Category Archives: Dance

Review, Small Change, Peter Gill, Both Barrels Theatre, Omnibus Theatre By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

A blanket white stage. Some old, red colour metal scupltures. I hear someone describe them as artwork much like Barbara Hepworth. Very old city feel.

A set design, perfect for such a play. Small Change is set in Cardiff – these “sculptures” reminded me so much of the Bay, the docks, the nooks and crannies of Cardiff. Where there’s always something to discover around a corner.

Small Change tells the story of 2 boys and their 2 mothers – it looks at their relationships, all intertwining into one another, of the time period and its taboos, of mental health and repression. It’s a lot to put into a play and Both Barrels Theatre do this well.

Firstly, we have to talk about the accents. All very perfect, I suddenly felt transported to my family, to my time in Wales, and it erupted personal memories for me. Granted, this may not do this for every audience member, but the thick sing song accent certainly helped place the performers before our eyes in Cardiff.

The play took another worldly, unusual turn. The writing of Small Change is at times nonsensical but also poetic – just like most Welsh writers, there is a poetic and descriptive aspect to the narrative, and this not only felt unique to the play but also highlighted a unique part of Welsh theatre. Repetitive statements, questions, rhetoric. The genius of the writing is one of truly great playwrights in that it is unusual, it is one of a kind but also allows the director and performers to read into it and develop their own opinions and approaches to the text. And Both Barrels have utilised this.

I wasn’t expecting and was certainly pleasantly pleased to see physical theatre – a type of theatre that I feel I see less of and which is a shame, because it is so interesting how atmosphere and feelings can be shown through movement. We really feel the struggle, the sense of looking back at the past, the changes in time, and the moments of real emotional turmoil not only through the writing and the performers conviction, but also their movement.

Small Change drew me in; it is poignant, it is a really unique take on a well known production and the physical theatre is fitting and fluid.

Review, Is this a Waste Land?, Charlotte Spencer Projects, Sadlers Wells, By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Out in the East of London, we are taken to a barren land sitting in between skyscrapers and posh looking apartment buildings. Some built, some in the stages of being built, with the Olympic park and Orbital tower also over looking us.

There’s nothing here, but bits of old materials, items, objects in a small part of this fenced off area. We are asked to pick an object, and so the performance begins.

Armed with headphones and work gloves, we follow instructions spoken to us to explore and experience this space, at times as a group, at times on our own. Music and soundscapes are added to the recording, adding atmosphere and transporting us to different places while we look out on the concrete land. Over the space of an hour and half, we become familiar with this space, beginning to think of its past, present, future, of our own lives and those less fortunate or even in better positions. We think of society, of politics, of environment and nature. We think of London and gentrification. So much comes out of an empty fenced area and a bunch of junk.

Soon it is clear that we are being told different instructions, splitting up and doing different things in different groups. We are the performance, and while the instructions will be the same for each performance, it is clear that there is scope for each production to produce something unique dependent on the participants.

There is at first hesitation: What are we waiting for? What are we doing? What is the reasoning? Soon we are immersed and so all the elements and subjects that are brought to light that I mentioned earlier become clear, giving food for thought and making us feel a range of very deep emotions.

At times, there are professional performers who do their own things to the side, creating physical performances of their own, of artistic installations that are there and blink, you could miss them. A lot goes on and again, this makes each performance different for those attending – some may see some things, and from a certain angle, others something completely different. And that is the beauty of this.

Something so barren becomes familiar and filled with items, with people, with physical theatre, and without words, when we are teaming up or constructing, we work together and it makes sense. Somehow, communication isn’t always needed – after some time, we all just understand one another.

There are for sure some hard hitting moments; we are instructed to make, to create, to perform and soon we see it destroyed or taken away and there is a real social and political underbelly to what we are experiencing.

Is this a Waste Land? Is a complete triumph of physical theatre, of space exploration, of immersion and of poignant point making.

