Focus on: Rachael Young

Eclipse Award winner Rachael Young on using music and movement to put hope over hatred

feature (edinburgh) | Read in About 3 minutes
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Rachael Young by Roise Powell
Photo by Roise Powell
Published 21 Jul 2019

"I’ve never called myself a dancer," Rachael Young says thoughtfully. "I’m not formally trained, and my body doesn’t look like that of a dancer. It's soft and a bit flabby, it's older and it aches. But," she counters, "I have always danced. And when I started making Out, sometimes the things I was exploring, I just didn’t have the words for."

A multidisciplinary artist, Young is presenting two shows this Fringe. The first, Out, is a conversation through movement about being Black and queer, performed with dance artist Malik Nashad Sharpe. It explores freedom through music and tackles homophobia, transphobia and colonial influence. For Young, dance felt like the ideal medium to deal with this hatred because dancing is "an attempt to draw strength to go back into the world."

Her second show, Nightclubbing, is influenced by an act of misogynoir that went viral. Young was singing in a choir for Black History Month when she heard about the five Black girls being turned away from a club. "It felt really strange to be celebrating but to still live in a time where peoples’ bodies are policed and deemed undesirable because of the colour of their skin."

Searching for a way to transcend the restrictions placed upon bodies like hers, she kept coming back to the icon of Grace Jones. "She’s so good at saying: You're gonna look at me anyway, so how can I make you really see me?" 

Young also found a hopefulness in afrofuturism, the idea of afrocentric storytelling where the past, present or future is altered to be rid of the oppression Black people face everyday. "It carves out a space for authenticity and pulls me away from the idea of having to assimilate, like authorship over your own future." She pauses. "It made me feel validated."

Combining Jones’ influence with afrofuturism, Young uses music and movement to create a brand of superhuman. This Edinburgh run is possible because of the Eclipse Award, an inaugural prize designed to help Black-led companies or individual artists take boundary-pushing work to the Fringe. 

The prize gives Young and her company £10,000, a full run at Summerhall, marketing support, mentorship and a care package. 
"Without that money I just wouldn't have done it," she says honestly. 

The care package, organised by Sick of the Fringe, means she and her team can speak to a therapist, go to a gym, have a massage or a meeting with an osteopath, and have someone deal with venue issues for them. "I’m very lucky and I feel really grateful. But also I think it's great that Summerhall and Eclipse are doing something to combat a Fringe that isn’t very diverse. Hopefully, me going up there shows other artists of colour that the work is wanted."