Category Archives: Dance

Gwanwyn Funds Wales First Hot Tub Salon

Wales first Hot Tub Salon took place on September the 23rd 2017.

The topic: Creative Listening. The event was coordinated by Get The Chance, delivered by Third Act Critics, and presented as part of the Gwanwyn Festival of Creativity for Older People in Wales, funded by Wales Government and the Arts Council of Wales.

Creative Listening followed Advantages of Age successful season of hot tub salons in London. Advantages of Age received funding from Arts Council of England and were recently featured in The Sunday Times and this first event was, for all intents and purposes, the launch of Advantages of Age, Wales. Thanks to Suzanne Noble from Advantages of Age for her support for this first event.

You can read a blog post from Leslie Herman Jones on the background to this first event, here 

In Leslie’s words “We will be a gathering of human beings investing a few hours on a Saturday afternoon in September sitting in and around a hot tub exploring what creative listening means.”

We can share a video of this first event and some of the participants responses below. Many thank to everyone who supported.

What effect, if any, has this Gwanwyn Festival event had on you?

Made me think more imaginatively about how we talk to each other, how we listen – I’m used to using creative activities to engage people so that they feel relaxed and safe and can then discuss harder subjects but a hot tub? Wow. Well outside my comfort zone but it worked!

It was really great to get together with ladies of different ages to share our perspectives on a topic of common interest. It has helped my confidence presenting myself and my take on things to a larger audience. It has also helped my listening skills as so many of us had something to say and share so it was a great opportunity to practice the pause.

This opportunity has stimulated my thinking and encouraged me to rekindle the importance of creativity in my life. Sharing time with like minded people, most of whom I’d not met before, in such an unusual setting, was indeed food for thought! I would say that the event has definitely strengthened my belief in myself as a person who thrives on creativity on a daily basis. Since the event, I feel I have pursued ideas and ventures which might not have happened otherwise.

It made me more aware of the importance of listening and the value and power of being listened to.

It was an incredible experience. It really opened my mind to other ideas, and to be a lot braver.

Please tell us in your own words about your experiences today and how you feel they have benefitted your creativity and wellbeing. If there was any way the event could have been improved please let us know that as well. 

I was initially very uncomfortable with the idea of sitting in a hot tub with strangers – too far fetched for me – but I actually loved it. The meditation piece beforehand was definitely not me but I understand the thinking behind it and the value it might have for others. We needed more time – we just touched on our subjects – there was so much more to say. It was very well facilitated and organised by Lesley; a very professional and accomplished event and I was very pleased to have been a part of it.

As an Aries I am often a person who does a lot of the talking and favours leadership and presentation so it was an interesting challenge to be immersed in this informal group setting to work on my creative listening. I enjoyed the whole event, the hot tub, the lovely new friends I made and the examples they presented of how they use their creative listening skills in their every day lives; which really inspired me to join more groups and take part in more local creative activities. The hot tub was the perfect place to get to know each other and relax so that we could take part in a non-pressurised environment and the snacks and refreshments were wonderful and lovingly prepared. I enjoyed sharing my thoughts on the act of conscious listening and felt that what I had to contribute (metaphysical/esoteric perspective) was well received by most. This was also a great chance for business networking as well as making new friends and improving my health and well being. I think the next session could be a little more structured so each person could bring something they have prepared so that we don’t fall over our words. 

I was naturally a little nervous about exposing my views on creativity and talking openly in a hot tub with people I hadn’t met before. The introduction to the event was well delivered by Leslie and we were put at our ease as she explained the purpose and makeup of the event and what could be expected. We had a getting to know you activity and by the time we entered the hot tub, the atmosphere was relaxed and there was an upbeat sense of expectancy. The physical sensation of the warm bubbly water in the fresh light rainy open air was quite exhilarating and in a very short time, we were relaxed and engaged as a group. The act of speaking and listening flowed well and Leslie facilitated the conversation very efficiently so that everyone had a chance to express views and to engage with one another. She was highly skilled in allowing a relaxed conversation to take place, as well as encouraging focus on the themes of creativity and listening. As a facilitator Leslie was mindful of the timescale and brought the conversation to a natural close. By doing so, there was no doubt that the topic we had begun to explore could be developed and continued and this was a very positive outcome of my experience of the event.

I enjoyed meeting new people and listening to their stories. I felt a bit more alive and stimulated at the end of the experience.

I was so so nervous. And then more nervous! I am not very good at meeting new people even if there are people there I know. I did not know really what to expect but as I arrived I immediately felt I had done the right thing. Leslie was incredibly encouraging, kind and welcoming. I was still feeling uncomfortable during the discussion and ‘meditation’ but it felt similar to going to one of those serious situations where everything seems so serious you just want to laugh and I realised that others too were delving into the unknown.. I say ‘do something that scares you’ to the people I encourage and support in the week, and thought I should self prescribe. It was the fear of wearing.my swimsuit, a fear of sitting in water, very close to load of strangers which actually petrified me, the fear of people looking at me – a fear I have whether in a swimsuit, which I discovered had lost all its elasticity, or fully clothed. But once in pool, after hilarious clambering in a non-lady-like fashion, and supported on the arm of a very good friend with a great sense of humour. The fall of laughter, much of it my own, made me realise that actually I was starting to have a really good time. The focus was actually about being in a hot tub, relaxed and free to discuss creative listening, and god was I focused on listening, rather hoping that the incredibly floating ability of my upper regions would not pull focus. The gander of ladies, incredibly intelligent, bright, charismatic, funny, kind and quirky in and out of the pool made me realise how lucky I was to be there. The discussion took us in a direction I never really felt confident to discuss, but I was, and people were listening. Learning needs thrown to the side, my inability to sometimes get my words out, fear of failure and sounding like a right numpty forgotten, the discussions were helpful, interesting, thought provoking and engaging. The time went too quick and if I was going to make suggestions for the future, make it a whole day experience or even a weekend. I have made new friends, I am starting to look at the world in a different light and if I was going to suggest anything for the future it would be ‘more please!’

