An Interview with Wales based Dance Artist Becky Johnson

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

Hi, thank you for meeting with me. Well, I’m currently a freelance dancer/ choreographer/ teacher based in Cardiff. I’m originally from Huddersfield (Yorkshire) and moved to Cardiff to train in Contemporary Dance at USW. I graduated in June 2019 but have stayed in Cardiff since. Since then, I have really found myself invested in the arts scene here in Wales. 

 So, what got you interested in the arts?

I’d like to say I’ve always been creative but that would be a lie. I started dancing quite young at my local dance school and loved the competitions and team dances that we’d do together. It wasn’t until I was much older and was exposed to more of the arts scene, that I started to see the beauty within the arts sector and understand how collaborative it can be.

Can you tell us about your dance process? Where do your ideas come from?

My creation process with making dance varies. I take great influence from the things around me. Being that, things that inspire and intrigue me or something I want to understand further. Either that or I use my personal experiences of my interactions with the world; things that I believe should be highlighted to others or need to be understood more widely.

You were recently involved in curating, House of Rhythm presents… A night of Hip Hop which took place at Kongs Cardiff on Thursday, March 5, 2020. The event is described as “A celebration and discovery of all that is Hip hop and is in partnership with Kellys Records and Grassroots Cardiff” How did you get into Hip Hop and Streetdance. How supported is the scene in Cardiff?

One of the dance schools I was involved with as a teenager, “Fidget Feet”, prioritised teaching the true foundations and principles of HipHop. This touched upon all five pillars of Hip-Hop as well as the various styles of dance within Street Dance culture.

That, alongside growing up with two brothers who thought they were destined to be the next Notorious B.I.G, meant I was immersed within the culture and that it’s been a pivotal part of my upbringing and even in my attitude and approach to movement (and life in general) now.

This series of events is an opportunity to provide a gateway into HipHop culture and not just the music form. I feel this sense of community within HipHop, especially in Cardiff, is lacking and hence why we have decided to partner with Grassroots.

By doing so, we are working with up and coming artists and providing them with opportunities to meet people they wouldn’t otherwise. Also, with the inclusion of workshops within different pillars of HipHop, we are combining the culture as a whole and not just focussing on one part.

There are a range of organisations supporting Welsh and Wales based dancers, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities feel ‘healthy’ to you? Is it possible to sustain a career as a dance artist in Wales and if not what would help?

I’ve been extremely fortunate in the fact that as soon as I graduated, I found work that was within my field of practise. This has kept me financially stable and allowed me time to fulfil my own projects outside of my teaching work. I believe Cardiff and Wales has an extremely supportive network of artists, all willing to share their own knowledge and craft. Throughout my degree, I worked extremely hard to network and to meet the right people with the suiting opportunities to help me develop within my career. If it wasn’t for me outsourcing my own network of people (from all fields of the arts sector), I would’ve struggled to get to the place I am now, never mind the place I want to be by the end of the year.

I do feel there is an absence of ongoing opportunities, especially for recent graduates that are new to the sector. However, if we are willing to make our own work and source our own opportunities, making our own projects, yes, there is work but we must be prepared to pave this path for ourselves. This isn’t disregarding help and assistance from other creatives/ professionals, but the help is more to kickstart our own ideas rather than to flourish with other people’s.

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

Wow, tricky question. I’d probably have to say spacing. Providing space for artists to develop their own practise and ideas, whether that be, musicians, dancers or visual artists. As not only is there a lack of creative and accessible space in Wales, there’s a huge lacking of funded space. If there were more funded residencies around Wales, we would see a lot more new work being developed and a much more diverse community engagement from artists in the area.

 What excites you about the arts in Wales?

I feel like this is such an exciting time for collaboration within Wales. There are more opportunities coming to bridge the divide, whether that between artistic practises or between bodies of dancers. There are some exciting opportunities in the works for disabled dancers which I can’t wait to be involved in as well as new pools of artists moving to Wales from areas such as London bringing new skills and assets.

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

Well there’s nothing like a little bit of shameless self promo but this is honest and genuine. It would be The House of Rhythm event which we had on the 5th March. There were people from lots of different communities and backgrounds all coming together to support the artists performing. We had people involved in the workshops that would never normally be in those sorts of social experiences. I also had talks with participants on how we can make our events more autism friendly and accessible for those suffering with social anxiety etc. It was this coming together of people which was really beautiful to witness as all of the participants were supportive of each other, regardless of background and experience.

Thanks for your time

Thank you very much for getting in touch!

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