Category Archives: Dance

Review of Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru at the WMC by Roger Barrington

(4.5 / 5)

 

It may seem a little incongruous to have a review about the Welsh National Eisteddfod  in English, but, I’m afraid that my best endeavours, (strike that – my lack of endeavour) fifty years ago, meant that I just managed to avoid being unclassified for my O’Level Welsh language examination.

In fact, I think the last time that I attended an Eisteddfod, I was actually taking part in it! I came third, (out of three) in the piano competition. I recall the adjudicator, a Mrs Ogwen Thomas  if my nightmarish memory serves me correctly,, summed up my playing by saying that it took her a while to recognise the piece I was playing.  So, there ended my budding concert recital career!

Being Welsh, you are always aware, when being out of your native country, of being The Other. Having lived two-thirds of my life to date outside of Wales, I have exploited that, both to my advantage and disadvantage.  So, I looked forward to attending the Welsh National Eisteddfod, which, this year is being held at and around the WMC in Cardiff, with great anticipation.

I was also a little apprehensive due to my concern about missing out on most of the activities, due to my lack of understanding Welsh.

My fears were allayed due to the presence of a desk in the foyer, that has free instant translators into English. However, this only works in The Pavilion, (Donald Gordon Theatre), but as all the major action occurs here, this is not a huge problem. And the instant translation works well.

In the three hours I sat here, I watched a huge diversity of competitions – vocal, recitation, instrument duo, instrument solo and dance. Of course, music transcends the difficulties of language, so I found this to be the most enjoyable events.

The talent on display was, at times, breathtaking. In the instrumental duo, I watched two cute little ten year old girl harpists in competition against two Royal College of Music student duos – twice their age! Naturally, they came third, but to be pitted against two highly accomplished duos from the RCM, and not be embarrassed, is an outstanding achievement – especially as one of the girls lives in Lampeter and the other in Cardiff, making practicing together a little awkward.

In the Blue Ribband event for under 16’s events, I saw four wonderful young musicians. Naturally I was drawn to the pianist, a twelve year old girl from Pontyclun, who played Scarlatti and then Bartok. Two vastly different pieces, and her maturity not only in technique, but also expression was awe-inspiring. A brilliant alto saxophonist, and a cellist who again played contrasting pieces, together with a talented trombonist completed the finalists. At the time of writing, I do not know who won this competition, but it was certainly going to be a tough decision by the team of adjudicators.

Monologues are translated into Welsh as well, so you can understand fully what is being said.

Added to all this, there are a number of other venues to visit, both inside and outside the venue.

There are a vast number of stalls present again, providing a real festive environment.

I took a look at the Welsh Books Council stall, and despite my intention not to add to my already burgeoning book collection, I came away with “The Hill of Dreams” by Welsh author Arthur Machen. The opening line goes, “There was a glow in the sky as if great furnace doors were opened”. Well, I can equate the glow to the Eisteddfod and the doors blown wide open, are those to my Welsh soul.

I invite you to rekindle your sense of Welsh identity, because, one thing that is clearly apparent is that the future of our culture is in assured hands.

Tickets, (remarkably good value for money), can be obtained at

https://www.wmc.org.uk/Productions/2018-2019/DonaldGordonTheatre/TocynDydddayticket/?view=Standard

NB. There is an abundance of events you can attend free.

Review Alternative Routes 2018, National Dance Company Wales by Helen Joy

 

Panopticon

I’m never quite sure what we are trying to say when it comes to our use of the internet.

And I’m none the wiser after this performance.

We dance around the issues of data-sharing and personal exposure. We dally with each other’s lives and throw our own out there into web-space without thought for the consequences.

We trip the light fantastic with our innermost secrets reluctantly and willingly bared.

This is elegant, cautious, a ripple of ideas from dancer to dancer. We give and we take, we argue and hide. We watch the interplay of give and take played out as always with beauty, story and perfect timing.

We watch two reluctant lovers forced together by circumstance and unavoidable magnetism progress into companionable partnership.

This philosophic performance makes me think: do we have a choice?

Clever, thoughtful, poetic.

All photography by Sian Trenberth, Panopitcon by Tim Volleman, Set & Costume: Sophie Wheelan, Lighting: Jose Tevar , Sound Design: Benjamin Smith, Composer: Trailand Elzorth. Dancers: Elena Sgarbi & Oliver Chapman

Un

Some people just make you wish you could be someone else, have someone else’s gifts – maybe just for a day.

This is clean, smart, strong. She stands confidently alone and accepts the challenges life brings.

I am agog at the power in this dance, this dancer. She is utterly beautiful and complete.

