The sensory of the dancers’ movements projected an aura of an overwhelming system, which conveyed power and pain from the three dancers’ bodies. Uniquely taking eyes through a figurative journey, as their bodies effortlessly would vigorously flop and rise, their fluidity hypnotised, leaving you mesmerised to the depths of how political distress affects the mental and emotional state.
The music was upbeat. In beat we witnessed a fusion of dance styles such as krumping, popping, electro funk gliding to the counts within the music flow that went to the rhythm of 1,2,3,4 but automatically speeded up to their heartbeats chanting 2,4,6,8. This soon boomed to a higher frequency as they began spinning, breakdancing and exploiting various other hip hop movements, perfectly synchronised to the music produced by Michael Asante.
The three dancers were all dressed in white, visually moving our brains due to the expressions of strain and their reactions of torment in vain. Their clothing interestingly had straps, tied down to their chests. You could feel the dancers’ hearts race, pumping to the counts of 10, 20, 30, and 40. The repetitive moves majestically synced. Projecting moves of life and power whilst they embraced an emotional energy, triggered by a world we all know so well.
The second half brought even more intensity to the stage. A batch of five guys enchanted moves of ill health, in an oppressive nature. Their violence embodied was evidently from a segregated culture. Hope was their supply, their influence was their leader, precautions were their discipline, and the misguided was their teacher. These five guys were full of anger and despair, soon joined with the three dancers seen at the start, who slid along the floor. The dancers’ resonated hurt from colonisation, mixed in with an identity crisis leaving one of the main dancers fatally hurt; as if he had been wounded, portraying weakness, no vacant strength in his strive to fight.
When he was solitary on stage, the lights were flooded with a sparkly white, glossy effect with smoke filtered across the stage. The dancer during his solo dance act was regenerating, embodying martial art movements as a sign of him strengthening and empowering.
A scarlet cloth was draped around this dancer, which instinctively held a connection to culture. We saw that what was lost had been restored. As the dancers re-joined him they all effectively started tribal dancing. Incorporated into the dance moves were light bouncing, embracing, smiling, culture, architecture of hearts rejoicing, as their bodies bounced like tigers. It became an expression of unity and life between the past and present of home manifested through hip hop dancing.
The artistic designs on stage, blossomed the audience with amazement as masks were slowly hanging down on set, the room went dark revealing these masks to now have vibrant, glowing colours which brilliantly had the same facial patterns duplicated on to the dancers faces. The luminance radiated from their trousers, bursting colours of blue, with a reddish, orange tint.
The music consisted of heavy, deep drums and heartfelt string instruments. The ambience was uplifting as it radiated emotions of tranquillity, hope, victory and a full tribe of life. Each dancer individually performed a solo as themselves, which conveyed their known identity. The colours from the projection resembled a sunset in the background displaying colours that were warm and exotic. The artistic designer wonderfully exhibited streams of a liquid gold sunset display as they danced like it was their last time. Full of energy, fire and enjoyment, zero stopping involved.
The final dance moves had huge arm swinging incorporated, with big feet stomps and jumps symbolising freedom and happiness. In slow motion as the music began to fade and the magical sunset went down we saw the elegancy of them walking off into sunset together, representing strong unity within their community, who were born to survive.
While I enjoy a good ballet, Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo, or ‘Trocks’ as they are affectionately known as, are a triumph.
Ballet is beautiful, but Ballet can be ever so serious.
The Trocks take snippets from real ballets, such as Swan Lake and Trovatiara and present them in a humorous way – playing off the fears of ballet dancers and the mistakes that could happen, and in put their own slapstick amongst truly beautiful dance and technicality.
The Trocks are all male, dressed, colloquially, in ‘drag’ but still play both male and female parts with absolute brilliance – switching from serious ballet to comedy, they are nothing but awe-inspiring and engrossing.
The set is like any ballet – the costumes as opulent as any ballet and their beauty is beyond words. You feel that it should be wrong to laugh, but they somehow mix it so well that you laugh but also really appreciate their talent, stamina and grace. And gosh, they know the right time to pause, the right faces to pull and how to work us audience members.