Leslie Herman Jones

An interview with Dr Branwen Davies

The director of Get the Chance Guy O’Donnell recently met with writer Dr Branwen Davies. They discussed her training, career to date, a new work in progress ‘Cut and Run’ which will be performed at Chapter Arts Centre this December and her thoughts on the arts in Wales.

Hi Branwen great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

I initially trained as an actor at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff after being involved with National Youth Theatre Wales as a teenager. I was interested in performing but realised I was a better writer than an actor and decided to focus on writing instead. My training gave me a really good grounding and introduction to theatre, plays and performance as well as the opportunity to meet some great people who I have been lucky to collaborate and work with later in life. I think actors can be great script editors – knowing what is needed and not needed in scenes and what can be conveyed without text. I think my actor training helped me become a better writer and theatre maker.

The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff.

So what got you interested in writing and the arts?

I’ve always written and I’ve always been involved in theatre in some way shape or form. I wrote plays as a child, took them to school and forced the class to perform them! I wrote whilst at RWCMD and after working as an actor for a few years decided to do a Creative Writing Masters at Bangor University. Whilst doing my MA I was commisioned by Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru to co-write the Welsh language play DOMINOS that toured Wales. I’ve since been combining freelance writing work, lecturing and various theatre/performance projects with various companies in Welsh and English.

The writers of DOMINOS, Mared Swain, Branwen Davies,  Manon Wyn,  and Angharad Llwyd.

You have recently been running some reviewing workshops for schools linked to Cwmni Fran Wens production Mwgsi. How have the young people responded?

Mwgsi 

It’s been an eye opener talking to young people regarding the hard-hitting production of Mwgsi which is about a young girl who at the end of her A levels discovers she has Leukemia. I admire the young people’s honesty and frankness. They know what they like and don’t like and are able to communicate well their thoughts and reactions to the play. I feel it’s important that a play produced for young people is reviewed by young people – i.e the target audience and that Fran Wen – a company who aim to create exciting theatre that challenges young people with content and form approach schools and offer the opportunity. I’ve had many interesting discussions the past few weeks and enjoyed discussing what a review can be and should be and how to create a vocabulary to talk about performance and theatre and elements involved in a production in an engaging way.

I believe you have been working with older citizens. Can you tell us more about the project you have led on?

It was a privilege to work with the older citizens on the project Lleisiau/Voices with Pontio and Friars Secondary School in Bangor. We spent time with the residents at the old people’s home Plas Hedd at Maesgeirchen Bangor who specialise in care for people with Dementia. We created a verbatim piece of theatre after the students befriended the residents and talked and interviewed them. Seeing the frindships that were formed between the generations was heartwarming. Being able to see the residents as real people with stories and a past rather than patients in a chair and most importantly being able to give them a voice was very rewarding. I have never laughed and cried so much during a project. It really hit home the power of theatre, communication and engaging with the community. The stories that were shared were priceless – Mable’s fun and frolics with the Land Army, Margaret training to be a nurse and escaping from the window after lights out and Morus playing the piano whilst his father sang and his brother played the trombone. The end result was read to the friends and families of everyone involved and was a celebration really of the resident’s lives. But the process of befriending and giving the teenagers an opportunity to get to know the older generation and to share and learn from them was the real power of the project and seeing the residents light up and enjoy sharing and laughing and having fun.It was very real, very human and touching.


Gwanwynn celebrates creativity in older age, with an increasing older population in Wales is their enough support for the creativity of our older citizens?

I don’t think there is enough support for the creativity of our older citizens. There are some important and rewarding projects going on but there needs to be more. I feel we tend to forget or ignore our older citizens when they need to be celebrated. They have so much to share and we have so much to gain from them. Loneliness is such a huge problem with our elderly citizens and I feel an output for creativity would be a huge benefit to combat loneliness and eradicate the stigma of old age.


Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists?

Get the Chance do a great job. There are always barriers and always people fighting for equality and for more diversity. It’s the money element that worries me. The expense and cost of opportunities – even visiting theatres or booking a space! I wish there was more funding to collaborate with different artists on a research and development level. Introducing different artists to each other to experiment and play with different ways of working.

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?

I would like to see more funding for children and young people’s theatre – theatre that provokes without preaching. Some of the most memorable performances I have seen have been for younger audiences. I still remember some productions that came to my primary school and feel that it is a mistake to steer away from visiting schools and performing at schools. It is the only opportunity some children will have of theatre. I would like to see more funding for the less obvious and less traditional forms of theatre and theatre making too and development of new work. Would be good to take a risk with funding and support less known and less experienced artists – we miss out by playing safe. There is room to push boundaries.

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

What excites me? The talent!The practitioners and artists we have in Wales across the board – actors/directors/writers etc I just wish there was more opportunity to showcase the talent across the border and internationally.


What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

I have just experienced a weekend at Ty Newydd in Llanystumdwy at a writing retreat where I was mentoring 6 new young writers with Elgan Rhys for Fran Wen.

Branwen  working with one of the young people at Ty Newydd.

It’s a magical place and a weekend collaborating, talking and sharing was invigorating!

Elgan Rhys working with one of the young people at Ty Newydd.