‘Un’ by Kat Collings , Set & Costume: Megumi Okazaki, Lighting: Jose Tevar , Sound Design: Benjamin Smith , Composer: Sylvia Villa , Dancer: Julia Reider

Ecrit

To my left is a choreographer and dancer and she says of this: they fly!

And fly they do.

This piece is the reason to follow this dance company, to follow dance, to sit here in the dark and let the lights and the simplicityof the stage capture you, to let the music touch you and the movements of the dancers feed your soul.

The love in this dance makes me cry. This feels as if it has been born perfect, perfection born of two imperfect creatures in a story of passion and pain.

“Truth is, so great, that I wouldn’t like to speak, or sleep, or listen, or love. To feel myself trapped, with no fear of blood, outside time and magic, within your own fear, and your great anguish, and within the very beating of your heart. All this madness, if I asked it of you, I know, in your silence, there would be only confusion. I ask you for violence, in the nonsense, and you, you give me grace, your light and your warmth. I’d like to paint you, but there are no colors, because there are so many, in my confusion, the tangible form of my great love. ”  Diego Riviera

I see this piece again and again behind closed eyes and relive it best I can.

To my right, the costumier says, however many times I see this it will not be enough. I agree.

‘Ecrit’ by Nikita Goile, Set & Costume: Erty Huang, Lighting: Jose Tevar , Sound Design: Benjamin Smith , Composer: Florencia Alen
Dancers: Nikita Goile & Cyril Durand-Gasselin

Why Are People Clapping

Because they are having fun!

Slapping, clapping, rollicking dance as a lively contrast to the soul-searching we have enjoyed before.

I find this hard on my ears and squint back at the stage, recoiling slightly at the noise. It is such a shock! The rhythm of life beats and the audience laughs and we pull faces back at the dancers’comic turns.

This feels like an exercise, an exploration – a start to something this extraordinary company of dancers will see through in its own way and I very much look forward to seeing it too.

‘Why Are People Clapping?’ by Ed Myhill,Set & Costume: Elin Steele, Lighting: Jose Tevar, Sound Design: Benjamin Smith , Dancers: Julia Reider, Kat Collings, Tim Volleman, Elena Sgarbi & Oliver Chapman

A wonderful series of pieces – I left exhausted and elated.

#altroutes18

alt-ROUTES

7 – 9 June 2018

Seen: 8 June

National Dance Company Wales

Dance & Design from Cardiff’s emerging artists

Dance House, Wales Millennium Centre

Panopticon

Choreographer – Tim Volleman

Dancers – oliver Chapman & Elena Sgarbi

Un

Choreographer – Kat collings

Dancer – Julia Reider

Ecrit

Choreographer – Nikita Goile

Dancers – Nikita goile & Cyril surand-gasselin

Why Are People Clapping

Choreographer – Ed Myhill

Dancers – Julia Reider, Kat Collings, Tim Volleman elenaSgarbi, Oliver Chapman

Helen Joy

Review: Archetypical, The Gate Arts Centre by Luke Seidel-Haas

Image result for cardiff fringe archetypical

★★★☆☆

Devised by students at University of Wales Trinity St David’s, Archetypical is a promenade performance which aims to tackle 21st century representations of women by exposing the historical archetypes by which women were defined – The Saint, The Martyr, The Witch and The Whore. Powerfully performed by Niamh Provan and Syamala Skinner, the piece is an engaging, humorous and thought provoking look at the female form. Archetypical a part of the “Fringe Labs” thread of Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival, meaning it is a work in progress and will be reviewed as such. Any criticism will aim to be constructive to allow the company an opportunity to improve their work.

Starting off in the main bar area of The Gate, Niamh and Syamala enter the space and abruptly stand on their heads. Legs open and in the air, the pair chastise each other  for not being able to close their legs and not be able to pose in a “ladylike” manner.  Before long we are whisked away by Syamala who invites us upstairs to view a house viewing. Escorted upstairs and into the main auditorium of The Gate, we are then introduced to the property for sale – Niamh. Syamala describes each part of Niamh’s body as if it were a house, using innuendo laden metaphors. The meaning behind this is clear – we are being shown the ways in which women’s bodies are reduced to their mere functions such as their ability to bear children or run a household.

As the piece progresses we see in turn a catwalk, an auction house and a witch hunt. Each is presented by the two performers with structured interactions between themselves and the audience. Often these segments are absurd and funny – a section in which the audience bids for Syamala’s body parts is ludicrous. Yet it suddenly hits home that the auction is highlighting the objectification of the female body and the complicity that people have in this. As a promenade piece of work it works relatively well – arguably the show is not site specific as it could be easily adapted to a variety of different spaces and does not necessarily integrate fully into the specifics of the space. The show may well have worked just as well in the single performance space of the main Auditorium. Having said that, both performers were adept at shepherding and interacting with the audience in the welcoming yet firm style needed to ensure the audience go where needed.

