Arts & Entertainment, Features

FitRec welcomes New England Youth Dance Exchange, a game-changer for high school aged dancers

For aspiring youth dancers, having a panel of judges determine the winners of dance competitions can take the fun out of dance. The New England Youth Dance Exchange is a new type of project — one that brings dancers across the region together not to compete, but to learn from one another, with judges giving confidential feedback not to give out awards, but for dancers to improve.

The New England Youth Dance Exchange
Dancers performing on stage. The New England Youth Dance Exchange, a day dedicated to teaching youth dancers from New England regions a lesson with constructive feedback, will perform at the BU Fitness and Recreation Center on Nov. 4. COURTESY OF NEW ENGLAND YOUTH DANCE EXCHANGE

Dancers from all across the region, from Connecticut to Maine, will be coming to Boston University Fitness and Recreational Center on Nov. 5 for the NEYDEX.

For 12 hours, young dancers from all across New England will spend their Friday taking classes, rehearsing, then finally, put on a performance at 7:30 p.m., which will be open to the public.

NEYDEX co-founder Alexis Murphy said the kids are usually excited to show the audience what they have been working on.

“It’s electric. You’ll feel the pulse of the day. The kids are excited to be there,” Murphy said. “The teachers are giving out their best, and it’s just a really, really fun day.”

Murphy said the founders of NEYDEX thought there was “something missing” from the dance competition world.

Co-founder Irada Djelassi said although young dancers benefit from dance competitions by meeting other dancers and seeing them perform, there are aspects of these competitions, like the trophies and the awards, that aren’t as beneficial.

“Somebody being better than somebody else is a matter of opinion, in some aspects,” said Djelassi, who operated her own dance company for 13 years and still owns several dance studios. “Sometimes, they’re like … ‘I wish that the dancers got to take class during the day instead of sitting in the dressing room,’ or, … ‘we performed, but we didn’t see the other dancers’ pieces.’”

Instead, she said, NEYDEX is about making connections with other dancers and “sharing the art of dance.”

Turning Pointe, a dance studio from Falmouth, Massachusetts, will be attending the event this Friday for the first time, said their Artistic Director Laura Sciortino.

Sciortino said Turning Pointe does attend competitions, and NEYDEX is an opportunity for them to perform and not have to compete. It takes the pressure off, Sciortino said, and the students are excited to perform.

“They get to enjoy the performance rather than feel like they have to be the best,” Sciortino said. “We’re really thrilled to do something different.”

Friday’s performance will be the first of the season for Turning Pointe, allowing them to have a low-pressure, almost practice round for their upcoming busy competition schedule.

Djelassi said it is important for dancers to sometimes get “out of the studio and out of their comfort zone.”

“It’s inspiring to be with that many other dancers that really just have the same goals,” Djelassi. “They love to dance. They love to perform, and they love to just be sharing that with each other.”

CORRECTION: The article incorrectly stated the date of the event as Nov. 4. The event takes place Nov. 5. The article has been edited to reflect this change.

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