We sat down down for a chat with Royal Exchange star Yandass Ndlovu

Elizabeth Whittingham·2 November 2017·10 min read
We sat down down for a chat with Royal Exchange star Yandass Ndlovu

With the Royal Exchange performance of JUBILEE set to premiere on 2nd November in Manchester. Student Life Guide sat down with Yandass Ndlovu to discuss student life, the world of work and why JUBILEE carries such as important message.

Where do you go to university?

I’m currently at Arden School of Theatre.

What do you study?

Dance and Performance.

What made you decide to study this?

Erm, because I wanted to. I knew that I wanted to dance and act, but I also knew that I had a really strong chance of pursuing that through other means, so I didn’t necessarily need to go to uni but I wanted to focus more on the dancing because I felt like I hadn’t been taught previously, so I wanted to get that technical teaching, I didn’t feel it was easy to get dance experience outside of an educational space so I needed to focus on it.

Are you enjoying your time at university?

Yeah, yeah it’s pretty cool. Obviously the first year I was there was a bit stressful, because I was trying to balance things and trying to get the ball rolling on what I wanted to do and understanding it more. I had never previously taken dance classes professionally, it was really daunting, but now I very much enjoy it.

Did you find that challenging?

Yeah, because I’m self-taught, so when I started doing ballet and jazz and all these techniques that I had never learnt before with most people being ahead of me and me starting from basics, it felt like I was trying to catch up. It is quite a mixed group, some people are really strong in tap and some are stronger in street. The more I got into it and the more intense it was, it became fun and a challenge.

If you had to pick a favourite university memory, what would it be?

A favourite university memory? Erm, I don’t know- they are all pretty ‘goody two shoes’. I really liked the shows that we did. Probably when I realised that ‘oh cool I can actually get along with everyone and everyone knows my style’ yeah? I had been doing ballet and jazz and trying to show off all these styles that I was not really used to, so when I could show off the style I was comfortable with it made me realise how much I like it. Actually, getting the most improved award for dancing, I didn’t expect it, this sounds cocky but when I enter a competition I’m always like oh I really want to win. But with that, I didn’t expect to win and in my opinion more people were more worthy of it, so to actually get it, it made me look back and reflect back on my year and how much I had achieved. I felt really motivated for the next year ahead.

Okay, let’s think about the future, thinking about graduating, is that quite a daunting prospect for you?

No. I think that I have got a really weird reason for going to university. I don’t really care about the paper, for me, to feel comfortable as a performer, I needed that technique in dance. So, for me, it will of course be amazing to get that BA in the arts, but for me it’s really more about the journey. It’s more about me being able to say that I now understand more dance techniques. For some people that may not sound that ambitious, but you need to know what you want as a person and to just go after it. Anything else that comes from that is a bonus, and obviously I am going to work very very hard to get that degree, but what I want to do is to improve myself mentally and physically and to feel it within my body to feel that yeah, I’m strong.

What advice would you give to actors and actresses that are studying and haven’t had that big break yet?

Erm, I think it’s the moment that you realise that a lot of people will talk at you, but it’s when you listen. Go and grab hold of all the opportunities, go and see more shows and talk to more people. But actually, most people who want this are already doing it, they are already trying to move on in some way. We forget the opportunities that we have while we have them, so whatever it is that you are currently doing, push that even further and rinse that out until you know that you have taken everything you can possibly take from it. Really listen to the thing that you are already in. By doing this, you can then recognise what you need next.

What would say is your favourite life, student or work?

For me, work life is good because you get the dollar. But actually the responsibility scares me, so being in class sometimes I have room to be wrong. That is the time for me to have fun and explore. The best thing about art is that every day is playtime and it’s really fun, actually knowing that I am here to soak up and learn new stuff. There is something fun about learning new information, about realising that my body can now do a specific new move, and when my tutor tells me new info, suddenly my mind is a little bit more blown.

Is it nice having a job that you love?

What I know is that I can get my clothes ready the night before and wake up in the morning happy and excited to go to work. That is the best feeling, not thinking of the finishing time but thinking of the beginning time.

What drew you to JUBILEE in the first place?

The idea that it pushes boundaries and provokes art and looks at it politically. Well, for me, I am very interested in the honesty in human beings and the honesty in performance, and I think that as human beings it is very hard for us to be honest. But onstage it’s easy to push conversations in front of audiences. Some people say that people hide behind art to hide their true feelings but actually I think it’s a way for people to say stuff that wouldn’t normally be said. You know, you can talk about politics and being gay and incest and this and that in ways that you couldn’t actually talk about in everyday life. So I basically just like the idea of having a platform to talk about these themes, it’s a privilege but also a duty because I think it needs to happen. Conversations need to be had and art is a great gateway for this.

Are there any particular performers or artists who have inspired you?

Obviously- I think my mind is trying to pick certain people. I can’t get this person out of my head, this is because I have worked with them very recently. How much they have used what I just said, how they used a certain platform. Sarah Frankcom, she has used her platform to push certain subjects. I like how she works and what drives her. It has been exciting for me to be in a room with someone who is so exciting. You just want to sit and listen to them. She is also very humble, there is a lot she can say on stage as a director, brilliant.

What else inspires you?

It depends, I guess. Because with dance recently for me has become very internal, it’s knowing that I can perform for me as much as I can perform outwards. Sorry I can’t think, what inspires me to perform? I think it’s the feeling that I get from listening to a specific music. Sound inspires me yeah. Also, language, that inspires me. I think that I would find it hard to perform in my native language, English is so much more interesting to me.

For other students who want to get involved in the arts, would you recommend it and how can they get involved?

Yes, I would recommend it. Even if you do not want to be a performer, it is such a brilliant way to actually talk to people, communicate and gain confidence, it is all helpful. It allows you to think outside the box, opens you up to how other people are and can be.

Start at school, start with drama lessons and workshops, if something is already there, start with them, if there is a drama class there then use it. The Young Company are an affordable way to get into the arts for young people. Research! It’s all about luck and hard work and who you know- you have to create it for yourself.

You cannot win lotto without buying the ticket.

Are there any other up and coming projects that you can tell us about?

I am directing my first piece which will premiere at Home Theatre on the 26th and the 27th January. I collaborated with a young artist who I met through a scheme at the Royal Exchange. It’s called ‘See me After’ and it will involve seven young dancers, musicians and actors from Manchester who will really push the arts, it looks at how seven young great minds can work together.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Hopes and dreams, I would love to have made a few more pieces. I am really kind of loving being a director as well as performing. I want to keep pushing my performance in terms of acting and dancing. I will hopefully have got my degree. I don’t want to pin myself down, four/five years ago I would never have been like oh I really want to be a dancer. So I am still very much open to wonderful possibilities. I don’t have an answer for you.

If you are interested in JUBILEE, click here.

For more information on the Royal Exchange, visit their website.