P.A.R.A.D.E

Photographic credit: Mark Douet

Performance wise I recently saw National Dance Wales and Marc Rees’s P.A.R.A.D.E – yes I’m biased because I collaborated with the text for the performance but I enjoyed the experience, excitement and the spectacle of it all.

P.A.R.A.D.E

Photographic credit: Mark Douet

And lastly to finish what are you currently working on?

Cut and Run is a work in progress that Dirty Protest are developing/performing in the run up to Christmas at Chapter as an alternative Christmas show. You can catch it at the studio in Chapter December 20th-23rd. It’s a one woman show with mosquitoes, Texan tourists and a ticking biological clock!

We spoke to Catherine Paskell,  Artistic Director of Dirty Protest about this new performance.

As part of Dirty Protest’s 10 year anniversary celebrations, the company present a development production of a new Christmas monologue, Cut and Run by Branwen Davies. Branwen wrote for Dirty Protest’s very first short play night in 2007 and this is her first full length play for the company.

Cut and Run follows Dirty Protest’s tradition of alternative Christmas offerings and will be performed at Chapter 20th – 23rd December 2017. Tickets can be booked here

 

Review Fourteen Days, Balletboyz, Exeter Northcott, by Hannah Goslin

 

(5 / 5)

 

Balletboyz have been a favourite of mine since my university days. Always heading to the Taliesin in Swansea, this company have never struggled to surprise me with their brilliance.

Today was of no exception.

Looking in the crowd the audience was of a mixture – dance enthusiasts like myself, an older generation who may or may not have seen them before and know their unique and modern take on dance and a huge amount of boys and young men. Beating the stereotype of ballet and dance being for girls, these masculine role models are obviously very influential.

Fourteen days comprises of 4 short pieces followed by a longer finale. As the programme states, these dances are created by a host of different choreographers, including Strictly Come Dancing’s, Craig Revel Horwood and all feature an underlying theme of balance and imbalance.

“The Title is in the Text” is our first piece by choreographer, Javier De Frutos and really draws on the theme. Set around a see saw, the dancers balance, propel and manoeuvre around it creating beautiful shapes and a sort of child-like playtime with each other . It’s simplistic, yet powerful and with elements of subtle humour with the interaction and response between them. Dressed in jumpsuits, firstly it feels mechanic and as if they are workers but the play in the dance makes them feel more childlike.

“Human Animals” by Iván Pérez changed the dynamic completely. The floral shirts with legs bare for all muscles to be seen makes this animalistic – the routine gentle, light and almost mimicking deer jumping in a forest as one. It’s repetitive but easy and lovely to watch.

To me, “Us” by Christopher Wheeldon was the highlight of the show. With only two dancers, the performance is intimate, a consistent flow and full of emotion. Along with the music by Keaton Henson, this very minimalist piece but full of vigour and emotional power resonated personally with me, leaving me in tears at the beauty of love and conflict.

“The Indicator Line” by TV star Craig Revel Horwood is in itself a surprise.  There is a Soviet element to the narrative and comes across as very dictator-like but with bells on. Mostly I would expect something musical theatre based from him and that’s a little of what we get but it’s strong, powerful and full of momentum. The dancers also show a great talent in their trade when ballet and contemporary turns to tap. However there’s anger in the tap -no Fred Astaire here, this tap dancing means war.

And finally, “Fallen”by Russell Maliphant – a rebirth from it’s debut in 2013. Until I read that fact, there was something familiar about the piece but nothing less enjoyable. The whole ensemble is involved and there is always something to watch. Different scenes broadcast from different areas; crescendos come and go and levels change from all to duo to solo and back again. This piece has a fluidity to it, not just in dance but in its expression, leaving you struggling to take your eyes away.

What I love about Balletboyz is their ability to be about the dance. Yes the odd bit of staging and changing of lights adds to their composition but mostly the stage is naked, stripped bare of trickery leaving us engaged with the dancers who make every element look effortless and with sheer beauty.

Hannah Goslin

Review: Shadow Aspect, Ballet Cymru by Helen Joy

“To know yourself, you must accept your dark side. To deal with others’ dark sides, you must also know your dark side.”

Carl Jung

Tonight, with this piece, Ballet Cymru gives us a vision of utter loveliness in dance, in theatre and in purpose. Tonight, I cry with the utter elevated beauty of it all.

The dancers are beautiful, confident story-tellers and they revel in the simple stories they tell.

Exposed and discerning, gentle and strong, they seem so utterly happy out there under the lights. Oblivious to the likes of me, gazing at them with wet eyes.

The painfully perfect shadow of the Royal Ballet is cast and it serves to brighten our Ballet Cymru. This is the most gorgeous coupling. We can feel the reverence and respect and sense the raising of the game; we are in the presence of greatness and its impact: the lifts a little higher, the smiles a little wider, the precision of ballet in the arena of modern dance.

And danced to such music! Such mournfully sweet song. Just perfect. It reaches inside me and touches the soul in me.

Stripped, bare, tops and tunics against dark stone wall, it is just light on dance, lightness and dancers. All darks and lights and thoughtfulness.

Visually, aurally, this is just sublime.

Shadow Aspect starts with Jung so should end with Jung:

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.”

Thank you, Ballet Cymru, for striking the match. 

Choreography By Tim Podesta

Music by French composer Jean-Phillipe Goude

With kind permission from www.icidailleurs.com

Stage design by Australian architect Andy Mero & Tim Podesta

Costumes Design Yukiko

Photo credit Jason Ashwood

http://welshballet.co.uk/productions/shadow-aspect/

 Reviewed by Helen Joy for Get the Chance, Friday 3rd November, 2017.