The movement of both performers was engaging and confidently executed, and generally fitted well with the text used. At times these could have been further integrated by combining movement and text in a more fluid manner. While this may have been a challenge based on the movements the performers were , the use of recorded audio could have added further layers to the piece. Each section of the piece was cleverly structured and the use of humour allowed  the audience to engage on a lighter level with the themes, perhaps before realising the meaning behind it. Archetypical cleverly weaves themes of female objectification, submission and the saint/whore dichotomy into a well performed and dynamic piece. An interesting concept, brimming with potential for development and powerfully executed by both performers.

Archetypical

Physical Theatre/Dance

The Gate Arts Centre

14th June 2018

Directed by Thania Acaron

Performed by  Niamh Provan and Syamala Skinner

Part of the Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival – more information and tickets here.

 

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting, sunglasses and indoor

Luke Seidel-Haas

Review: ‘People – Picture – Power – Perception’ by Gareth Ford-Elliott

(3 / 5)

 

With ‘People – Picture – Power – Perception’ (PPPP), Avant Cymru set out to explore what Welsh Hip-Hop theatre is and to showcase the hip-hop talents of Wales at the Chapter Arts Centre as part of the 2018 Cardiff Fringe Theatre Festival.

As the title suggests, the piece portrays people, gives them the platform to show their picture, which gives them the power to change the perception surrounding hip-hop. In the mainstream, hip-hop is portrayed as specifically rap with themes of drugs and gangs. A major worry when attending this performance was that it would be too much like this. I have had experiences with Welsh hip-hop before and it has been limited to that field.

However, Avant Cymru do not fall into this trap. If you’re not aware, allow me to give a very brief history and explanation of hip-hop culture. Hip-hop culture consists of four main art forms known as the four pillars of hip-hop; emceeing/MCing (rapping/singing/spoken word), DJing (beat production, beat-freestyling, beat-boxing), breaking/break-dancing and graffiti art. It started in New York and has grown into the one of the biggest art movements in the world.

Jonzi D, a pioneer of hip-hop theatre, was told at his dance school, “Hip-Hop is not valuable for the theatre,” before going on to define what British hip-hop theatre is, with the help of people like Akala who created the Hip-Hop Shakespeare company. And now, we have Avant Cymru attempting to do the same in Wales, with specifically Welsh artists, Welsh voices and Welsh themes.

Starting with the DJing, mostly produced by Jamey P, the beats used for ‘PPPP’ are exceptional. The production is one of the outstanding elements of the show. The production always fits, sounds incredible and even when left to stand alone is enjoyable.

Beatbox Hann performs his championship-winning beatboxing skills very well. His accolades and CV speak for themselves, but here he showcases real talent. Understanding when to blend into the background and when to come to the forefront.

The stand-out section of the show is a piece between Hann and breaker, Bboy Flexton (James Berry). It starts with Flexton sat at a table, whilst Hann starts creating a beat with his vocal chords. He mixes this together on what appears to be an MPC of sorts, so each sound loops and eventually builds into a beat. Eventually, Hann turns the beat off and starts beatboxing on his own.

Whilst this happens, Flexton starts to break into a dance. At first it isn’t exactly clear what is going on but as the dance progresses we see Flexton appear to hold a gun to his head before wrestling it away. This collaboration of beatboxing and breaking works very well and appears to portray a kind of suppression of violent outburst and possibly suicidal thoughts. It certainly would be interesting to see a slightly extended version of this.

Moving onto the breaking, and Flexton pops up again, portraying an aggressive nature. However, Flexton is the only breaker that seems to portray a specific type of character. This is not a fault of the breakers themselves, at different times they all proved themselves to be talented dancers. It is more a fault in the choreography and direction of the show. The expression could have been more clear at times. It will certainly be interesting to see the difference between this show and Avant Cymru’s upcoming ‘Blue Scar’, another hip-hop theatre show with more of a set story.

The emceeing is of a very good standard. Occasionally repetitive, but very good at getting the point across. Rufus Mafasa, Maple Struggle and Jamey P all perform well. The themes do jump around a little bit, but the lyrical content, delivery and flow are all strong. The highlight is Maple Struggle’s song, Quit Mooching, which starts with Maple Struggle getting left with the bill after a date before breaking out into a song about his perception of how some women will use men as well as general materialism.

The graffiti used in the performance is minimal. The piece as a whole could really capitalise on the art form better. There is a stylistic writing of the piece’s title on a screen off to the right of the stage and on a screen at the back of the stage, at times are pictures and moving pictures of graffiti. However, even sitting at the front it was hard to make out exactly what the graffiti was and certainly wasn’t used as well as it can be. The simple set worked well, but could do with more graffiti.

