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Member of Derbyshire Youth Dance Company - Melanie Oldale

During the academic year 2014/15, I had the privilege of working as a National Young Dance Ambassador (NYDA) for Youth Dance England (YDE). Now that my time as a NYDA has come to a close, I would like to share the experience I’ve had with you.

I’ve been a dancer for most of my life and have always loved to create work and perform it to others, but I’d not really had a lot of experience in organising events or performances where other young dancers can do the same, so when I heard about the opportunity to become a NYDA I absolutely jumped at the chance. I thought long and hard about what to write in my application and sent it off with my fingers crossed. When I received word from YDE that they wanted me to join their team I danced around all over the place (as per usual) with excitement. I went on to meet some of the staff of YDE and my other fellow NYDA’s and felt great pride that I was there representing youth dance in the East Midlands.

We were told that we were going to be given the responsibility of helping to organise the biggest youth dance event of the year, UDance run by YDE. This of course was massively daunting, but what better idea is there than for young dancers to organise an event for other young dancers?! So we were split into groups, each with a task to organise and complete as part of the main UDance festival. We had several meetings throughout the year, but the majority of the work was done from home and by keeping in contact with our groups. Each group did an excellent job and luckily everything came together.

We were also present in our red-shirted glory at the different platform performances held throughout the year and across the country in the most beautiful venues. We helped organise the youth dance groups who were performing, announce the pieces at performances, spread the word on social media etc. I was lucky enough to be asked to open, announce and help out at many shows in my area over the year such as two Secondary School Dance Platforms, a Primary School Dance Festival, Interface15 and I was even nominated and highly commended for an Individual Young Leader of the Year Award! What an honour!

Although all of these things are utterly wonderful, without a doubt the best part was getting through to the National performance in Plymouth, where the whole festival culminated, with my youth dance company Derbyshire Youth Dance Company (DYDC), part of Deda, Derby.

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We had performed at many of the different venues across the country and were asked to perform at the Nationals in the summer with our piece “Here We Are, Now” created by our leader Jennifer Manderson. This piece really seemed to strike a chord with a lot of people as it is based on the idea of what makes us who we are. It was even described as “life affirming” which was a lovely thing to hear. We spent the week long residential taking classes in all styles of dance including the West End choreography of the musical “Dirty Dancing”, African Dance, Swing Dance plus so many more, performing a piece in Plymouth Aquarium for the public, watching the other youth groups perform and ending on a high performing on the last night of the festival at the Theatre Royal Plymouth with our friends. It was an unforgettable experience which allowed me to do things I had never done before in my life and gave me great pride to be able to say "I helped to organise this".

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Last of all, I had been working on my Silver Arts Award over the year which included the challenge of me designing and making my own dance leggings, which luckily I managed. It took a lot of work and assistance from my friends, family and teachers, but I am very proud to say that I passed and have the certificate to prove it!

So all that's left for me to say is a huge thank you to Youth Dance England, Chesterfield School Sport Partnership, Dance4 and Deda who have supported everything I have done over the year and still continue to do so.

I have loved the opportunities that have come out of being a NYDA and I hope they continue to come, because I may not have the official title anymore, but I will still always be a massive advocate for youth dance, it's one of the most important things I know. To all you young dancers out there, grab every opportunity that comes your way, you never know where it might take you.

Melanie Oldale.

Derbyshire Youth Dance Company are auditioning on Sunday 8 May - find out more here.

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