Category Archives: Dance

The Radical Freedom of Rosalind Crisp – Interviewed by Eva Marloes

Rosalind Crisp, a world-renown dancer and choreographer, is at Chapter Arts Centre preparing for her performance Unwrapping Danse. She is originally from Australia, where she is active in raising awareness on the environmental catastrophe of the deforestation of the bushes. She divides her time between Australia and Europe, especially France where she has been awarded the highest recognition in the country as Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres. She is generous with her time and allows us to have a long discussion on her approach to dance.   

Crisp’s approach to dance is a radical awareness of one’s body and one’s movement. It requires rigorous and lengthy training to undo what the body has learned over the years. All our bodies learn movement, which becomes habitual and unchallenged. Some of us find themselves stuck with bad posture, shallow breathing, or stiff muscles. It takes training to undo the bad habits. For dancers, it is the dance training that becomes habitual and impedes development artistically but also personally. A culture of dancing as perfecting a technique means the dancer will never be good enough. It is a culture of lack.

Crisp explains,

“the training in dance is part of the education paradigm we know in schools where you’re constantly trying to get better, not quite good enough, even when you get really good. … Classical ballet which is where I started is really embedded in that culture of lack, you’re always in a relationship of lack. You never actually get there. This has huge impact on the identity of the dancer. It’s very hard to find your way in dance because it’s uncomfortable and people who dance feel insecure because they’re not good enough. … I think it was partly to do with dealing with that, that turned me away from set movements.” 

Crisp focuses on paying close attention to what the body does without us being conscious of it. She is interested in the dancers’ attention to their own bodies and their decision-making in how they choose the next movement. She began with herself, observing and challenging her movements and how she chose movements. She says,

“I trained myself to pay attention. The training is in the attention to where things are emerging in the body, what’s already emerging, especially in the beginning of movement,” she moves her arm as she says so. She says, “I’m more and more interested in what produces a movement than the movement itself.”

I suggest that it’s a bit like meditation. It’s a ‘mindful movement.’

“Paying attention,” Crisp says, “It’s not natural movement. It’s two things: it’s a lot of rigorous work of what compositional choices are available, how fast that moves, how much tension or tone is in that, how much space, which body parts are involved and which aren’t.”

Crisp wanted to shake off the history of dance training, which establishes patterns of movements in the body of dancers. 

She says,

“They start to do this movement and you know where it’s gonna go. It’s gonna go to there because the body remembers, like I know how to pick up a sandwich and eat it. … There’s a lot of alertness to the decision-making that is historical or embedded and unquestioned. There’s a constant kind of negotiation. Sometimes that needs softness and support because it’s a very strong, you said that before, mind…?”

“Mindful,” I say, “like in meditation. When you meditate you observe the thoughts in your mind and become aware of them and their patterns.” She tells me,

“it’s about degrees of awakeness to the potential for any part of the body anytime to initiate [movement].”

Then she says something beautiful. She says,

“I think the body is an orchestra not an instrument. Every bit has the capacity to being engaged and they all need to be on standby all the time.” Making the body an orchestra requires paying attention. It’s not letting go, but rigorous observation and training.”

She says,

“It’s not natural movement. It’s two things: it’s a lot of rigorous work of what compositional choices are available, how fast that moves, how much tension or tone is in that, how much space, which body parts are involved and which aren’t.”

She tells me that she tries to put her choreographic mind in the background so that she can pay attention to what’s emerging in the body. She says,

“There’s a sort of decolonising the choreography’s dominance telling the dancer what to do, my choreography. I try to reverse it.”

I suggest that it is a form of authenticity, an awareness of conditioning and the search for something of value. She is not having it. It’s all trickery, she says, but to me her effort to become deeply aware of the body and learned movement resonates with existentialist philosophy and Crisp herself is strikingly authentic. However, I’m conscious that authenticity in performance is associated with the semi-therapeutic and spiritual dramaturgy of Grotowski in theatre and the Authentic Movement in dance. Crisp’s dancing does not aim to be therapeutic or spiritual; rather it is in some way heuristic.

It all began with dancing, just dancing without following set movements. She says,

“dancing, not trying to remember steps but dancing and it was out of years and years of dancing in the studio on my own that I started to be able to notice times when I was having so much fun and it felt like it was like opening a whole world and a new kind of thing.”