I would suggest if you are new to ballet, to first see the Trocks – they are a lovely introduction to dance where it does not feel too serious, you are left time to appreciate the quality of dance, but also to relax into a comical and fun evening.
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is also visiting the Wales Millennium Centre at the beginning of October – Do. Not. Miss. Them!
A note on Joon Dance’s Tongues: This performance was shown as work in progress, the result of a period of research and development. It is a collaboration between Joon Dance, spoken word artist Rufus Mufas and young people in the community.
Tongues is coming in on a swell of excellent work for and with young people in Wales. Theatre Iolo’s excellent Platfform initiative is nurturing artists to make engaging, demanding work for and with young people, such as Tin Shed Theatre’s Boxes and 2016 by Paul Jenkins and Tracey Harris. Even National Theatre Wales is getting in on the act with We’re Still Here making great use of a community cast, including several young people, given strong moments within professional production to connect with an audience and have their voices hear. The UK as a whole is really seeing a shift in how we make and present work for young audiences, with growing recognition that they deserve as dynamic and diverse program of work as older audiences, and that by nurturing the next generation of young creatives we can ensure this program of work continues to be made in the future.
Billed as “A public performance on the Friday at 6.30pm to showcase the piece of work developed through the week.” Tongues was the culmination of a week’s work with young people from the community around Chapter, for them to,
“Find your voice this summer with TONGUES. Ever wanted to speak out about what’s important to you? Like dancing or interested in performing? Together we will create a dance and spoken-word performance unique to you and your community.”
Its ambition is to fit neatly in to this growing landscape of diverse, young people led work. I feel this is important. Tongues is big ideas and big promises.
Tongues also opens with a promise to the audience. Well. A promise and a provocation. Upon being seated we are asked what “Canton is”. Our answers are written down and posted on the wall at the back. All the while bodies slowly writhe on stage like pupae waiting for the performance to begin. Before the show starts we are told our voices matter, that we are as much a part of this as the performers.
Tongues is ultimately a promise to give voice to its young people and its audience.
It’s a promise it breaks.
The performance, to be absurdly reductive, consisted of three halves (try working that one out, ha!). Live dance, spoken word and live sound mixing using audio captured from around Canton.
The opening number involved the young people dancing across the stage, with the most infectious, magnetic smiles I’d seen in a long time. Loving performance, loving being there, I was utterly delighted to be spending the next hour in their company. Even more so when they picked up the mic and started expressing their truths about the world.
What a tragedy to see them spend the majority of the performance sat at the back of the stage as the adults performed for them, spoke for them and made music for them.
What a missed opportunity to have three exciting live mediums, built on passion and emotion, to be performed in such a monotone and belaboured manner, and to not have the mediums play together and enhance the expression of each. I so desperately wanted them to react to each other, to find a voice together. I also had a particular note for whoever performed the majority of spoken word – they held the mic too close to their mouth making it difficult to understand, and the lack of variation in delivery made it hard to focus on what was being said. If the words came from young people let them speak!
And how great would it have been if our answers to “Canton is” had been included in the piece instead of involving us at the start only to be ignored for the rest of the performance.
The adults performing the work have worked hard and take great joy in what they do, and are clearly incredibly proud of the potential of the work.
It just needs to decide whether it is work for and by young people, in which case they need to be front and centre, or whether to use young people’s experiences as provocations for professional artists to create work around. A great deal of what I said can be addressed simply by changing how the work is framed to the audience.
I see great potential in this work and would love to see a more developed version, one that embraces its liveness and the unrefined, magnetic joy and passion of the young people on which it has built its foundation. Please do not take their voices away.
Unfortunately, The work is just not there yet. It is however an excellent, and exciting concept, one that is using mediums that resonate with young people in ways that traditional theatre doesn’t, so I am incredibly hopeful that the work will become something important and vital.
