Young Ipswich dancer joins national company

Jesse Baggett-Lahav photographed at a CAT performance at Dance East. Jesse has just landed a place at the National Youth...

Jesse Baggett-Lahav photographed at a CAT performance at Dance East. Jesse has just landed a place at the National Youth Dance Company - Credit: Alicia Clarke

Ipswich dancer Jesse Baggett-Lahav is the latest dance talent to be snapped up by a national company following in the footsteps of other local stars such as Gary Avis, Helen Crawford and Vincent Redmon.

The 17 year old, Northgate High School student, who is also a member of DanceEast’s CAT scheme (Centre for Advanced Training), has just passed a challenging audition to be selected to join the National Youth Dance Company, based at Sadler’s Wells in London.

Jesse, who says that he has danced for as long as he can remember, is following a family tradition as his parents Amit Lahav and Helen Baggett are directors of Ipswich-based physical theatre company Gecko.

Jesse said: “It’s a tremendous honour to be chosen to join the National Youth Dance Company. I feel so happy. I can’t believe it’s real.

"But, I am looking forward to joining the company and working with artistic director Alesandra Seutin to create something amazing later on in the year.”

He said that the audition process was nerve-wracking because it was conducted completely online, over Zoom, so he didn’t have the physical interaction with the other dancers. 

In the end Jesse said that the audition process went better than he expected. “I think they prepared us well and because you are the only person in the virtual room you don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, you just get on with what you are going to do and it obviously worked.”

He said that at the moment they are going to continue to work digitally with workshops and exercises until government guidelines will allow them to perform together.

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Then they are hoping to stage a performance in London during the summer which will then tour the UK – hopefully including a visit to DanceEast.

He said: “I hope that the tour will include Ipswich because I first saw the NYDC as a member of the audience at DanceEast and I can’t wait to be part of the company when they next come back.”

Jesse says that he has ambitions to be a dancer and performer but would also love to do some choreography at some point.

He said: “At the moment, the world is just full of possibilities. I have got to finish my A Levels, also I am on the CAT course until I’m 18.

"They finish together and at that point I’ll be in a better place to decide exactly what it is that I want to do.

"At the moment I’m just so chuffed to have got where I am.”

Jesse started his dance journey under the guidance of DanceEast’s associate artist Tom Hobden who encouraged more boys get into dance.

The current NYDC company is made up of 29 dancers, aged between 16-24,  drawn from 20 different towns and cities across the UK.  

Alesandra Seutin, NYDC guest artistic director 2020/21, said she was pleased with the way that the company had bonded online: “Regardless of the digital residencies with NYDC, I really feel that we have created a strong connection and been able to transcend the realm of our rectangle spaces. 

“The resilience and determination shown by the company is inspirational, and a fantastic of example of how the arts have kept going where possible, despite the challenging circumstances. I cannot wait to meet my company in the flesh.”