Crisp’s approach to dancing is genuinely open. It is radical freedom.

(First published on Groundwork Pro)

The Soul of Dance – Reflecting on Dance with NDCW – by Eva Marloes

Dance is personal. It is your muscles, your injuries, your sweat, your discipline, and your imagination. Professional dance is not just technique, physical ability, and rhythmic sense; it is the dancer’s personality, which is in their bodies and in their minds. What emerges from talking to dancers and choreographers is the personal work of dance. Dancers do not simply replicate established movements for the audience, they bring their individuality to a piece in how their body moves and how they give an interpretation of their role, sometimes that includes creating their own movements.  

Contemporary dance is often an exploration of movement and physicality that begins with an awareness of one’s body. Dancers learn about their body, how their body is in space, the different places where the body can be, the learned and habitual moves, and how to become aware of how they move. Dance is born of physical and mental awareness. It rests on deep knowledge of one’s body in space and in movement, and making decisions on how to move. 

I watch dancers and see how different they are. They have different builds, different ways of moving, but, above all, different personalities that become prominent when they dance. Aisha Naamani, one of the dancers of the National Dance Company Wales (NDCW), tells me, ‘Everybody has a different quality in movement because everybody has a different way of processing information.’ NDCW dancers do a lot of ‘rep work,’ work of different choreographers coming for a short time for a production. That means dancers need to take on different outfits rather than develop their own work. However, for Roots, each piece relied on improvisation and collaboration between choreographers and dancers.  

Naamani, referring to Ed Myhill’s piece Why Are People Clapping?, part of Roots, tells me,

‘We had to create our own movement, we have to do that as naturally and thoughtfully but also not attached to it, not tied down to what you want to do. … You have your individuality doing what your body would do, but then Ed would come and see it and rearrange the puzzle somewhere. But you always keep that essence of your own individuality because that’s where you create it from.’  

The interplay between the individual dancer and the group is evident in the piece itself. During the rehearsals, Myhill tells the dancers that it’s about 

‘Appreciating individuals and what they bring to the circle. The rhythm is set up by your colleagues, your friends. They are there to support you, use it as a drive to express yourself.’ 

As the dancers become familiar with one another and how others move, they are able to support one another. Fearghus Ó Conchúir, the Artistic Director of NDCW, realised that the coming together as a team and mutual support in rugby are familiar to dancers. In his piece Rygbi, the way in which dancers relate to one another is most evident in improvisation. He tells me,

‘You don’t need to offer support if it’s all decided already. You just need to be in your place. Active support comes from not knowing what is going to happen and being ready for whatever it is and we built that kind of improvisation into the work. We continue to work with improvisation to keep the work alive.’ 

Ó Conchúir explains that he has questions in mind and gives structure to the piece, but that

‘The dancers are the ones who inhabit it and take an idea, for me the reason to collaborate is because I’m not someone who decides what the work is in my head in advance and then want to see it just played out in front of me. … I want to be surprised by the process, otherwise it’s not enriching. I don’t learn anything. The reason to be engaged in this artistic practice is to keep learning things.’ 

Yet, this work of improvisation rests on dancers offering something that comes from their own self, their own body, something that at times can be very personal, and is not always accepted. Naamani tells me that that can be hard,

‘Because you can offer something to a choreographer, it’s almost as if you put your heart out to them and you’re being really vulnerable, but it’s not a personal thing, it’s what is necessary at that time. That’s a really hard thing. It’s long hours, it’s busy, constant re-evaluating what you’re doing, constant thoughts. You have to be very strong so you get very strong but you also, you have to be vulnerable at the same time, it’s a hard balance.’   

Ó Conchúir is well aware of the personal gift that dancers give to a choreographer. He says,

‘Sometimes you’ll say ‘ok, no’, sometimes when someone offers a thing, you’ll ‘oh no, thank you for offering that, that is a possibility, but that’s made it clear to me that we need to stay over here or sometimes you’re like ‘oh, you’re right, let’s go off on that route’. Even when you’re not, because you can’t necessarily follow everything that’s offered, then that helps clarify what you’re choosing to do. For me that collaboration with the dancers is essential and then hopefully that makes it a more interesting and engaging process for them, because they’re helping the creation and give it life. For me that’s the most important thing, that the dancers are engaged. In the moment of performance is them, they’re performing it with the audience. What I’m trying to do is to help prepare everyone for that encounter.’ 