Six dance artists from five different countries – including Wales’ Eddie Ladd – will be at Chapter, Cardiff this September for the second of a series of international residencies, developing new cross-border work based on the theme of transformation with iCoDaCo (International Contemporary Dance Collective).
Local communities are invited to share in this unique and experimental creative process with a series of free interactive events at Chapter from 11-15 September, including a children’s workshop and an open sharing of the work in progress, while global audiences will follow the contemporary dance collective’s progress online.
iCoDaCo is a two-year project that selects world-class international dance artists to create and tour a collaborative full-length production together (rather than a collection of individual pieces), developing the work across each of the artists’ home countries.
Following their first residency in Hong Kong this August, the six iCoDaCo 2018-2020 dance artists from Hong Kong, Hungary, Poland, Sweden and Wales will be in Cardiff this September for a 2-week residency to further develop their work. The Cardiff residency is being hosted by Welsh company Gwyn Emberton Dance, who are supporting the project internationally as a partner organisation of iCoDaCo, with Gwyn as a member of the creative team.
in Cardiff, the iCoDaCo artists will be exploring physical, spatial, political and psychological transformations in modern society, while also demonstrating the early stages of their creative process to the public, regardless of dance knowledge or experience, through a series of free interactive events at Chapter.
On Tuesday 11 September, there is an open coffee morning with free coffee and pastries to welcome the iCoDaCo artists with an opportunity to share stories, thoughts and ideas around the theme of transformation. Throughout the week, local dancers and physical performers are welcome to join the artists in their morning classes and experience a range of teaching approaches (Tuesday 11, Thursday 13 & Friday 14 September).
Children aged 8-12 can try a free contemporary dance workshop on Saturday 15 September, hosted by Gwyn Emberton Dance and led by renowned Welsh performer and iCoDaCo artist, Eddie Ladd with the other dance artists from Sweden, Hungary and Poland. And on Friday 14 September, the iCoDaCo collective will publicly share their work in progress followed by an informal Q & A session – which will both be streamed live online – connecting audiences in Wales with international followers.
As part of the European Commission’s Creative Europe Programme, with additional support in Wales from Arts Council of Wales and Chapter, the project promotes values such as diversity, tolerance and communality while creating a fresh contemporary dance piece that is influenced by the eclectic artistic and personal heritage of each artist in the collective.
iCoDaCo artist Lee Brummer from Sweden reflects on the group’s first residency in Hong Kong:
“It feels incredible to be in a room with these inspiring individuals, each with a strong, powerful and enchanting world. I’m enjoying the journey between each of these worlds and the open invitation for them to visit mine. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with everyone at our second residency in Wales and seeing how the piece transforms and learning from the wealth of the collective.”
the residency in Cardiff, the iCoDaCo collective will regroup in Sweden, Hungary and then Poland, culminating in the premiere of TRANSFORMATION (working title) this November at BalletOFFFestival by Kraków Choreographic Centre. TRANSFORMATION will then tour throughout 2019 to Sweden (March), Hungary and Poland (April), Hong Kong (July), Edinburgh Festival Fringe (August) and Wales in Autumn 2019.
The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently met with Sarah Rogers, Artistic Director of Ransack Dance, they discussed her background, thoughts on the arts in Wales and her new production ‘Murmur’, taking place on Fri 14th Sept at Memo Arts Centre, Barry.
Hi Sarah great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?
Hi I am a South Wales based dance artist, currently running my own dance company based in Pontypridd called Ransack Dance Company which I set up in 2013. Our work always involves live dance, music and film, and I choreograph and direct the work as the Artistic Director of the company, working collaboratively with the artists in each discipline. We are also Affiliate Company to Artis Community, working to support and develop their dance pathways provision in RCT and Merthyr. Alongside my work with Ransack and Artis, I also work as a freelance choreographer and dance teacher and am currently a Dance Ambassador for National Dance Company Wales.
So what got you interested in performance and the arts?