The main theme of the show is gender which is explored thoroughly. Toxic masculinity is portrayed particularly well by Bboy Flexton with the aggression as well as suicidal thoughts. An issue very specific to toxic masculinity and very important in the South Wales region. Rufus Mufasa also had powerful moments of feminist lyricism and generally portrayed herself as a powerful woman. Some of the breaking could be more clearly focused on this theme.

As far as is it worth seeing? Yes, it is worth seeing. It’s not the most rehearsed piece of hip-hop theatre or the most concise. But in terms of exploring what Welsh hip-hop theatre is, it is pioneering. If you’re a fan of or are involved in hip-hop then definitely see this if Avant Cymru ever bring it back. If you’re not into hip-hop, then I recommend seeing this for a positive introduction to hip-hop.

After the show there was a bit of a freestyle from those involved and some from the audience and the feel of community this gave off was beautiful. As a hip-hop fan, it was great to see the true power of hip-hop community shine bright.

As this was a once-performed show with no known future dates, go and check out Blue Scar by Avant Cymru at the Park & Dare Theatre in Treorchy on July 12th and 13th and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Much of the same cast will be involved and the preview they gave at the end was very good.

Info:
People – Picture – Power – Perception’
Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff
31st May 2018
By Avant Cymru
Directed and Choreographed by: Rachel Pedley, Tommy Boost and Jamie Berry.
Music From: Maple Struggle, Rufus Mufasa and Jamey P.
Set Designed by: Unity (Amelia Thomas).
Breakers/Dancers: Rachel Pedley, Bboy Flexton, Tommy Boost and special guests (uncredited).

Review by: Gareth Ford-Elliott

An Interview with Aleksandra (Nikolajev) Jones

The director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Aleksandra (Nikolajev) Jones. They discussed her background and training,  a current project Gravida and her thoughts on the arts in Wales.

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

Hi there and thank you for having me! I am a Serbian, Welsh Choreographer, Director and Producer based in Cardiff. I am the mother of Ilija 20, Mina 18 and Mirjana,  6 years old. You can find out more about me and my work here.  

So what got you interested in the arts?

I was classically ballet trained from an early age. When I was 9, I was accepted to the National Ballet and Music School and my love for dance just became my main focus.  For the last 28 years I have been lucky to work with artists from all around the world.  They continue to make my creative journey and who I am now. I am still learning!

The Gravida Project which you are currently Directing and Producing centres on inviting pregnant dancers to explore their inner and outer creativity to produce a full length piece for stage. Can you give us some background information on how this project first developed?

In 2012 I arrived in Wales and I fell pregnant for the third time. OOOPs, this was not part of the plan! I needed to stop again and at the same time I was absolutely delighted by this new person in my life. In every one of my pregnancies, I was feeling different but rather then drained and tired, I was focusing on the creativity and possibilities of my new body and connection with a new baby.

I had a strong vision that I should work with pregnant dancers, and pregnant communities. I started to  investigate more about motherhood, families using the medium of dance, theatre, creative/mindful movement and film.

Tanja Råman and Lara Ward rehearse Gravida. Photo: L M H C

This is how Gravida Project was born, supported by Art Council Wales and surrounded by amazing artists and communities. You can find out more details at www.gravidaproject.org.uk and join us on this creative journey!

Gravida opens ways in which pregnancy can be better incorporated professionally and celebrated universally in the form of dance. What response have had from the dance sector to this innovative project?

To be honest, it is not easy to find professional pregnant dancers, but on the other hand we are having a huge response from artists who are mothers already. At the and of the day we all came from the womb and we have got the memories from the water/womb, hidden and invisible, birth and breath, life and death.

I believe that “invisible and visible worlds” are meeting in this project and giving us the opportunity to open up questions about existence, life, our wellbeing and how all of it impacts on future generations.

The Pregnant female is increasingly visible in popular culture from Annie Leibovitz’s, Vanity Fair cover image of Demi Moore to Beyonce’s use of Instagram to announce pregnancy and subsequent birth. Is similar visible change taking place in the dance sector?

When we started the women in pregnancy project 7 years ago, the pregnant body was not in the media at all, and I feel it is still not in capacities that it should be. Our main aim is to open more platforms for mother artists, pregnant artists, mothers, single mothers, any females to continue to create during and after pregnancy and to see pregnancy and this “new body” – “the body gravida” more as a challenge rather the obstacle.

What are your long term plans for this project?

The long term plan is to open the platform for professionals and communities. To meet and discuss about the diverse aspects of taking care of OUR physical, mental and emotional states. Using creative art to express, exchange and share to support each other, to ultimately  connect and communicate better.

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?