Dance entails being vulnerable and giving themselves to others. Those others are your colleagues, the choreographer, and the audience. Talented dancers and those who gain notoriety might be led astray by their ego, but the soul of dance lies in humility and devotion. 

NDCWales latest production Roots is currently touring. Further information and tickets can be purchased here.

Review Écrit, NDCWales Roots Tour by a student of Coleg Cambria


In this review I will be reviewing Écrit  from the Roots dance show I went to go and see which was by National Dance Company Wales, it was performed at Theatre Clwyd.

There were four different dance pieces, some of them I preferred over others. The first dance piece was called Ecrit, I found this dance piece really interesting because when i was watching it I couldn’t fully understand the storyline to it and there were many different possibilities to the storyline as well which I really liked because it left a bit of mystery to the piece.

The dance piece was inspired by letters because the dance piece’s title means writing in French. I felt like in this
piece the man behind the sheet was painting his feelings about his love he couldn’t get too because you felt the connection throughout the piece between the two dancers even though they weren’t fully dancing together and you couldn’t really see one of them either. I found that the background music made the piece more emotional and touching to watch and if there wasn’t any music there I feel like it would of looked as good because there wouldn’t be anything there for the dancer to flow to and create the moves to either.

Another storyline I came up with while watching this piece was that the man behind the sheet was losing his mind and I thought this because of the way he was moving and dancing behind the sheet. As I have briefly mentioned before I mainly thought that both dancers where two lovers that couldn’t get to each other because of distance and
the only way they speak is through love letters which tie back
into the inspiration of the piece.

At some point in the performance I did find it a bit creepy especially when the dancer behind the sheet went bigger and smaller and started to control the female dancer in a way. Then once both dancers could be seen it was the most touching for me because the way they both were dancing together so effortlessly really brought the ending of the piece together and it felt the male dancer was caring for the female one. Also something I wasn’t expecting was the singing in the performance which was the singing in the performance which I wasn’t quite sure worked because I felt like the mystery of who these people are was taken away when we started singing in my opinion.

Review Roots, National Dance Company Wales, by a student of Coleg Cambria

The first piece Ecrit presented by National Dance Company Wales as part of the Roots tour was based on a Mexican relationship. What I took from this was that even though the man was the one who was restricted in prison it seemed to me as though he was getting his freedom through the woman that he loved and he was living his life through her.

The second piece was called Why Are People Clapping and the interpretation I got out of this was that there was always one person who was in control and whenever that person clapped the rest would follow and whenever someone almost didn’t listen then they would then become the one in control.  Overall I feel this was an OK performance and I feel that it could have been more clear as to what it was that was going on.

Codi was the name of the third piece and it was about the welsh miners. The interpretation I took from this was that it was about the struggles the miners would face. I also took the deep groans of the backing music as the horses pulling the carts of coal from deep within the mountains and I also thought it was about the explosion.

The last piece was called Rygbi and the interpretation I got from this was that it was about the love that the Welsh have for Rugby. Personally I liked how they used actual rugby movements and routines to show emotions.

Review Roots, National Dance Company Wales, Theatr Clwyd by Francesca John Fabiana Suarz.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Roots, presented at Theatre Clwyd, was an excellent dance performance. With four pieces: Ecrit, Why Are People Clapping?!, Codi, and Rygbi: Annwyl/Dear (in celebration of the Rugby World Cup in Japan). The production kept you on your feet, never once knowing what was to be expected. Even the opening of the show was well presented by choreographer Fearghus Ó Conchúir who gave off a wonderful vibe that made you squeal in excitement, waiting for the show to begin. Even in the breaks of the scenes, the audience were given time to chat with each other of what they think the show was about, what they liked and any other questions to put towards the cast, crew, and company.

Where there were 4 performances I will say the 1st: Ecrit, and the 3rd:Codi, were my favourite; the 1st act seemed to be based off Frieda and her lover Diego, with strong movements and flexible arm movements, the two dancers had put together such a good job that I would put that as number one. Everything about it, the chemistry between the actors, the music, the lighting, and especially their clever way of having one large sheet center left of the stage, and then there would be a light casting through and the esteem dancer: Moronfoluwa Odimaya, would dance behind and create this magnificent silhouette. What I loved the most about this piece was not that it was swift, intricate, and elegant, but how the dancers were so in sync and even when there was a sheet between them, it would look as if they were standing right next to each other.

