An Interview with James Wilton

Wales braced for further tempests as James Wilton Dance whips up The Storm across the country. High energy dance at Ystradgynlais, Holyhead and Pwllheli in return visit for critically acclaimed company.

James Wilton Dance, one of Europe’s most in demand dance companies, brought their last show, Leviathan to Wales as one of the first Dance Across Wales productions. This season, they are back country with The Storm, a whirlwind of lightning fast, athleticism, where acrobatics, break-dancing, martial arts and contact work fuse to form dance that promises to blow audiences away. Seven dancers, a soundtrack of thundering electro-rock specially composed by Amarok and thousands of pieces of paper combine to create a work that astounds with its athleticism and touches audiences emotionally in a way that words simply can’t.

The Storm visits Wales this March, with performances at The Welfare, Ystradgynlais (25th March), Canolfan Ucheldre, Holyhead (27th March) and Neuadd Dwyfor Pwllheli (28th March).

The performances form part of the programme for Dance Across Wales, a Creu Cymru project aiming to give venues in non-urban areas of Wales more confidence in bringing dance to their audiences.

Creu Cymru is working with the National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF) in an Arts Council of Wales funded project to enable five theatres in Wales who currently programme little or no dance, to engage with and develop local audiences for dance. The idea of the project is to encourage people to ‘Give dance a chance’ at their local theatre.

Each of the five venues have chosen work from the NRTF’s Dance Menu. The Dance Menu (curated by NRTF, China Plate and The Place) contains existing dance pieces from established artists and companies which have been re-choreographed for small-scale presentation.

The project is funded by Arts Council of Wales and has been running from October 2018. The participating theatres, (Ucheldre Centre Holyhead, Neuadd Dwyfor Pwllheli, Parc and Dare Theatre Treorchy, The Welfare Ystradgynlais and Ammanford Miners), are all located in rural areas or small towns, have been able to select two to three dance pieces to present at a subsidised rate. As part of the project the theatres also receive marketing and outreach support to share ideas and strategies, marketing approaches and evaluation.

Creu Cymru’s mission is to develop a vibrant and progressive sector of theatres and arts centres for the people and communities of Wales.

Choreographer James Wilton discusses his work in the interview below

What is The Storm about?

The Storm is essentially about how we process emotions and happiness. It occurred to me that there are many parallels between weather and psychology. For example the word tempestuous can mean either an overwhelming emotion, or a storm. Before a hurricane there is what is referred to as a depression. When people are sad others say “it will all blow over”. How you can’t see wind but can see how it changes objects and how you can’t see emotions but can see how they change people. I also likened the world to a storm. We are surrounded by this turbulent, challenging world, where danger, injustice and suffering are all around us. In this world how can we manage to remain happy? How can we not get swept up in the world around us and how can we be the quiet, calm eye of the storm.

When did you first have the idea?

I am a generally very happy person, and I’ve always wondered why. In 2016, shortly after creating LEVIATHAN, I had a term of relative unhappiness, where I was swept up into some of the problematic things around me. At this point it occurred to me how important, and how beautiful happiness is, and how the world would be a much better place if people understood emotions and complex psychology more deeply.

What will be different physically?

We’re going bigger, faster and more fierce than ever with The Storm, but we’re going to be contrasting that with more subtlety, texture and softness than ever as well. As well as the earthy physicality we usually bring to the table, there will also be a greater sense of line and shape. Of course, we’re not going to be going too classical, however we are adding some elements from those techniques in order to push our physicality somewhere new.

What does Dr. David Belin, lecturer in Behavioural Neuroscience at Cambridge University, add to the piece?

I wanted to make sure that the work had a foundation in genuine science. I think so often people think they understand psychology, however we really don’t. Dr. Belin is a world expert in his field, with over 50 peer reviewed publications, and has taught me a great deal about the human mind. The most interesting thing being about dysregulation, and how people attribute the wrong feelings to the wrong emotion.

What excites you about the music of Amarok the composer?

In 2017 Amarok, aka Michal Wojtwas, released an album called Hunt, which received many nominations for prog-rock album of the year. It was through a “top 30 of the year” list that I discovered his work and I’ve been hooked ever since. I used three tracks off of his album for my creation “Hold On” for Theater Münster, and once I saw how well the music gelled with my choreography, I knew that I had to get him to write something especially for The Storm. There is just so much power and depth in the music that Michal writes, and it is emotive in some indescribable, other-worldly way.

Finally-What can audiences expect?

In short-to be blown away by the physicality, the storytelling and the raw emotion of the dance, set, music and light. We want audiences to feel the piece, as well as see it.

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