Helen Joy

 

 

Review P.A.R.A.D.E. National Dance Company Wales & Marc Rees by Helen Joy

 

(4 / 5)

 

Here’s the thing:

I have grown to adore National Dance Company Wales, I covet every ticket to every performance I am able to attend and I cherish each moment spent in the presence of such talent. And the dance pieces played out on the stage of the Wales Millennium Centre for P.A.R.A.D.E .were more of the same – clever, beautiful, witty, fulfilling. The performance pieces in the foyer and outside in the Oval Basin, were enjoyable and the context fun. But the intention of P.A.R.A.D.E. was lost to me. The problem as I see it is mine and it is this: expectation.

The original P.A.R.A.D.E. was designed to bring ballet to the masses, a cultural-political poke in the eye to traditional elitism. An opening of doors to art and theatre and ballet. This wasn’t quite. It was more an homage to Lenin and to the Revolution and to Russia. And glorious in its own right.

Photo credit: Mark Douet

Outside, free to stand about in our anoraks, occasionally prompted to wave our little red flags in response to the forceful rhetoric from our esteemed leader – past entrepreneurs lambasted and then a crie de couer ‘where are the entrepreneurs when we need them now?’ Hiding?! What a spectacular leader in Eiry Thomas we have! I rather think we might follow her forever in enthusiastic formation!

Instead, we rally to the dance and admire the aerial robot – all silver against the blue of dungarees and the red of the lights.

Photo credit: Mark Douet

I wasn’t expecting a socio-political tirade on our current times; nor a dystopian view of our future past; it feels like a rather arty dance-y episode of Dr Who. Not a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all.

We feel the collective conscience and obligingly shuffle into the WMC where we experience the dystopian theme as it continues with men in dresses and masks dancing with shopping trolleys. ‘The worm that turned’ perhaps. More Factory floor box shifting along the counters. More dungarees. More still silent faces.

Photo credit: Mark Douet

We can only look. Walk around them. There is no engagement, no participation, only watching. And lots of boxes. It’s predictable but not comfortable. It’s creepy. It’s always clever.

Back in our comfort zone, with paid tickets we settle into our seats and watch some very clever dance. I am back in the land I know of adoration.

‘I thought the dance pieces in the WMC were amazing. I was transfixed’.

Photo credit: Mark Douet

The first piece, P.A.R.A.D.E. huge and dark and taped up, smacks of rebellion on the factory floor, the fear of automation. It has a ‘50s feel. All smokey dark and dismal. Costumes roll from municipal and practical to cardboard rococo and crying eye to breast-plated automaton. Big. Complex. Storytelling dance with breadth and depth and drama. Wonderful. ‘I liked it. I loved it. It fills the stage.’ No mean feat at the WMC.

Photo Credit: Rhys Cozens

The second. Tundra. Different. Dramatic, quietly voluble and perfectly captivating. Very beautiful. Honed, stark, arctic. Very far from barren. It is not enough to see this once. The audience leaves in roaring silence.

Choreographed to perfection, visually dramatic, carefully disturbing; P.A.R.A.D.E. is a show to be proud to have seen. I just wish we had been a little more included.

Check out the atmospheric trailers for PARADE – they are spectacular.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CoIhlBPCOU

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2017-2018/DonaldGordonTheatre/Parade/

NDCWales

Marc Rees

BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Rubicon Dance

Dawns i Bawb

Choreographer Tundra Marcos Morau

Choreographer PARADE Caroline Finn

Graffiti artist Pure Evil

Architectural designer Jenny Hall

Aerialist Kate Lawrence

Composer Jack White

Helen Joy

 

 

 

Review Rip it Up, St David’s Hall by Barbara Hughes Moore

Dreamboats and Petticoats: Strictly stars tear up the dancefloor in Rip It Up

Having attended a fair few live shows featuring the Strictly cast, I can safely say that Rip it Up ranks among the best of them. Inventive, energetic and invigorating, Rip it Up was created, crafted and choreographed by fan favourite Strictly pro Natalie Lowe. Having recently left BBC’s flagship dance show after seven years (to the distress of many SCD fans, myself included), Natalie has shifted her considerable skill towards the theatre, being both the brains and brawn behind this 1950s-set dance spectacular. Joining her on tour are Strictly champions Jay McGuiness and Louis Smith, who lifted the glitterball with Aliona Vilani in 2015 and Flavia Cacace in 2012 respectively.

Directed by Gareth Walker, Rip it Up (named for one of the 50s songs it incorporates) follows the three principals and a slew of equally brilliant backing dancers as they shake, rattle and roll their way through some of the decade’s greatest songs – moving with ease from Elvis to Little Richard to Sam Cooke and Ritchie Valens. I’d forgotten how good these songs were, and how fabulous they are to dance to – but the considerable, combined talents of the Rip it Up ensemble brought it all back to me.

The show was split into different segments, each encapsulating a different type or trend of 50s music: rock ‘n’ roll, vocal harmony, blues, ballads, and Latin, as well as specific tributes to Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Little Richard and the Rat Pack. It was exhausting enough reading through the setlist, let alone watching the dancers perform to them! Natalie described the ensemble as the hardest working out there, and I certainly agree. Nothing was spared or suppressed – hearts and souls were bared on the dancefloor that night, and the audience was loving every second.

It was particularly gratifying to be a part of an audience that was as responsive to the show as I was – so often in modern theatre audience reaction is muted and formal, but just as the performers were giving every drop of energy and enthusiasm they had, so too were the people watching from their seats. Jay kindly acknowledged the audience response, thanking us for ‘making Monday night feel like Saturday night’. Well, Jay and the rest of the cast certainly made a rainy night in 2017 Cardiff feel like a summer’s day in 1955 NYC.