Although Ecrit was my favourite, everyone gave it their all. However there were a few routines such as Codi, where the fog machine did give off an eerie looming effect on the stage and with the lights attached to the dancers; sometimes all you could see were the lights and not so much of the dance that I would rather be focusing on. Rygbi, was very well presented, it was wonderful to see a large group work so well in carrying out the performance, I felt at times it become a little repetitive, Where the other dances were shorter, they got their point across, and I feel that is mostly because given a certain amount time for presenting, you have all lots of ideas that you would want to put across which makes it even more interesting and making you wish you see more.

Overall, I have such high respect for this amazing company and its dancers. Being a student from Coleg Cambria, we create few devised pieces, either because we don’t have enough experience with dance in general, or that you have “writer’s block”, and watching this performance really gave a better approach as to high I can interpret some of the moves I had seen that evening into one of my own pieces.

What an inspiring, fun and lively night, I would recommend Roots 100%. I would love to give this production a 4 star rating, and would definitely bring my family and friends to watch this again and again.

Choreographers/Directors: Fearghus O Conchuir, Anothony Matsena, Ed Myhill, Nikita Goalia

Dancers: Ed Myhill, Nikita Goalia, Aisha Naamani, Moronfoluwa Odimaya, Elena Sgarbi, Tim Volleman, Marla King, and Ellie Marsh.

Review Roots, National Dance Company Wales, Theatr Clwyd by Katie Price

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

I recently had the privilege of going to see ‘Roots’ by National Dance Company Wales, at Theatr Clwyd.  This performance included four different dance pieces which consisted of ‘Ecrit’ ‘Why Are People Clapping ?’ ‘Codi’ and ‘Rugby: Annwyl/Dear’. These dances were performed by a small but strong ensemble cast that made the dances look really interesting. In between the dances, the audience got the opportunity to share their opinions/views on what they watched, which I think made the audience look deeper into the story behind each dance.

The first dance presented to the audience was ‘Ecrit’. This was a duet that was performed with one person behind a screen so this created a shadow-like figure. This was visually interesting for the audience and I made me think about the different things that it could represent. This helped to show the status of the two characters at different points in the dance. There were also sections in the dance that were performed without music. This made me realise that dance is just as effective without music as it is with music.

Another dance we saw was ‘Why Are People Clapping ?’. This one stood out to me the most because I found it fascinating how the dancers were creating the rhythm themselves and they all managed to stay in time. Although the rhythm didn’t change, the speed of the dance did and I found it clever how everything still managed to fit together perfectly.

The third dance ‘Codi’ had more of a theatrical vibe to it. As the dance progressed, the acting element became very clear. This made the audience connect with the characters emotions and got them hooked on the journey that they go through.

The last dance piece that was performed was ‘Rugby: Annwyl/Dear’. This included very strong ensemble work. I loved how energetic this piece was and how well the sport of Rugby was shown through a form of dance eg. lifts, running around, supporting each other. Although the dance was performed really well, I think that at times some of the movement was repetitive which sometimes made the story hard to follow.

Overall, I enjoyed hearing people’s views on each dance as they were sometimes different to what I thought so it made me think about the dance from a different perspective. Also, in the dance ‘Ecrit’, there was a section in the dance where one of the dancers sang a few lines of a song. I think this worked effectively as it made the audience realise that dancers also have other talents and this could be incorporated into a dance to put a twist on it. Finally I enjoyed how the acting through the dance pieces was over exaggerated as this helped the audience to understand what was going on throughout the dances. I think the show could have been better if some of the dancers shared their own views on the dances as it would have been interesting to hear if any of the storylines of the dances changed throughout the rehearsal process.

In conclusion, I would rate this five stars as I think that the audience interaction was incredibly unique and each individual dance was performed with a lot of emotions and with strong movements. 

Review Roots, National Dance Company Wales, Theatr Clwyd by Chloe Kerr

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

The performance Roots is made up of four short dances (Rygbi, Ecrit, Why Are People Clapping?, Codi). All four of these pieces are from Wales. I personally got different ideas about each of the dances as they progressed. I found that I often changed my mind of what I thought the pieces were about.

