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Devon students selected for first UK youth dance company

Devon students Ben Wisken, 18, and Cameron Finnemore, 17, are amongst just eight young people nationally to be chosen to join the first UK-wide youth dance company.

The U.Dance Ensemble will perform at the Royal Festival Hall in the Southbank Centre, London in July 2012.

The boys were amongst only 19 selected at a final audition which took place at the Royal Opera House in December.  Both dancers were invited to travel to Nottingham last year with a group of eight young people from the Devon County Council-funded Devon Youth Dance Company run by Daisi,  to participate in a 3-day residency with Filip Van Huffell and Retina Youth Dance Company.

The group then performed at the Djanogly City Academy in Nottingham in a shared double-bill with Retina Dance Company. Both Ben and Cameron have also performed with the Devon Youth Dance Company - a project that brings professional artists to work alongside young people - in regional U.Dance showcases at City Academy Bristol and the Arc Theatre in Wiltshire, and in a World Dance Day Showcase in 2010.

Cameron, from Bovey Tracey, is studying at South Dartmoor College, Ashburton.  He first started dancing in his school club at Bovey Tracey Primary School when he was ten, and joined Devon Youth Dance Company in 2008.

Cameron said:  "My ambitions in dance are to go to a dance school and from there to dance professionally within dance companies."

Ben joined the Devon Youth Dance Company when he was 13, having previously worked with Sarah Shorten and with Carol Turner at North Devon theatres studying dance, ballet, contemporary and physical theatre from the age of nine. He was also chosen to participate in Youth Dance England’s Stride Training Programme for young dance leader in 2010.  Ben is from South Molton and is studying for A Levels in music technology and dance at Petroc College, Barnstaple.

Ben said:  "It means a lot to me to be part of something so culturally spread and to be with people who share the same passion. Hofesh was one of my biggest inspirations when I was younger, so it’s pretty awe-inspiring to be a part of the U.Dance Ensemble."

Devon Youth Dance Company artistic director, Rohanna Eade, said:  "This is an outstanding achievement on the part of both boys.

"They’ve put a huge amount of hard work into developing themselves as dancers, and we’re all inspired by their achievement. We wish them every success with the new company, and hope that they will come back and share with us what they have learnt."

The U-Dance Ensemble will be led by choreographer Hofesh Schechter, who won the Critic’s Circle National Dance Award for Best Choreography (modern) in 2008. At the outset of the 2-stage selection process, he said: "I look for dancers that are generous in their movement and creativity, that are rhythmical and most of all carry a simplicity and a human feel in themselves."

Councillor Christine Channon, Devon County Council's cabinet member for schools, said:  "It is an incredible achievement for two Devon students from just eight nationally to be selected for this prestigious dance company.

"It's testament to the quality of the work being done by DAISI, and also to the wealth of young talent that Devon has to offer.  My congratulations to Ben and Cameron, and I wish them every success."

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