Gravida Project is the project of The Republic of the Imagination, Registered Charity and we are aware that Pregnancy and Maternity are one of the most important parts of Equality and Diversity Act in Wales. Gravida Project creatives and collaborators are from Wales, Serbia, Trinidad and Tobago, Netherlands, Bali – Indonesia, Slovenia, Poland, Finland, Scotland, Canada, France, Swaziland and South Africa.

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

Mother Artists and Family Projects.

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

I am excited by artists here and I am part of the diverse networks. I feel Wales is my home and we are doing a lot at the moment, also we can do even more TOGETHER.

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

I would like to be more specific with this answer but at the same time I would like to share this:

My very last experience that I would like to share with you is the strong feeling of freedom to express, my personal appreciation to be here and witness the Creative Art of Wales with creative people.

Thanks for your time Aleksandra

A response to Casgliad 2018 – Nurturing Youth Arts in Wales By Beth Clark

I am going to explore with you the invaluable discoveries and perspective gained from participating in the YANC event held at the Wales Millennium Centre over last weekend.

Firstly, a massive thank you to YANC and Get the Chance for the opportunity to be part of this event. Ground breaking engagements are being made by YANC with a diverse scope of arts practitioners and young people of today pushing boundaries in delivering up to date masterclasses, whilst providing and facilitating the relaxed and required networking opportunities. I loved the fact that YANC seemed to be almost inclusively driven by what the Youth want out of these sorts of occasions, with lots of brain storming and idea throwing activities around.

As soon as, I walked in, I was greeted by Sarah  Jones, YANC network’s Chair and artistic director for Mess Up the Mess. Sarah kindly told me exactly what was going on and where. A welcome pack was provided in English and Welsh, this included the days schedule where you would choose what masterclasses you wanted to attend which was also sent by email prior, a feedback pull-out, a substantial list of delegates names, company and their email was provided (invaluable data!), when your wish to pursue contact with people that you have met. This handy touch further enables the networking continuing process, after the event, something that is sometimes missed at previous events similar to YANC’s.

The types of delegate in attendance

There were various freelancer’s in attendance, dramaturgs’ and performers’ from many companies and practitioners, many having toured throughout the UK, ladies from SPARC theatre and Valley Kids, Various personnel from Mess up the Mess Theatre, tutors from CAVC and RCT, Flossy and Bo, Opera Sonic, Rawfest, Ethnic minorities and youth support, Team Wales (EYST), Narbeth Youth Theatre, Wales Millennium Centre, 20 stories High, Circus practitioners, Theatre Na nOg, Jukebox collective, Young Identity, Common Wealth theatre, and Paper trail.

I especially enjoyed my chats with a young man called EZ Rah, a Cardiff based Mike Controller, who has recently won an award for his contribution in attendance at Jason Camilleri’s Radio Platform held at the Millennium Centre and that was launched last year. It was also good to see, such a myriad of people from all over Wales and even outside of Wales enjoying and interacting creatively.

Masterclasses

Young Identity

Young Identity is Led by outstanding facilitators, versatile poets and established spoken word performers. Shirley A May @thegirldreams is one of the founders of Young Identity, someone who I found talks deeply from the heart.

It was herself, her daughter, practitioner and spoken word artist Nicole May and Reece Williams, an artist development advocate and one of BBC1 Extras Words First Finalists, that delivered to the group.

The session starts with interactive word, action and mind play. “Hulla hulla Dance, Dance – Hoop, Dance. It was extremely interactive with competitions from the offset. After all that dancing about and whilst our adrenaline was pumping, they asked us to talk about our life stories. They used their own life experiences to encourage people talk about theirs. “Today I was feeling” and you were then asked to write for 5 minutes about this. Some were spoken aloud, then significant sentences were drawn out, through a thought provoking process they taught. “Cloudy with a chance of rain” and, “I often get nervous around people, but I love them”, were proudly spoken by others. Many other practical skills and ways of creating structured poems in the conventional and un-conventional ways were explored and I ended up coming away feeling I could literally carry on with the process they taught and explore the whole concept a lot more having been in attendance.

Shirley May talked about visiting Picasso’s house in Malaga and the journey that Picasso took to get to the end art product and breaking form. She said Art; whether, it’s in written form or whether its structured to everyone’s approval or not, it is about developing but not discarding the old forms and the characterized elements like rhyme, line length, and metrical pattern.

Young Identity encouraged participants to always read; whatever that may be. To push yourself to overcome barriers, stance and with practice how, power can come through your body. The no disclaimer policy whereby you are not allowed to say anything to support or condemn your own words before talking. This is great because it encourages equal levels when delivering this art form. Another thought concept noted, “Is it even a poem, if we cannot hear you speak it?” Reece Williams told us that we could click our fingers also known as snapping, instead of clapping our appraisals and that this is becoming more and more popular in today’s culture.