To enhance the feel of the time period, there was a brief TV montage interlude between each dance segment, showcasing some of the 50s’ cringiest commercials – including a toy advert for a truly bizarre sort of hula-hoop worn on the head called a ‘Swing Wing’, which was no doubt responsible for causing widespread whiplash during the decade. These were intercut with the ensemble’s pre-filmed cutesy interpretations of the era, as well as entertaining asides from the master of ceremonies, Leo Green, who also doubled as band leader and saxophonist.

Speaking of the music, the classic 50s hits were played with emotion and aplomb by a five-piece band, and what a joyful noise they made with so few. Along with Leo’s superb sax, we were treated to Ed Richardson on drums, Ian Jennings on bass, Jonny Dyke on keyboards and Matt White on guitars. I can’t stress how excellent the musicians were, including the two primary singers of the piece: Oliver Darling (who sported Buddy Holly glasses during his tribute) and Jill Marie Cooper, an exclusive treat for Cardiff audiences. They not only captured the spirit of the songs, but of the generation – although at times, they did tend to belt ballads that could have done with a softer touch. A small price to pay for the marvellous music overall – I would happily have paid to see the musicians and singers alone, but here they enhanced and accentuated the equally wonderful work of the dynamic dancers.

Natalie Lowe embodied the charm and elegance of the era, seamlessly slipping from Grace Kelly-esque screen siren to Elvis-like leather-clad rock ‘n’ roller, and countless other characters in between. She utterly evoked the ingenue of her introductory song, Jackie Wilson’s Reet Petite (‘the finest girl you ever want to meet’). Her standout number was a beautiful ballroom show-dance to the Righteous Brothers’ Unchained Melody, as well as a cheeky jive to a medley of 50s jitterbug. Not to mention she was responsible for overseeing and choreographing everyone else, and ensuring that every part had a unique and different feel, facet and flair. Her exit is a loss to Strictly, but a magnificent gain for the stage, and I can’t wait to see what she has waiting in store for us next.

Supporting our superb leading lady were two highly capable, and yet incredibly different, leading men: Jay McGuinness, whose unique brand of cool, chivalrous charm embodied the era’s sweetness simmering beneath the surface; and Louis Smith, whose fiercely flirtatious brand of fun complemented Jay extremely well. They couldn’t be less alike, except in their attempts to vie for Natalie’s affections, alternately foxtrotting and jiving their way into her heart. For two Strictly champions who had both been unfairly criticised by the judges for their supposed lack of personality during their tenure, it was particularly satisfying to see Jay and Louis not only having improved since their deserved wins, but infusing their routines with so much character, confidence and flair. They fit in perfectly alongside the pros, and skilfully held their own alongside them.

Jay’s entrance was the most impressive by far. Clad in black from head to toe, he spun around in the shadows and de-hatted himself, giving the impression that he had appeared out of thin air. He certainly encapsulated the gung-ho gusto of his intro song, Jerry Lee Lewis’ Great Balls of Fire. He also demonstrated a wide range of theme, technique and emotion (as he had done on Strictly), performing with passion and panache in every style of dance from waltz to cha cha and an artsy modern number to Nat King Cole’s Unforgettable that evoked his winning show-dance. And, of course, his jive prowess were second to none, as it has been ever since he and Aliona’s Pulp Fiction tribute broke the internet. Jay didn’t just shine whilst dancing; he also graced us with lovely renditions of some of the staple songs of the 50s, including the incomparably classy Beyond the Sea and a sultry rendition of Sway. Out of all the Strictly champions, Jay has the greatest potential to take the West End by storm – singing, dancing, acting, what can’t he do? I hope his recent stint as the lead in Big! The Musical is the first of many in a long line of stage shows in Jay’s future.

Louis, last but certainly not least, leapt onto the stage to Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti; from start to finish he looked like he was having the most fun by far – and that’s really saying something in an altogether joyous production. Although Louis performed in Strictly alum Robin Windsor’s Keep Dancing tour at Cardiff’s New Theatre last year, and has improved even since through joining Rip it Up, he confessed he hadn’t been sure if he could or should carry on dancing in live productions. But after a great experience with Natalie, Jay and the gang (and some vehement audience encouragement), it (thankfully) looks as though Louis isn’t going to hang up his dancing shoes any time soon. He looked as though he lived every moment of every dance, and possessed the most vibrant personality and stage presence of the entire ensemble. His gymnastics skills always shone during his Strictly stint, but here he has honed his dance technique and performance into sophisticated and stylish perfection. He excelled in solo, partner and group dances, really capturing the mischievous, rebellious feel of the era and starring in some of the strongest set-pieces: a sulky, sultry number to Peggy Lee’s Fever was a particular highlight, as well as a geeky romance against the backdrop of Sam Cooke’s Wonderful World. Louis’ Strictly journey keeps evolving, and long may it continue – Cardiff will certainly be there to welcome him back to the stage in the future.

If ever a stage show was an ensemble success, that show is Rip it Up. Every single backing dancer performed to the same superb standard as the principals and musicians, and were given ample time to shine both alongside and separate from the three leads, yet another testament to the team spirit of the entire production. Though the set itself was sparse, the performers and costumes made up for the minimal production values (totally understandable on a tour budget). However, despite how impressive the three leads’ solo numbers were, I would have loved to have seen the three of them sharing the stage more often. Natalie, Louis and Jay appeared together to bookend each segment, but then split up to perform numbers in which they individually featured (accompanied by partners or backing dancers), but rarely with one another. Because of the rarity of their onstage collaboration, one of the standout numbers for me was Jay and Louis engaging in what I can only refer to as a ‘James Dean-Off’ in which the two Strictly champs did their damned-est to out-Brando each other in rolled-up jeans and white Ts. In a similar vein, I think there should have been a story running through the show (just as Vincent and Flavia often have in their live shows); in doing so, they could build on the natural flirtation between Natalie, Jay and Louis, and incorporate their love triangle into a more structured through-line. It would have added a narrative cohesion to the excellent dance numbers, rendering them not only exciting but necessary in advancing the plot and our leads’ love lives.