HYDROJAM IN’ into the Woods by Ann Davies

HYDROJAM IN’ into the Woods

If you go up to the woods today, you’ll be in for a great surprise. Open your eyes take a deep breath and let Mother Nature take you on a tour of her wonderland.

Amidst the spectacular and historical Rhondda Fawr Valley lies an environmental organisation that is open to all. It is called “Welcome to our Woods/Croeso i’n Coedwig” incorporating the Skyline Project.

It is surrounded by the drama of Pen Pych Mountain and the majesty of the Cwmsaerbren Woods Treherbert.  With the legacy of Nant Saerbren powering the micro hydro electrical resource which channels the supply to the area.

Avant Cymru, in partnership with the organisation brought the Hydro Jam event to Treherbert over several weeks during June and July. The event proclaimed a collection of creativity and activities, so many to note here. Marquees were erected to enhance the surroundings and supply covering in the event of changeable weather conditions, with refreshments and seating accommodated by hard working volunteers.

The event began with a dancing session bringing ballroom dancing to the forestry of flora and fauna, all taught on an outdoor dance floor and stage; then the BeatBox Boys added their specialty to the prize-winning Lewis Merthyr Band, combining the band’s brass instruments to the sound of the beat. “Cwm Rhondda” was never so melodic, with the ‘beat box’ technique adding to the enjoyment for both sets of performers. The event continued during the week with Sewing demonstrations, courtesy of Julie the Stitch, make up demonstrations, Zumba on Zoom, Pilates, BeActive, the Vogue group performed, there were Swing Sessions, plus demonstrations from young dancers all leading up to the eventual Hip Hop Jam Competition held on the very last day of the event.

It was an eagerly awaited eco-friendly attraction of entertainment from local Rhondda Artists which included BAGSY, LLOYD the Graffiti master, SUZI JOSHI who produced some fantastic paintings on Perspex, Rap Cyphers presented by Larynx, together with the support of James and Bridie DOYLE-ROBERTS of Citrus Arts. The Bella Vista Coffee Club brought their folk and easy listening music to the event, performed by Helen Probyn-Williams, Sally Churchill, Gerhard Kress, Jim Barrett and Ann and Paul Hughes.

Members of RCT Creative Writers Group read their poems and short stories – who can forget the poet’s admission of being “A Naked Gardener”? (All said in fun highlighting the creativity of words).

On one night there was a battle scene performed as a rehearsal for Avant Cymru’s forthcoming performance of Shakespeare’s Henry V.

The last day was the culmination of much planning, hard work and ingenuity during this time of Pandemic. Welcome to the Woods arena, courtesy of Avant Cymru, saluted the UK Breakin’ scene with BBoys and BGirls from across the UK participating in the UK Breakin’ competition. How can I describe such enthusiasm flexibility and sheer joy of expression in one sentence? Enough to say I didn’t quite know what it was all about until this day, I now know I’m a fan. An incredible intergenerational gymnastic dancing spectacle (how the heck did they get into that position?) and what was more, everyone – and I mean every entrant was happily encouraging and congratulating each other on their routines. Let us just say it showed what taking part is supposed to mean.

The final came down to BBoy Nene who had travelled from Birmingham and BBoy Callum from Cardiff with the ultimate winner being BBoy Callum who was a student of Emma’s Motion Control Dance Group of Barry. Representatives of the Breakin’ Organisation WOOSH had a lot to consider, (one had to be in quarantine for a fortnight as he had travelled from the Netherlands to be at Treherbert for this competition) there were three judges (who each performed their own routine to much appraisal) plus DJ Jaffa from Cardiff and DJ Silence. The anchor woman was BGirl Sunanda Biswas a Choreographer and Teacher from South London.

With thanks to all who provided the entertainment refreshments accommodation and an especially warm welcome to those who came to assimilate just who or what was where at Welcome to Our Woods.

