NDT1 dancer Sarah Reynolds


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From Dublin to The Hague

Sarah Reynolds

This time last year, Irish-born Sarah Reynolds was busy packing her bags and preparing to tour the UK with NDT2, the highly acclaimed junior wing of Nederlands Dans Theater. Even though she was caught up in an exacting schedule of travelling, rehearsing and performing, Sarah made time to keep a dancer’s diary for our website – providing an intriguingly personal glimpse into a dancer’s daily life.

It was, in fact, Sarah’s last year with NDT2 – she was 23 and the company’s ‘house rules’ decreed it was time to move on. The good news is that she was asked to join the main company NDT1. Her reaction? “I was over the moon when they told me,” she says – with a smile that makes her words light up like a neon sign. “It’s not that NDT2 isn’t a company in its own right – or a company that isn’t a phenomenal place to be, as a young dancer. But… once you’re here, working in this incredible atmosphere, seeing what’s going on around you, your goal just has to be to go into NDT1. It’s what you push yourself towards – and when Anders (Hellström, NDT1’s Artistic Director) told me I was in, it really did feel like a dream come true.”

The reality, however, is tough. Sarah is engagingly good-humoured about a regime that demands an intense degree of commitment, concentration and self-discipline. “There really is quite a difference between NDT2 and NDT1,” she says. “They’re completely different characters. Partly it’s the scheduling. With NDT2, you can be all day in the studio – working on the rep, working with a choreographer on a new piece – and it can be hard, and truly demanding. But you also have the time and space to relax within that preparation. With NDT1, the schedule is different. More pressurised. There are more dancers – which means there are more casts – rehearsing the different pieces: so the one hour that you do have in the studio becomes unbelievably important. You really do go full out – no stopping, no breaks. Nothing. All of you goes into it. It’s your moment to learn, get guidance – and there really is no time to waste. After three years in NDT2, you think you know the ropes – and that NDT1 will be basically the same but with different repertoire. It’s not! Everything cranks up a gear – class, repertoire, rehearsing… it’s all in sixth gear, definitely.”

But when the castings come out it is, according to Sarah “an amazing feeling. To see your name listed in a piece you know is a wonderful piece – I’m in Tar and Feathers, it’s a Kylián piece, and I’m so excited to be dancing in it. Do I feel a sense of ‘dance history’ here? Yes and no. When you’re in this building, and a working part of the company – spending what is a great deal of your life here – then it becomes your norm. You’re absorbed by it, I think. But sometimes, when one of the older dancers comes back to help with a piece you’ve never seen – repertoire from before your time – then you realise there’s a whole history that’s older than you are yourself. And an expectation – that goes without saying, really – that you will contribute to that. But actually, it’s the same expectation that you have of yourself: that you will keep the company’s reputation strong and its standards high because you want what goes on stage to be the best, the very best it can be. It’s really quite something to be a part of this company – there are only thirty of us, and every so often it hits me. I’m in NDT1.”

Did she never, ever hanker to be part of another world famous dance sensation? one with its roots in her native Ireland? was she never tempted to reach for her hard-soled shoes and black tights and join Riverdance? When she’s stopped laughing, she confides that, as a wee girl in Dublin, she “was sent to classes in just about everything. And that meant Irish dance, of course. But between the ballet and the Irish, I ended up confused – was I meant to turn out or turn in? Arms up, or by my sides? I had to choose – do you think I did the right thing?” And the wonderfully talented, charmingly unaffected Sarah Reynolds grins, as she gathers up her belongings and races off to rehearsals.