Overall, Rip it Up is a truly wonderful theatrical experience that I urge anyone with even the vaguest interest in dance, music, theatre, The Wanted or gymnastics to go to if humanly possible. It’s great to see familiar faces again, as well as discovering new ones, and I can’t wait to see where Natalie, Jay, Louis and company go from here – I only hope that they keeeep dancing

http://www.stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk/whats-on/dance/rip-it-up/

 

Would you like to join us for a creative conversation?

 

Image credit: Barbara Lavelle

Would you like to join us for a creative conversation?
Saturday, 23rd September, Central Cardiff.
We welcome your thoughts & insights, and value your opinions.
You are invited to join us LIVE in Cardiff at 2.30 – 4.30pm GMT
or on FB Live at 14.30 – 16.30 GMT; 09.30 – 11.30 EST; 06.30-08.30 PST. 

Dress Code: Up to you. 
RSVP (Places are limited)   

Purposefully, I deconstructed our activities and found creative listening rose to the top of our raw materials. The critiquing and response to Arts and Culture requires sharp and sensitive listening first and foremost.  

                             

We are thrilled to bring you Wales’ first Hot Tub salon. The topic: Creative Listening. Brought to you by Get The Chance, delivered by Third Act Critics, and presented as part of the Gwanwyn Festival of Creativity for Older People in Wales, funded by Wales Government and the Arts Council of Wales.

Creative Listening follows Advantage of Age’s successful season of hot tub salons in London. A of A received funding from Arts Council of England and were recently featured in The Sunday Times  and is, for all intents and purposes, the launch of Advantages of Age Wales. Thanks to Suzanne Noble from Advantages of Age for her support.

The event is also partnered with NYC-based producer Jonathan Pillot, who will launch the NYC Advantages of Age on Sunday, 17 September. If you’re in NYC, all the details are here Thanks to Jonathan for his support, too.

I took inspiration from his project Listening to America in the run-up to the US Presidential Election. Pillot took a Studs Terkel-esque road trip and produced a series of unscripted interviews with real people in the uneasy weeks running up to the November 2017 election. The election campaign really split opinions in the USA; at the same time BREXIT was splitting opinions in the UK. It left me pondering on the necessity of listening as a critical tool to progressing big ideas and forging change. I endorse promoting big ideas and forging change, and I believe in doing so by starting in a small, slow and steady fashion. I sensed a Listening to Wales project would be a powerful way to reach people here. Creative Listening is a small step in that direction.

Advantages Of Age’s hot tub salons were set up ‘as a platform to curate and host a series of performance salons incorporating an array of creatives united in their refusal to ‘grow old gracefully’ and to challenge the mainstream narrative of age. The events featured an array of creatives celebrating alternative narratives of age through creativity, querying, and rebelliousness.’  Creative Listening echoes those sentiments and explains why we are getting into a hot tub here in Cardiff, Wales.

I do not have a degree in Listening; I am not an expert in the field. But I am a human being — who has lived on this planet for 50+ years. For that reason alone, I believe that I and those others who fall into that broad category, have something to offer a conversation on listening.

To put a finer point on it, I have trained and studied performing arts and worked in the creative industries and the media throughout my life and career. Purposefully, I deconstructed Get The Chance’s activities and found creative listening rose to the top of our raw materials. The critiquing of and responding to Arts and Culture requires sharp and sensitive listening first and foremost.

We will be a gathering of human beings investing a few hours on a Saturday afternoon in September sitting in and around a hot tub exploring what creative listening means. I hope it doesn’t sound too banal. If it does sound banal to you, and you can’t be bothered to actually be there, perhaps you will check it out on the FB Live stream, and join us that way. That would be less of an investment in time and effort, so perhaps you will get something out of it via this alternative option.

I am excited by it. If you are excited by it, too, but cannot make it on the day, you can join us on the FB Live Stream, from anywhere. Hosted by Advantages of Age, the FB Live Stream will enable you to stay dry and still participate. Your contributions will be welcomed and valued, and our social media monitor will be sharing as many of your views as possible.

JOIN THE CREATIVE LISTENING FB PAGE AND WATCH FOR DETAILS ON HOW TO JOIN THE EVENT VIA LIVE STREAMING.

When I conceived of the idea for an event called Creative Listening, I thought I’d made the term up. I had no idea that there were so many different types of ‘listening’ out there, including ‘creative’, which had already been coined. ‘Creative’ I found was only one of a number of nouvelle and trendy labels for this very primitive activity. Other labels such as Deep Listening and Active Listening indicate that what might previously have been considered passive was being re-evaluated and now required energy, (the definition of active is ‘ready to engage in physically energetic pursuits’) and was making a profound impact (the definition of deep is ‘very intense or extreme’).

I was motivated by the amount of relevant material I was finding on this topic, and I knew that there was much to explore. Whilst working on the event, I was further motivated by the realisation that creative listening has a strong relevance to other themes I am inspired by and a synergy with other projects I am working on. If they are fusing together it has to be more than a coincidence. It is more likely because it is meant to be.