Appreciation to Rachel and Jamie of Avant Cymru for the invitation to contribute as RCT Creative Writers Group Members to this event. To Gavin Owens for the media film and Lee Williams for the photographs.

The Valleys were alive with the sound of a community enjoying life and being entertained at the same time!

The Road to Reopening. Artists and audiences on returning to physical venues.

Geinor Styles, Artistic Director, Theatr na nÓg

With the roll out of the Covid-19 vacancies, the arts sector is hopeful audiences will return to venues. If venues want to attract audiences, what do you think they should do?

Put on shows. There is a spanner in the wheel called R & D. It’s like an insurance policy against bad theatre, but all it does is clog up the system, and nothing gets produced in fear of it not succeeding. Companies funded as part of RFA have a track record of creating great work, and there should be a level of confidence in those companies to do that.  The development of new writing or a seed of an idea is different, but still, there should be places for that work to be seen and tried out; otherwise, there will be nothing on our stages. No product, no audience, no data to be collected for future strategies. Invest in the art.

Which venue has a special place in your heart and why? 

There are so many in Wales to mention. Places like The Muni, The Gwyn Hall and the Met, these venues had the nerve and the guts to produce two productions of ours that then toured No1 venues in the UK. But also, how the entire staff bought-into being part of the production from the box office staff to the people working in the café, to those that made sure the venues were clean and safe and comfortable places for people to enjoy a good night out. They felt pride in being part of something exciting, which brought in audiences. I will always be grateful for their generosity and humour in making those shows a success.

Our current collaborations with our Consortiwm Partners Soar in Merthyr; The Welfare in Ystradgynlais and The Town Hall in Maesteg, are perfect examples of venues at the heart of their communities, their knowledge of their audiences are intrinsic to a successful thriving theatre culture.

Our co-production partnership with Aberystwyth Arts Centre is joyful. We have been in discussions and pre-production for Operation Julie since 2017, and when it does finally get to the stage next summer will be one of the most thrilling experiences I have had in co-producing a show.

Aberystwyth Arts Centre

The National Youth Theatre on Great Britain planned to produce The Masters House on the 14 -17 July. On the 10 July they announced that due to Covid-19 isolation requirements they have had to cancel the performance. One of the plays directors Chris Sonnex tweeted in response.

“We can’t forget it’s also a reminder of the incompetence of this government, Johnson acted too late over & over, the people in charge hired their incompetent friends & they’re systematically letting down the arts. The disregard they give artists and theatre is because they are scared of the power we have, the opposition we send, the empathy we encourage. We weren’t working with young people, we were working with artists and activists, who will not forget this governments shit. I don’t want to hear anyone chatting about talking Tory or being apolitical. I want you all to hold these incompetent pricks to account. They’re letting your parents down, you are down and the younger generation down. Artist must revolt. Create. Revolt and fight.”

Is Chris correct?

Yes. In recent meetings with young creatives – that is very much what they want to say. Our responsibility is to support them in saying that. To make a change.

In response to Covid-19 Many theatres and arts organisations have developed work to be performed outside. Have you seen any work created in this way and can you see audiences having an appetite for it to continue?

Yes, Theatr na nÓg and Theatr Brycheiniog were involved in a test event for Welsh Government. Although our experience of outdoor theatre is minimal, it was joyous and a great way to be back in the world of producing and performing live.

I think it is a way forward to keep theatre in the public eye in this weird world. However, as we know, it is so weather dependent, and I think the consequences of the climate crisis make it impossible to predict any dry season with certainty. A discussion is needed on insurance, especially for smaller companies and venues with so much more at risk of cancelling performances—also, a dialogue between local authorities, companies and venues to have a consistent message on rules and regulations.

Prior to Lockdown many venues did not stream any pre-recorded or live performances should they continue to do so and if so, how can they do this without harming their physical performance offer?