The first piece we watched was Ecrit. Throughout this dance my ideas developed. I got the impression that it represented some kind of forbidden relationship because of the battle between the man’s shadow and the girl on stage. However, I also got the impression that it represented communication between a soldier and his girlfriend/ wife. As the piece progressed I found myself leaning towards the latter option. I feel that it was beautifully executed and I think having the male as a shadow to show they weren’t together was really effective. I found it really interesting how everyone had different opinions on the piece when we talked after the piece, however I feel that they all seemed to relate to one another.

The next piece was Why Are People Clapping? This piece was my favourite! In this piece I found it really interesting how they incorporated so many different elements into it. They used many familiar things such as clapping, tennis and head shoulders, knees and toes. It was also weird because clapping can be used in polar opposite situations, it can be used as support or in anger as a sort of come on kind of thing, or in a patronising way. I loved how the claps really controlled the whole of the dance and also switched the mood of the piece. I really like how it started and ended with the tennis match, which led me to believe that all these different parts in the middle were what was going on in peoples head as they watched the tennis, although I may have misinterpreted this.

The third dance was Codi. Throughout this dance I got the strong impression that it was based on miners. The use of headlights (which were worn on their necks) really helped to portray this scene for me. This piece was full of emotion and it was something that really represented what miners would go through. I think it was executed amazingly and I love the use of the sticks. Now whilst I did love the use of lights on their necks I found that at some points it also held them back in a way because it meant there were many movements we lost because it was too dark. Although I did love this piece.

Lastly Rygbi, which is pretty much explained in the title of it is based on rugby. I thought this piece was beautifully choreographed, it was amazing to watch popular rugby moves slowed down and turned into a beautiful dance that represents teamwork and helping each other out when they’re down. It had a really soft look to it even though it was mimicking a really hard and rough sport which I thought was really effective. I loved how the dancers all seemed to rely on each other throughout the piece which really added to the togetherness and community feel of rugby. I also read up on it and found out that it was actually made with some input from rugby players and fans, which I think really adds to the authenticity of the piece. The only criticism I have for this piece is I think it went on slightly too long. This piece lasted around twenty five minutes, and I felt that some of the movement were repeated throughout which meant we lost the rawness of the piece. I personally feel that this piece would have been a lot more effective and made more of an impact if it was slightly shorter.

Overall I really enjoyed the show! I loved how it was laid out and how interactive it was. I loved the discussion in between each piece, I feel that this really brought the audience together and it was lovely to hear other people’s interpretations of each piece. Overall I would give the show four stars!

Choreographers – Nikita Goile, Ed Myhill, Anthony Matsena, Feargus O Conchuir

Dancers – Nikita Goile, Ed myhill, Aisha Naamani, Moronfoluwa Odimayo, Elena Sgarbi, Tim Volleman, Marla King, Ellie Marsh

Review Roots, National Dance Company Wales, at Theatr Clwyd by Simon Kensdale

This touring programme of new pieces of contemporary dance creates something of a buzz – a buzz provoked by the NDCW’s Artistic Director, Fergus Ó Conchúir coming forward to encourage audience members to talk to someone near them who they don’t know about their reactions to the work.

The approach will work for those who, like me, are a bit mystified by dance and perhaps also for those who have come on their own.  It might not appeal so much to purists because it generates a bit of atmospheric untidiness:  conversations start up and have to be quietened down.  Still, given that the whole programme is not very long, there is time for all of this.

As for the main event itself – the performances and the choreography –  I should repeat that I am relatively ignorant as far as dance goes.  I am not dance phobic but if I go to see a show it is usually a play or a concert, possibly an opera, very occasionally a ballet – almost never contemporary dance.  Unfortunately for development officers, we are all creatures of habit.  This is a shame because, ‘knowing what we like’, we don’t venture far from our comfort zones to take in new experiences. I had a complimentary ticket from Theatr Clwyd and a free evening and I’m glad I was able to see Roots.

The programme contains four pieces.  Ecrit is choreographed by Nikita Goile and features two dancers.  Both Why Are People Clapping? by Ed Myhill and Codi by Anthony Matsena featured four or five, and Rygbi by Fergus O’Conchuir himself featured seven – or was it eight?  The imprecision in my counting is not just middle-aged muddle: it’s a reflection of the impact of all the dynamic and fluid body movements out in front.  You lose track of numbers because of the intensity of what is going on.