A final word about Get The Chance. I’ve really enjoyed and benefitted from being a Third Act Critic and being associated with Get The Chance for a number of years now. When I left my full-time career in the creative industries (for personal reasons) at the turn of the century, I did not realise it would be so difficult to return and especially to return with the status I had worked so hard to achieve. There is something very wonderful about being given a chance. There is something very powerful in a community-based social enterprise that supports you to get a platform to do what you really want to do. That there is a mutual benefit, and that the rewards are reciprocal, is even more rewarding.

Leslie R Herman
Producer
9 September 2017

Review Llechi, Pontio by Gareth Williams

(4 / 5)

 

Having missed it first time around, the chance to catch the restaging of Llechi seemed too good to miss. Originally performed as part of Pontio’s opening season, this eclectic mix of visual, musical and aerobatic art forms was a fascinating watch. It was engaging from start to finish, featuring a host of performers, all of whom played their part in making this a thoroughly enjoyable and captivating show. Despite its fluency in the Welsh language (with the exception of poet Martin Daws), I, a humble learner of the lingo, still managed to be entertained and entranced by the spectacle on offer. It was a delightful performance that offered plenty of emotion and a real sense of place.

Originally curated by alt-folk group 9Bach, the Welsh sextet returned to lead a talented cast in this fresh and innovative approach to storytelling. Taking us on a journey through the history, culture and traditions of the slate industry, this performance brought to life, in a new way, the story of local Welsh slate – the people, and the landscape. Full of experimental sounds and a mix of genres, it spans the centuries. This huge timescale is reflected in the song choices: from a spine-tingling rendition of Welsh hymn Dyma’r Gariad to the bass-fuelled beats of ‘90s rave music. There is no clash of musical styles here however. Instead, 9Bach have managed to create a very diverse yet complimentary soundtrack. The changes of tone, mood and tempo that take place throughout are at no point jarring. Instead, with help from the lighting, each transition is smooth and natural. It is something that could so easily have been a disaster. Here, though, it not only works well. It works incredibly well.

Alongside the musical prowess of 9Bach, choreographer Kate Lawrence and her team offered up some stunning physical performances in the air. It helped being seated on the lower balcony to watch these four talented dancers move across the auditorium. It was clear that many of their actions were reflecting the movements of quarrymen. But their pieces also featured an elegance that conveyed something of the local landscape too. Their graceful movements made for a mesmerising sight. But it also brought to mind, as a result, the ethereal and mythic quality of the mountains and the quarries. This was complimented perfectly, at one point in particular, by the hauntingly beautiful vocals of Lisa Jen Brown. Truly evocative, the backdrop of images that featured in the show were sometimes superfluous as a result. It was a strangely immersive experience.

I came away from Llechi desperate to buy the soundtrack. The music was wonderfully inspirational, eclectic and truly evocative of its Welsh setting. 9Bach have delivered a beautiful collaboration that is full of heart. It is a love story that awakens the senses and births a spirit of hope. It says that this land is not forgotten to another age. Instead, it evolves, becoming the place of the next generation who follow in the footsteps of their forbears whilst carving out new paths of their own. Sadly, the soundtrack isn’t available to buy (hint to anyone who may be able to change that.). Nevertheless, it will stick in my mind for a long time to come. Llechi is a truly memorable piece of contemporary Welsh art.

https://www.pontio.co.uk/Online/Default.asp

Review Celebration, Emergency Chorus, Theatr Clwyd by Bethany Maculay

L-R Ben Kulvichit and Clara Potter-Sweet in Celebration, performed at NSDF 2017 by Emergency Chorus

(4 / 5)

 

The initial moments of ‘Celebration’ are an obscure, wild, and dramatically unique combination of movement, dance and silly string. Ben Kulvichit and Clara Potter-Sweet exhibit both an outstanding mutual dynamic as well as a consistent youthful vivacity that was carried expertly throughout the (unfortunately brief) fifty-five-minute performance. I was so immensely impressed by their talents (varying from acting to accordion playing), that being reminded that they were merely students made me feel, in comparison, unaccomplished. I left the theatre feeling rather smug that I had witnessed an early performance of some potentially very successful future performers.

The production’s mixture of live music, electrifying dance and movement, as well as the profoundly effective drama, produced a poignant and evocative piece, that was nonetheless fun, vibrant, and an absolute pleasure to spectate. There was little pretence – most costume changes occurred on stage, and there was not a typically theatrical plot (really, it was rather Brechtian), but I felt consistently immersed in the poetic flow of each monologue and song, just as I would have done if this were a traditional piece. In fact, I am thoroughly relieved that these two young students so bravely dared to defy conventional theatre, and succeeded in delivering such an individual and positively eccentric performance. If this is where theatre is going, I’ll certainly continue to attend.

https://www.facebook.com/emergencychorus/

Celebration

 

An Interview with Campbell Lawrie, Paul Hamlyn Club Coordinator and Drama Class Supervisor at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

Hi Campbell Great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

My name is Campbell Lawrie and I am the Paul Hamlyn Club Coordinator and Drama Class Supervisor at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow. This is my ninth year with the company but have been working as the Paul Hamlyn Club Coordinator for the last three years.

The Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

http://www.citz.co.uk/about/paul_hamlyn_foundation/

So what got you interested in the arts ?
In first year of secondary school my English teacher thought drama and storytelling would help boost my confidence because at the time I was quite shy. Drama wasn’t a course that was offered at my school so my teacher helped me find courses across Ayrshire – where I’m originally from. As soon as I started performing I fell in love with bringing a story to life and witnessing the effect this can have on others. I was hooked after that and knew that I wanted to use theatre as a tool to change people’s lives.

You coordinate the Paul Hamlyn Club at The Citizens Theatre, Glasgow. Can you please tell us more about this initiative and your role?
The Citizens Theatre was very lucky to be one of five venues across Britain to be gifted a sum of money to identify and tackle the barriers that local, disadvantaged people may encounter when trying to access the arts.