I’d love to tell you about an amazing theatre show that inspired me years ago but I must admit I don’t think this is the case as I didn’t really go to the theatre much as a child, but my pathway was definitely through a love to move and dance…… I trained as a gymnast from an early age, and I think my way into the arts is that I became more and more fascinated by the choreography of the floor routines opposed to the acrobatic elements, so I started choreographing my own and the other gymnasts routines at the club. My parents then cottoned onto the fact I may like to dance and I was very lucky as they were really supportive and so they started to take me to the theatre. I think the musical Cats stands out as one of the first shows that I saw and that inspired me as a child (weird as I’m really not into musicals now!). When I got older I joined a local street dance and break dance group which was led by Tamsin Fitzgerald (now Director of 2Faced Dance) so I was very lucky to have her as a teacher.
Tamsin Fitzgerald, Director of 2Faced Dance.
She pointed me in the right direction of what contemporary companies to go and see, so I started to watch more contemporary dance theatre work and loved it! And she also suggested I go to my local dance school to take more formal lessons in styles such as ballet, and from there I went onto study at Laban, and have never looked back!
Your company Ransack is presenting a new production called Murmur at Barry Memo on Friday 14 September 2018 at 7:30pm. The production is advertised as “Telling two unique short stories in a surge of risk taking athletic contemporary dance, crashing live music and breath taking film images.” It sounds very exciting! Can you tell us more?
‘Murmur’ is a double bill involving our work ‘Momenta’ and ‘Broken Arrows.’ We have been building the work through various R&D phases over the past three years, one of which included sharing an earlier version of Momenta at the Memo last November. We are excited now to go back to the Memo and share the finished work and perform ‘Broken Arrows’ which we have never performed at the venue before.
Each work has live dance, music and film. The performers take the audience through a series of scenarios, dancing under feathers falling from the sky, jumping over drum kits, dancing at live gigs and fighting their way through storms! The first piece ‘Momenta’ is based on a television interview (from the 1973 Dick Cavett Show) with Marlon Brando in which he describes ‘We act every day to save our lives,’ so we explore this notion of acting as a survival mechanism and question in the piece-when are we truly authentic?
The second work ‘Broken Arrows’ is essentially a love story, and we reveal the memories of the protagonist character ‘The girl in red’, with some audiences seeing the work as presenting the theme of a love triangle and other seeing a more sinister side to the story.
There’s another element to the production as we’re creating an immersive feel with our second work with performances from Motion Control Dance and University of South Wales intertwined to bring the work to life and immerse the audience in the action! We are also collaborating with a live band-‘Best Supporting Actors’ who will play live with the Ransack musicians in one of the works and also play in the interval and offer a free gig following the performance.
As you mention the production will be followed by a live gig from the band ‘Best Supporting Actors,’ Its unusual two mix these two artforms together why have you chosen to programme them together?
It’s funny you say that as I think live music and dance is the most natural combination in the world!…Our work always involves live music, so by collaborating with the band we are trying to take this element to the next level. I think the initial idea came about as one of our scenes in ‘Broken Arrows’ is set at a music gig….so I wanted to actually have a full live band playing to bring this scene into reality, so the performers and the audience could actually be at a gig rather than recreating this somehow with just two musicians. There’s also another idea behind the collaboration however, as I’m really keen to create a full ‘night out’ experience for the audience, so that they can stay after the dance elements of the production, listen to some live music and have a drink so that we can challenge what the idea of going to see a dance show is. The performers will also be at the gig with the audience (turning into audience themselves!) and so I’m also hoping that this merges the idea of performers vs audience as two separate groups and allows the audience to get to know the performers and talk to them in a really relaxed environment (rather than a formal post show discussion for example).
Contemporary Dance can be thought of as an elitist art form, as a young Wales based dancer what work do you think needs to be done to support new audiences?
I think the majority of new audience come from outreach work, and working with young people to introduce them to dance…..This is a tough one as ultimately I think a lot of this issue comes down to what finding is available to allow dance companies to offer their outreach work for free or a reasonable and accessible price. Through my work with Artis Community in RCT, I see the challenge first hand of taking dance provision out of cities such as Cardiff.