Needs must. However, it is not theatre. It is not a shared experience. Without the incredible investment needed in creating quality digital productions that you can monetize effectively, it will be the death knell of live performance. Obviously, as an added resource that sits alongside a show for audiences to access, it is and has been of benefit for us to widen our reach and to get our work seen not only in South Wales but all over the world. But, engagement, real engagement is vital.  Never underestimate the power and impact of live theatre.

Chris Sonnex, Director

With the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccines, the arts sector is hopeful audiences will return to venues. If venues want to attract audiences, what do you think they should do?

Be better, don’t bet on what you think is a sure bet. Innovate, listen to people, stand up for people, make something exciting. Remind people what they were missing out on all this time, I don’t need to see Romeo and Juliet again, and if I did I could watch it on streaming services, give me something else. STOP MAKING ALL WHITE PRODUCTIONS, HIRE ARTISTS OFFSTAGE AND ONSTAGE FROM THE GLOBAL MAJORITY

Which venue has a special place in your heart and why? 

The Royal Court, if it wasn’t for that family led by Vicky Featherstone, I wouldn’t be where I am now, wouldn’t have a career, wouldn’t have learnt all the things I know now. Also the upstairs space is the best theatre in London, changes every damn time.

The National Youth Theatre on Great Britain planned to produce The Masters House on the 14 -17 July. On the 10 July they announced that due to Covid-19 isolation requirements they have had to cancel the performance. Yiu wer to Direct this production and tweeted in response.

“We can’t forget it’s also a reminder of the incompetence of this government, Johnson acted too late over & over, the people in charge hired their incompetent friends & they’re systematically letting down the arts. The disregard they give artists and theatre is because they are scared of the power we have, the opposition we send, the empathy we encourage. We weren’t working with young people, we were working with artists and activists, who will not forget this governments shit. I don’t want to hear anyone chatting about talking Tory or being apolitical. I want you all to hold these incompetent pricks to account. They’re letting your parents down, you are down and the younger generation down. Artist must revolt. Create. Revolt and fight.”

Are you correct?

Yes. Yes I am. Some people might not think I am. And that’s fine. Because that’s a democracy. You know what a democracy isn’t, putting in bills that silence journalists, stifle, and ban protests, decimate the arts education, lets poor people starve to death, tries to destroy the national health service, and sells everything that’s publicly funded off. That’s closer to fascism. So, you might not agree with me, but that’s a right you currently have. If you don’t fight this government, in years to come you might not have that right anymore.

In response to Covid-19 Many theatres and arts organisations have developed work to be performed outside. Have you seen any work created in this way and can you see audiences having an appetite for it to continue?

Theatres more than four walls, it’s a movement, its art that cant be contained (at the best of times). Arts organisations, especially people that deal with community and youth work, have been utilising outside work for years. Audiences have an appetite; it’s been there forever. It’s not new. It is bringing theatre to the people. Long may it continue, but let’s not forget the wonderful organisations and individuals that have been doing that forever.

Prior to Lockdown many venues did not stream any pre-recorded or live performances should they continue to do so and if so, how can they do this without harming their physical performance offer?

Don’t let the necessity and the medium dictate the work you make. If it’s just to make sure your relevant and to be seen like you’re doing something, then we don’t need that. If its interrogating the art, if its pushing the art form, keep doing it. Having said that Zoom shows aren’t my cup of tea, and a static shot of a theatre space bores me, (filming theatre reminds me that I don’t have a choice over where my gaze is, that you’re telling me where to look, not earning it. Which annoys me somewhat.) However I will say, the scope and reach that you can get when you do it well, is spectacular, there’s a real diversification of who you are reaching, it means people that can’t leave their house for whatever reason can see it, that people that can’t afford nights out can see it, that people not based in the city or town that its put on can watch it. That’s great. That audience deserve that you give them something really good, so don’t half ass it.