Young Identity is part of the Frankfurt International school, but sadly has had their funding cut recently from the government. For me an absolute shame, as the work they are doing as like YANC and Common Wealth Theatre needs to be done.

Common Wealth Theatre

Common Wealth make site-specific and award-winning theatre events that encompass electronic sound, new writing, visual design and verbatim. Their work is political and contemporary – based in the present day – the here and now. Described by Lyn Gardner from the Guardian, “a company that bursts open our consciousness”, a statement, I wholly agree with.

Facilitating this event was the absolute amazing Rhiannon White. Rhiannon is the co-founder and co-artistic director of Common Wealth and a Cardiff local. I received an outstanding energy from Rhiannon and the depth of her work is liberating. This part of the day is where I felt I was intensively challenged positively, enforcing collectiveness and the freedom of individual thought. Rhiannon did this well, by firstly asking us to speak to people and tell them random things about yourself, what we are most proud of etc. Before I knew it there was fully grown and smaller humans of all walks of life, dancing around imitating Body Builders, their Fathers after a few, and people in-love.!

It was hilarious, but a respected art form at the same time. Jumping back into the thought pool you were asked to write down three things to do with each thought induced subject. The subjective answers of individuals were then placed into a centred bundle, we talked about these, using different forms of expression, whether voice, movement or complete silence. The range of ways that you could respond in felt like art in present and was moving, emotional and sometimes philosophical.

Rhiannon talked about her projects, what she feels about theatre and how we can all be a part of it. WOW is a festival that celebrates the achievements of woman and girls, also looking at the obstacles woman face across the world. They are holding think in sessions and big public planning meetings starting Wednesday 2nd May at Butetown community centre and around Cardiff at various locations over the period of four days. I would highly recommend attending one of these sessions, which are open to everyone, woman, men, girls and boys.

Last but not least

The YANC Meeting

The very important YANC meeting took place, minutes were provided and accounts. Why did this happen at the networking event? I was thinking this at first then it come to me. If you are going to buy a membership and invest in this group, then surely you would want to know where the money is going? It was a brilliant way of demonstrating just how much work and support is provided. Also, how most of the work done is voluntary, reflecting just how much this group wants to help the youth sector.   There is to be a lot of role swapping and the inclusion of new people this year which is hoped to bring for new and exciting projects. YANC will be supporting RawFfest this year and planning more Casgliad events.

Overview

I need to be honest and give you how I saw attending this event from my very personal view. I had been looking forward to this event for weeks, but I suffer with acute anxiety. My anxiety stopped me from attending the first day as I hadn’t been to this sort of event for some time, I felt I was totally out of the loop, but with help from the fantastic Guy O’Donnell, I attended Sunday and I am elated from the experience. My barriers were instantly broken down, I was enjoying myself, learning, laughing, meeting new people and wondering why the heck I was scared to go in the first place. So, If you are reading this and you too, have anxiety, about these sorts of events, then get in touch with YANC because these meetings are so inclusive, down to earth and real in approach you will worry about nothing and instead be in one creative bubble to the next. They also offer support and membership through email and social media interaction and one to one meets if necessary as well as these fabulous events.

Beth Clark

Review Northern Ballet’s Jane Eyre, New Theatre Cardiff By Barbara Hughes-Moore

It’s always a treat when the Northern Ballet comes to Cardiff, and it’s been a privilege to indulge in the artistry of their past productions that include the lovely likes of  CleopatraBeauty and the Beast, and Casanova. But their production of Jane Eyre, currently on its UK tour, is an utterly breath-taking feast for the eyes, ears and emotions that simply must be seen.

Based on the classic novel by Charlotte Brontë, the ballet follows the traumatic, and eventually triumphant tale, of our titular heroine as she navigates a wearying world of romance, mystery, drama and deceit. The story has been retold time and time again across a myriad of mediums, so what could possibly set this version apart?

My question was answered as soon as curtain rose. Cathy Marston has choreographed and conceptualised this show to perfection, delicately maintaining an admirable faithfulness to the source material whilst developing a distinct, innovative edge to the newest telling of this transcendent tale, from imaginative staging to exciting choreography. (The most striking scene for me was when a row of headstones glided into view, from which ghostly figures emerged to taunt a young Jane as she visited her parents’ grave – such Gothic touches had me giddy with glee). Every single dancer – principal, soloist and ensemble alike – brought their A game, from the joyously carefree Adela to the sternly solemn St John and the sadistic Mrs Reed, but I have to shout out to the particular performers who carried the singular burden of portraying their exceptionally complex, flawed and iconic characters with seeming ease and natural elegance.

