The very first act of Glastonbury 2011, Yorke Dance Project - whom we are very proud to sponsor - took to the stage immediately after the official opening of the festival, bringing to life some of the greatest songs from 1971! We talk to Artistic Director, Yolande Yorke-Edgell, about her experiences of the festival.

Having arrived the day before, in the pouring rain, the dance company were relieved when the sun came out on Thursday morning, to greet the swelling Glastonbury crowds. Spirit of ’71 was the only active stage on Thursday, meaning the mesmerising dance performance drew an audience from all across the festival. According Yolande Yorke-Edgell, it was an experience like no other:

“We never normally see anybody in the audience when we perform, so being able to see faces in the crowd was really exciting, especially for some of the younger dancers, who found it easier to connect to the people watching the show.”

Although the rain did return for the rest of the festival, it did little to dampen the spirits of the Glastonbury crowd, who come expecting the wet weather.

“We had some really great crowds, despite the rain. The only real downside of the weather was how muddy it got backstage; we had to wear our wellies right up until we took to the stage!”

Once on the stage, the Project soared through a fifteen minute performance of dances set to four of the most popular songs from 1971. Even forty years on, the songs still drew a huge crowd – especially their dance set to James Brown’s Hot Pants, which focused entirely on the body, hips and legs. The dancers actually kept their arms behind their backs through the whole dance!

“Having some soul influence really caught people’s attention; there’s a great mix of music at Glastonbury, but the music on our stage was mainly folk-style. James Brown was very different from anything else!”

Other dances were set to Tangerine by Led Zeppelin, Proud Mary by Ike and Tina Turner and Get It On by T. Rex, in which new dancer, James Cousins, danced solo with the girls as his backing dancers. James is a recent graduate from The London Contemporary Dance School, which forms part of the company's mission to support young and emerging artists. Having had the experience of dancing at Glastonbury, James was so inspired that he actually returned to the school where he started dancing and created a dance based on his experience at the festival! Yolande comments:

"James loved connecting with the audience and, having watched him as a student, I could see the difference that dancing at Glastonbury made to him as a performer."

In support of the dance company, the Causeway Foundation produced bespoke Yorke Dance Project t-shirts, which they handed out at the John Peel Stage.

“You never know who you’re going to see and meet at Glastonbury, so it was great to have the t-shirts from Causeway, which made us immediately recognisable to the people who saw us dance.”

Although they managed to meet and connect with lots of the other acts at the festival, the sheer size of the event made it impossible for them to see many of other acts. It was at least an hour’s hard trek through the mud to some of the bigger stages, which is the last thing you need before performing a dance show.

“We met some fantastic performers and really hope we can collaborate with them in the future. It would have been nice to see more of the other performances, but I was pleased to catch Coldplay, Elbow and Noah & The Whale.”

Yolande hopes to return to Glastonbury in the future but, in the short term, the Yorke Dance Project is off to San Francisco at the end of July. We are especially excited to hear that, come October, they will be working on a brand new show for next year!

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