Ecrit is about a man and a woman and the balance of power in heterosexual relationships. Rygbi is about rugby, prompting thoughts of what it would be like if economics and logistics permitted a full team of at least thirteen dancers.

However, I’m not sure that what the pieces are said to be about, or what the choreographers and the dancers themselves intend to do, matters much.  The performances take you some distance beyond the start point.  The titles and notes really only serve as spring boards, or launching points for your reactions.  (You don’t think about rugby, for example, in the same way as you might watching a performance of Hull Truck’s Up and Under).  The show’s overall title, Roots, is not hugely satisfactory because it reminds you of the eminently forgettable best-seller/blockbuster movie/TV series phenomenon.  But it’s there to let you know that what you going to see is largely about Wales, having been made in Wales by people who work there, or who are Welsh themselves.

Knowing that the start point for Ecrit was a letter to Diego Riviera by Frida Kahlo made me search for references to them and their painting, to murals and to Mexico – but only briefly.   Dance tends to liberate you from your thinking through the movements – in this case by the movement of the woman’s hands, which dance together, forming shapes expressive of both passion and suffering.  The piece depends on a dramatic use of a screen and shadow play to convey the essential distance and separation in a relationship.  The male dancer is concealed from view – as he is from his lover – and appears at first only in silhouette, the back lighting permitting him to grow massively in stature, like a nightmare monster and then shrink.

Why Are People Clapping? asks a question for which of course there is no real, single answer, other than ‘just for fun’ – although the loud, sustained and rhythmically very accurate clapping throughout must be hard work for the performers. It provides a percussive sound wall which the dancers move against, either together or in solo movements.  It’s very reminiscent of flamenco, except that here there is no singing and no shouting and, as with much of the programme, the musical accompaniment is not very noticeable.

Codi is apparently about ‘the strength of the Welsh communities who come together to tackle isolation and depression during troubled times’ but if you hadn’t read the programme notes you could be excused from thinking it was about coal mining.  This is because the main impact of the piece is achieved through the ingenious use of single bright lights worn around the neck by the dancers, instead of on helmets.  They shine out through a smoky atmosphere at you and their beams strike out in all directions.  The dancers are also dressed in overalls which don’t restrict them but which do suggest they are miners.

Rygbi was very well done – NDCW performed it for the World Cup in Japan – but I found it the least interesting of the four pieces.  This could be because it came on last and by that time, despite the conversations and the detailed introduction, I had had enough contemporary dance for one evening.  I wanted there to be more humour in it – rugby being fairly ridiculous  – and even some ugliness – rugby is also often quite unpleasant. (It’s not a beautiful game!)  I was unsure about what the dancers were wearing – brightly coloured ensembles, tops and shorts and long socks which were definitely not team strips.  What happened drew a lot on typical rugby moves but I was unsure, I suppose, of what the piece was saying and it wasn’t a comfortable uncertainty.

That said, this was a good evening’s entertainment, giving me plenty to think about and lots to remember.  It may also encourage me to see contemporary dance more often.  I think, in the end, it’s a pity that, for a number of reasons, dance occupies a separate niche in theatre and that it has to be enjoyed in isolation.  Dance was originally central to drama and even today it can be effectively introduced in plays.  A weakness of much modern drama is its lack of physicality, with actors relying on their delivery of text and not understanding the importance of suggestive body language and sinuous physical expression.  What shows like Roots demonstrate is how evocative and expressive pure movement can be on its own, when it is performed by talented and disciplined dancers in companies like NDCW.  Long may they continue to tour.

Dyma Adolygiad Mags, Cwmni Pluen Gan Lowri Cynan (Review Mags, Cwmni Pluen By Lowri Cynan in the Welsh Language)

Dyma brofiad theatrig diddorol. Mae ‘Mags’, drama ddiweddaraf Cwmni Pluen, a ysgrifennwyd gan Elgan Rhys yn gynhyrchiad awr o hyd ond yn un sy’n eich gadael angen gwybod mwy. Mae’r stori yn mynd â ni ar daith y ferch ifanc o Ogledd Cymru i Lundain a nôl i’w phentref genedigol. Ond nid yw ei thaith yn un rhwydd. Mae’n profi anhapusrwydd plentyndod ac yn ffoi i chwilio am antur yn Llundain lle mae’n colli’i ffordd yn llwyr. Mae’n darganfod rhyddid peryglus dinesig, cariad dros dro a beichiogrwydd. Ond o’r holl themâu hyn, efallai mai’r un mwyaf torcalonnus yw’r ffaith ei bod yn rhy ifanc i ofalu am ei phlentyn ac yn gorfod rhoi ei merch i ffwrdd. Mae colled ar sawl lefel felly’n amlygu yn y stori hwn.

