanne.

"It shows that anyone with a talent, who can apply it, could go on to make a professional career. He's a very good role model and will speak highly of this initiative."

Category winners will go through to the final, joined by two "wild card" competitors.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake with its male swans shows his particular talent for bringing a modern twist to the classics

Spalding said the categories have been designed to open the competition up to more people.

"There are hip hop dancers all over the country and the South Asian group will reach certain areas that will bring in a new set of people to the dance industry."

Each of the six selected dancers will work with a young choreographer who will create a new solo piece for them to premiere as part of their performance.

The call for entrants began earlier in the year via the internet, schools, community centres and dance centres.

Applicants have been asked to submit video of themselves performing, with the rules stipulating that they cannot have performed professionally at any point.

The success of BBC One's Strictly Come Dancing has proved there is an appetite for dance shows within the general audience.

But other contests have proved less popular, most notably BBC One's So You Think You Can Dance, which was a ratings flop despite being successful in the US and several other countries.

"The Young Dancer contest is focused on professionalism. It's not a talent show, it's about people who've been practising their art and have got to a certain stage," said Spalding.

"It shows that, if you want to get on in dance, you really have to work and get to a certain level to achieve a professional career."

The series is part of BBC Four's Year of Song and Dance, 12 months of programming exploring the power of song and dance.

The final will take place at Sadler's Wells in north London on 9 May next year.

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