Participation numbers are lower (at the moment!) travel sometimes becomes an issue as areas are more spread out, and there are more areas of deprivation in which organisations simply can not charge a lot (or anything) for dance classes if we want all young people to be able to access them.
I think there’s another side to this too however, which is really thinking about what new audiences to dance need. A lot of them want to be able to ‘understand’ the work, which we all know that the response from someone in the dance world (including myself!) would be ‘but there is nothing to understand ….and you can take what you want from it’. But I’m finding out more and more that even though we can preach this it won’t change how some audiences think. So I think it’s finding a way to share the process of work more and share what work is about before the audience sees it. This is already happening through lots of companies opening up their rehearsals and using social media more to share the process behind making the works, so I think just developing this and growing this idea in different ways would be great. I also think including other art forms helps, and this is part of the reason that with Ransack we include film and music as some audiences may relate to these art forms more than the dance at first and be able to use this as ‘a way in’ to the dance elements.
Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision. Access for diverse citizens is a key priority for a range of arts funders and organisations Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists/creatives?
I think the main barrier is economic. There are very few schools that offer a dance G.C.S.E or A Level for example with young people then having to pay for extra-curricular provision in dance at dance schools which often charge a lot for their classes, and some families simply can not afford this. There’s then also issues over funding for organisations and companies to be able to offer their dance provision for an accessible price so that people from all backgrounds can access their provision.
There are a range of organisations supporting Welsh and Wales based artists and creatives, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities feel ‘healthy’ to you?
Part of the reason I moved back to Wales is that I do feel like there is a really supportive arts network here, particularly in dance. It’s great that there are now professional dance classes available through Groundwork Pro too.
I would say that I think there could be more support for emerging choreographers however and emerging companies. One of my reactions to this was to set up the Arrive Dance Platform for emerging choreographers with Ransack and share our theatre space when we have R&D with other artists so they can platform their work and get feedback. I think however that perhaps some of the bigger companies and organisations could support this area a bit more, particularly with the loss of Wales Dance Platform a few years ago.
If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?
That’s such a hard question to answer! I think that all areas of the arts from community practice, to youth provision to professional production work and in all art forms support and feed into one another so I couldn’t pick just one! I think where the arts can thrive is when each area supports each other and all artists and organisations collaborate and work together.
What excites you about the arts in Wales?
I think there’s a really exciting feel in Wales that art forms merge from one to another. There’s lots of multi-media/multi-art form work happening. In my dance world I’ve seen this more and more through actors working with dancers and vice versa and this is one of the reasons my work is merging more and more into physical theatre, involving speech in our work (after having collaborated with Theatre Director Angharad Lee). Although I love the arts scene in Cardiff, it’s also exciting to see more and more artists coming out of the capital city and setting up their own networks and connections, and to see how these areas are evolving culturally because of this. This is one of the reasons that this year I have decided to base Ransack in Pontypridd, and with the new theatre and training spaces opening here at the YMCA next year, there have been lots of artists interested in working in this area, and there’s been lots of interesting and creative planning meetings and conversations happening that I’ve been involved in, so it’s exciting that we can start a new network and way of working together in the area.
What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?
Again the mixture of live dance and music in this show really inspires me.
In Wales, most recently I have seen National Theatre Wales’ ‘English,’ which I loved as it really closed the gap between the audience and the performer and the way that the show instigated a conversation between the two was really clever and something I’d like to take into my own work. Oh and it was a little while ago but their production ‘We’re Still Here’ also really inspired me, particularly the way the community stories and people from the community were integrated into the performance.
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
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
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
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.
7 – 9 June 2018
Seen: 8 June
National Dance Company Wales
Dance & Design from Cardiff’s emerging artists
Dance House, Wales Millennium Centre
Choreographer – Tim Volleman
Dancers – oliver Chapman & Elena Sgarbi
Choreographer – Kat collings
Dancer – Julia Reider
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
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.
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.
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.
‘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).
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.
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
Creating opportunities for a diverse range of people to experience and respond to sport, arts, culture and live events.