Llwyfannir y ddrama mewn gwagle addas a defnyddir symbolau yn unig i ddynodi lleoliadau. Roedd y cyfarwyddwr, Gethin Evans, wedi stwythuro hyn yn dra effeithiol gyda deunydd o garped, cadair syml a gorchudd plastig. Does dim angen mwy oherwydd mae’r actorion yn medru awgrymu’r sefyllfaoedd drwy eu gwaith corfforol. Ensemble o bump sy’n perfformio yn y cynhyrchiad – Anna ap Robert, Seren Vickers, Matteo Marfoglia, Eddy Bailhache a Casi – ac maent yn defnyddio cyfuniad o waith traethu, deialog, canu a gwaith corfforol yn dda. Roedd eiliadau hynod deimladwy gyda’r actorion yn creu delweddau emosiynol iawn gyda’u cyrff. Ond cryfder y ddrama i mi oedd y sgôr gerddorol a’r caneuon. Teimlais bod hyn yn gyfeiliant hyfryd a theimladwy i’r stori, gyda llais hudolus Casi yn serennu.
Roedd gwaith goleuo Ceri James hefyd yn creu awyrgylch addas i arddull symbolaidd y cynhyrchiad.

Er bod darnau hyfryd i’r sioe hon, roeddwn yn teimlo fy mod am wybod mwy am fywyd Mags, yn enwedig wrth ddeall ei bod dal yn hiraethu am ei babi a gollodd flynyddoedd yn ôl. Mae’r ddrama yn trafod themâu oesol fel pwysigrwydd perthyn a cholled sy’n gyffredin i bawb. Byddwn yn annog pobl ifanc yn arbennig i weld y ddrama hon er mwyn cael syniadau ynghylch arddulliau theatrig gwahanol.

Sweat Baby Sweat, Jan Martens – a comment by Eva Marloes

Jan Martens’ Sweat Baby Sweat is a minimalist, slow, and stretchy take on love relationships in dance form. At the beginning, the duo (Kimmy Ligtvoet and Steven Michel) become entangled, as in a yoga pose. The movement is minimal. They become one body turning on itself. It reminded me of Plato’s Symposium where Aristophanes describes androgynous humans with four legs, four arms, and one head made of two faces, which were then split by Zeus in two. Thus, when one finds one’s soulmate one feels whole. 

Sweat Baby Sweat is a little less wholesome. The couple splits and then begins again with the same initial movement of the first section. Martens says that he wanted the audience to think that they were going to see the same movements again and then be relieved from the change. The change is a long and protracted kiss, which I found uncomfortable. I am rarely comfortable with displays of intimacy on stage or on screen. Yet, the kiss being slow and continuous becomes just an extension of the movement. It is not sexy or tender. 

The continuous movement trails the ups and downs of relationships, the closeness and distance. At one point, the woman clings desperately while the man pushes her away. Not something the women to whom I have spoken appreciated. It could have been reversed or repeated with the man clinging, or could have featured two dancers of the same sex, so to avoid the stereotype of clinging women and independent men. The male dancer then seeks the female dancer, but instead of leading to tenderness and intimacy, it leads to lustful copulation. I raised my eyebrows. 

Sweat Baby Sweat is problematic and yet engrossing. It holds the attention of the public for over an hour. It brings the audience close to the couple rather than performing to them. It is an intense performance. During the post-show talk, a member of the audience described it as ‘electric focus’. Kimmy Ligtvoet and Steven Michel show an impressive physicality, which explains the longevity of the piece, now in its eighth year running. Sweat Baby Sweat does not play to the public; it draws the public in. It is compelling, but a new direction is needed.

(First published on Groundwork Pro: https://groundworkpro.com/sweat-baby-sweat-jan-martens/)