Our titular heroine is always tricky to adapt from the page to the visual medium due to the fact that she is largely introspective;  though wildly passionate within, Jane’s emotions are often compressed and concealed behind a calm, collected facade. Ayami Miyata is completely heartbreaking as a young Jane, expressing both her overwhelming despair and her iron will in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and corrupt authority figures. Because of this we understand how Jane became the person she is in adulthood, with each emotional scar and every sorrow-honed trait being beautifully portrayed by Abigail Prudames. As Jane forges her own identity through torment and toil, Prudames encapsulates the character’s growing sense of self, strength and independence with every expressive movement.

Jane’s love, Edward Rochester, is also troublesome to translate because he is, in technical terms, what we literary folk like to refer to as a ‘hot mess’. But Mlindi Kulashe was more than equal to the task, inhabiting both of these elements of Rochester’s personality with effortless grace, and completely embodying the character from the moment he strode onto the stage. Thorny and thoughtful, alluring and angsty, Kulashe’s painstakingly detailed performance conveyed every gamut of Rochester’s being from his swaggering imperiousness to his surprising tenderness, and his chemistry with Prudames is palpable. Every stage of their relationship feels simultaneously real and magical, from tentative interest and aching frustration, to its beautiful fulfilment and the inevitable fallout. Their intricate, instinctive and incredible performances anchor the entire show, and their dances were the standout moments in a production positively brimming with gorgeous choreography.

As ballet is a dialogue-free medium, it’s down a heady mix of the dancers’ expressive movements and the skill of the orchestra to convey the high, complex emotions of the story being told. Live music has no equal in this regard, and Philip Feeney’s sumptuous, near-supernatural score, performed live by the incredible Northern Ballet Sinfonia supplanted the need for dialogue and beautifully complemented the action taking place onstage. Similarly, lighting is largely a thankless task, because it’s only generally noticed if it’s very good or very bad. Thankfully this ballet boasts the former, with the wonderfully expressive lighting enhancing the nuance of emotions at play and complementing the dancing and music in lieu of words.

And because a doubles PhD researcher gotta double, allow me to enthuse about how deftly themes of duality, also inherent in the text, were woven into this production. After the prologue, in which a traumatised, wandering Jane is found and cared for by St John Rivers and his sisters, Jane looks melancholically into the middle distance as her younger self appears on stage; we know it is her because the adult Jane mimics her past self’s movements as if in a mirror, or a memory. Later, when Jane finds herself in the direst of straits, she sees her young self again, a memory that mocks and offers no comfort, merely a reminder of her misfortunes. The scariest, most unsettling moment occurs when Bertha, Jane’s foil and spectral double, duplicates Jane’s movements as if she is indeed her shadow, demonically illuminated behind a curtain as the fire she started burns behind them.

Mariana Rodrigues gives a cunning, characterful performance as the first Mrs Rochester, and she and Mlindi Kulashe wonderfully convey the characters’ strange, spiky history. Happily, then, that Bertha has a more active, present role than her book counterpart, literally haunting the characters as a living spectre, a revenant in a red dress. In a daring, active change from the book, this version of Bertha breaks out of the attic to crash the wedding, giving her more agency and expression than her novel counterpart. At one point, Rochester and Bertha resemble Gone with the Wind’s Rhett and Scarlett down to the clothes and the burning background, though their interpersonal connection is even more tangled and twisted than Margaret Mitchell’s selfish star-crossed lovers.

Themes of mental health, present in the original text, are also deeply entrenched in this version, perhaps most notably through Bertha, who’s often crudely and cruelly referred to as ‘the madwoman in the attic’. Bertha acts as a lens through which to analyse the period’s struggle to understand issues of mental health issues  (something which, along with the postcolonial context, is explored further by Jean Rhys’ ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’). Jane is periodically plagued by physical manifestations of her inner maladies, in the form of grey-clad dancers who pull and poke and prod at her. Are they spectres of Jane’s past, an externalisation of her depression? Perhaps they insidious angels, or vindictive demons? At first I wondered if they personified the windswept moors, the Gothic landscapes that so inspired the Brontë sisters. But above all I viewed them as the cruel hands of fate, dragging Jane inexorably from one unfortunate event to the next in her sorrow-saturated life.

At the end, Jane extricates herself from Rochester’s loving arms, but she isn’t leaving him; her ending the play standing alone and apart embodies the notion that this is Jane’s story. She has found a purposeful, fulfilling life as well as a partner and an equal – possessing both the independence and companionship she has long craved, and proving without doubt that those things are not mutually exclusive. I did miss some iconic scenes from the book, such as Jane and Rochester’s dramatic anti-meet cute in the forest, and the burning of the wedding dress; though both would be tricky to recreate, and also proved unnecessary in an already packed production that fully captured the soul of the story.