Paul Hamlyn Clubs

My role is to coordinate the different strands of work we deliver in order to do this and also to create relationships with those affected. The role is very hands on. I regularly visit groups and their members in the local community and also welcome the individuals we engage with into the theatre and gain their feedback.

The Paul Hamlyn Foundation is funding the Paul Hamlyn Clubs to “Attract and build relationships with audiences from disadvantaged groups within their local communities.” How has your organisation approached this objective?
The Citizens Theatre was originally approached because of the amount of work we were already carrying out in the local community and across Glasgow. Using the gift we were able to refocus our efforts in attracting the local community to the theatre and there are currently four different strands of work under the Paul Hamlyn Club banner helping to achieve this objective. For those who live in Gorbals area of Glasgow, where the Citizens Theatre company has been based for the past 72 years, we offer heavily subsidised tickets to those who sign up to the Gorbals Card scheme.

http://www.citz.co.uk/about/gorbalscard/

The area is still one of the most heavily deprived areas of Scotland and ensuring our neighbours can attend our shows is our way of thanking those who have supported us over the years. We also run a Deaf Theatre Club working alongside Inkblot Collective to deliver an accessible programme for our Deaf audience and we work with two local schools to help engage a new generation of theatre goers.

http://www.citz.co.uk/Take_part/deaf_theatre_club/

The Paul Hamlyn Citizens is the fourth strand of work. This involves visiting local organisations and charities to discuss the barriers faced in accessing theatre and inviting them to join the PHCitizens to access tickets to shows throughout the year at 50p per ticket. Our PHCitizens ambassadors are always on hand during shows and events to answer any questions or queries those attending through the Paul Hamlyn Club may have.


Have your new audiences chosen to see any specific type of work at your venue?
We have learned that our new audiences are willing to engage with most types of work because they know they have nothing to lose through attending. Our new audiences see coming to the theatre as a social event more than anything and the shows, the free interval ice-creams, the post-show chats etc are all just added extras. There is an amazing atmosphere at Paul Hamlyn events as many stay behind to discuss the shows and this in turn helps create a larger community network. In saying this, comedies and musicals, especially if they are Scottish shows, prove to be more popular than most but Shakespeare, classics and new writing still appeal and have drawn in equally large numbers.

What impact has had this project in your venue had on the larger organisation?
The impact of the project can be seen across the organisation. Every department has been involved in its delivery in one way or another: backstage have provided talks and presentations, FOH ambassadors greet and welcome the wide range of new patrons who come through our doors and one of our box office assistants is even completing Level 3 BSL. Our community work which has been aided through Paul Hamlyn has also been recognised in helping secure some money for our Capital Project. Accessibility is always at the forefront of people’s minds and this has helped emphasise our stance that we are the Citizens Theatre – we exist for and because of Glasgow’s Citizens.

http://www.citz.co.uk/press/release/2.5_million_regeneration_capital_grant_fund_award_marks_new_milestone_in_ci/

In the current funding climate many venues and organisation have very limited budgets. Is it possible to share some of your learning that organisations could implement to support new audiences that doesn’t require large amounts of funding?
Funding obviously plays a huge part in making theatre accessible to all but small things like listening to your local community and sharing your resources/spaces with local organisations or individuals can help strengthen relationships. Finding out what your patrons want you to be and how else they would like to use the building is important in making the patrons feel comfortable in coming through the doors. An extension of this is having dedicated, friendly staff to welcome your new audience. We held an open day event, for example, to promote the theatre and our learning work to local, disadvantaged people.

We held workshops, talks and demonstrations throughout the building while outside a local band played and local organisations and businesses promoted their produce and work. The event cost very little because the local community were very generous in donating nearly everything we required and this in turn strengthened our network and individual relationships. I feel that a lot of the time people prefer putting names and faces to the organisation. Offering unsold tickets to your local contacts is also a good way to engage your new audience.

Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision In relation to your own project are you aware of any barriers for audiences to access cultural provision.
I think the barriers faced will vary greatly depending on where you are based. The Citizens Theatre is in a highly deprived area with an extremely diverse cultural background meaning we have encountered barriers such as language, affordability and childcare. Some people also feel intimidated entering a building they have only ever walked past or think it isn’t physically accessible. We have heard that a lot of people think theatre is elitist and “not for them”. Transport and programming also come up as common answers to what stops people coming along.
Thanks Campbell, finally some more personal questions. What excites you about the arts? What was the last really great cultural activity event that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

The cast of My Country with director Rufus Norris, gatherer Campbell Lawrie and some of the interviewees from Glasgow.

I genuinely get excited when a theatre show tackles social issues and politics head-on. Any piece of art that encourages debate or triggers a passionate response from its audience while also being entertaining has, in my eyes, achieved its goal. I was very lucky to have worked on the recent production of My Country by National Theatre. My role was to gather information from the Scottish people on their views on Brexit and the political climate following the Brexit vote. Listening to each person’s unique story on how they decided they were going to vote and knowing that snippets of these stories were going to heard by people all over Britain really excited me because the project, like the issue, encouraged debate but this time it was a debate between everyday people – not the media and not the politicians.

http://citizenstheatre.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/my-country-work-in-progress-divides.html

There is, on the other hand, one show that has stuck with me for ten years and remains my favourite piece of theatre – Headlong and Citizens Theatres production of Angels in America in 2007. I have no words to describe how that show made me feel but it did make me want to work at the Citizens Theatre. I guess in that way, that show changed my life.

https://headlong.co.uk/productions/angels-america/

http://www.citz.co.uk