Haunting, harrowing yet hopeful, Jane Eyre’s story remains as relevant to us now as it ever did. Northern Ballet’s adaptation weds faithfulness with innovation in an enchanting adaptation of a timeless story that will linger long after the final curtain.

Audio Description for Welsh Dance with Owen Pugh

The Director of Get The Chance Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to meet with actor, facilitator and audio describer Owen Pugh. We discussed his career to date, recent audio description training with Coreo Cymru for The Family  Dance Festival and his thoughts on the arts in Wales. 

You can listen to this interview through the sound file below

Hi can you please tell us a little about yourself and your practice?

Hello! Right, well I am an actor and facilitator based in North Wales, originally from Penarth, via London now living with my family in Mold. I’ve been a performer for quite a few years now and worked on numerous theatre tours, film as well as radio and voice over. As a facilitator I’ve worked with young people on various topics as well as in more corporate environments.

You have recently received audio description training from Dr Louise Fryer, BBC Radio 3 Presenter and Audio Describer, and Anne Hornsby of Mind’s Eye, both pioneers in UK audio description as part of the Family Dance Festival. The training was organised by Carole Blade, Creative Producer for Dance in Wales with Coreo Cymru. Can you give us more information on this training?

Certainly, well I heard about the training after going to Taking Flight’s ‘Breaking out of the Box’ symposium at Theatre Clwyd a couple of months ago and I jumped at the opportunity. The theme of the symposium was Access and how can access across the board be improved by the industry in Wales. Audio Description was brought up in the conversation briefly along with many other access issues. I’ve always had an interest in radio drama and have done a couple of radio plays myself, that I was really intrigued by the idea of potentially using skills I have as an actor and applying them to a role I didn’t know too much about. We started with introductions meeting Louise, Anne and Carole, from whom I heard of the training via her company Coreo Cymru. We then flew into the training, learning about various sight afflictions and what effect the have; to get an understanding of how vast and varied the pool of people are who require AD services. We also discussed the possibility of how you could incorporate AD into a performance, making it more of a fluid form of access, which really appealed to myself. We learnt about scripting the action; this was particularly hard in the medium of dance as it is so visual that you feel you are describing absolutely everything. Through the company’s dress rehearsals you’re looking out for everything; subtle movements or the environment or specific dance moves. It was incredibly challenging, yet highly rewarding.

We then took part in a seminar where we heard from representatives from the Cardiff Institute for the Blind about their experiences; positive and not so positive, in theatres and other cultural venues across Wales. As well as hearing from Megan Merrett from HYNT who represent Welsh cultural venues that push for better access in their buildings as well as getting people who have additional access needs into cultural venues. It was particularly key to hear from the people who actually use this service, I definitely picked up some good tips! On the final day we took a performance each and Audio Described the whole piece. It felt great to be chucked in at the deep end, you really learn to understand the challenges that are faced in a live performance. The whole process was really rewarding, it has definitely encouraged me to explore AD as a career path, I’ll definitely be looking for future opportunities.

Prior to this did you have any knowledge of audio description for theatre/dance?

Very, very basic. As I mentioned before it was briefly mentioned in the symposium I attended earlier in the year. I have also seen it is available to use at numerous cinemas as well as TV channels and streaming services, but hadn’t much prior knowledge of it in regard to live performing art at all.

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?

Speaking from experience I have seen first hand at castings the lack of diversity, or perceived lack of diversity and equality. It’s a hard industry to get seen for projects in general: work is of a premium. I feel gatekeepers at organisations have the biggest responsibility to how wide they spread their nets, as well as more encouragement from producers to new writers that demonstrate something that represents the wonderful diversity that is available in Wales so that their voices are heard in the places that matter. And I really hope we are seeing a shift toward that.

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

I would give it to the Arts Council and encourage them to back every company that has strong beliefs in promoting their work in communities all over Wales, not just the popular spots!

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

It is a forever growing menagerie of talent across the board. Such brilliant new writing, acting and directing. Such exceptional theatres and companies producing top quality, award winning work. We are pretty spoiled really!

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

‘Black Men Walking’ was a brilliant piece of theatre from Eclipse Theatre Company that I saw at Theatr Clwyd, a bold and diverse piece that struck you in your soul. A great mix of storytelling, music, rhythmic poetry. Loved it.

There will be Audio Description at The Family Dance Festival at the Wales Millennium Centre on Saturday the 14th April.

Audio Described performances and Touch Tours Sat 14 April @ 12.15 for Welsh show and 15.45 English show.

Welsh language taster workshop led by Cêt Haf, (S4C’s Nansi in Follow M) following the 12:30 shows each day.