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Louise Miles Payne, Director, Creu Cymru

With the roll out of the Covid-19 vacancies, the arts sector is hopeful audiences will return to venues. If venues want to attract audiences, what do you think they should do?

I think the main thing is to make sure that audiences feel comfortable and know that venues are doing all they can do keep people safe.

  • Enhanced cleaning.
  • Hand-sanitiser stations.
  • Wearing of face coverings.
  • Modified routes around the buildings to avoid overcrowding.
  • Possible contactless ticketing, possible staggered arrival times and security checks.
  • Restricted stage-door activities post-show.
  • Some socially distance performances may still be available (where possible).
  • Staff and performers will take part in lateral flow testing.
  • Audiences will be encouraged to do their own lateral flow tests prior to attending.
  • Audiences should not attend if they have any Covid-19 symptoms or have been asked to self-isolate by Track, Trace and Protect.
  • Refunds will be available to patrons not able to attend for these reasons.
  • Audiences recommended to bring minimal possessions.

We really want to see audiences back in our venues. Some have already reopened with live performance and cinema with limited capacity and are a great example of how it can be done safely.

Which venue has a special place in your heart and why? 

That’s tough one as the majority of venues in Wales are Creu Cymru members so I wouldn’t want to favour any one place! I’ll cheat and choose a non-member. Parc Hall in Cwmparc, just outside of Treorchy in the Rhondda. This was the first venue I worked in after University and I did everything from book the shows, box office, technical, marketing and teaching drama classes! It’s a beautiful example of a miners hall and was just a joy to be at.

Parc Hall

The National Youth Theatre on Great Britain planned to produce The Masters House on the 14 -17 July. On the 10 July they announced that due to Covid-19 isolation requirements they have had to cancel the performance. One of the plays directors Chris Sonnex tweeted in response.

“We can’t forget it’s also a reminder of the incompetence of this government, Johnson acted too late over & over, the people in charge hired their incompetent friends & they’re systematically letting down the arts. The disregard they give artists and theatre is because they are scared of the power we have, the opposition we send, the empathy we encourage. We weren’t working with young people, we were working with artists and activists, who will not forget this governments shit. I don’t want to hear anyone chatting about talking Tory or being apolitical. I want you all to hold these incompetent pricks to account. They’re letting your parents down, you are down and the younger generation down. Artist must revolt. Create. Revolt and fight.”

Is Chris correct?

Probably. I’m slightly sick of hearing terms like ‘non-essential’ and ‘unskilled’ when it comes to the arts. I’m sure people have been enjoying lots of TV, streaming services, books, online events etc over the last few months. These were all made by highly skilled people who deserve respect. Either that or just turn everything off. No TV, no streaming, no You Tube, no radio. See how they like it then.

In response to Covid-19 Many theatres and arts organisations have developed work to be performed outside. Have you seen any work created in this way and can you see audiences having an appetite for it to continue?

Until recently I was lucky enough to live near Chapter so I went to see both the Theatr Iolo shows there last year (Baby, Bird and Bee and Hoof) and it was fantastic to see live theatre again. There is a fantastic history of outdoor theatre in Wales so I see no reason why it shouldn’t build and continue after the pandemic.

Chapter Arts Centre.

Prior to Lockdown many venues did not stream any pre-recorded or live performances should they continue to do so and if so, how can they do this without harming their physical performance offer?

The upside to streaming has been the accessibility of it all. Audience members who may not have been able to attend in person have been able to watch and experience performances normally out of reach. I know that there is a call to try and continue with some kind of hybrid but I just worry about this might work. Personally, I’ve enjoyed the live stream performances made especially for online such as Daniel Kitson performing live on stage at the Torch Theatre in Milford Haven or Sherman Theatres ‘Merthyr Stigmatist’, over the ones that just broadcast a live show. Watching some of the NT Live shows at the start of the pandemic just made me think about what I was missing. Although not paying the ticket fee and travel costs were a massive bonus.

Daniel Kitson

A mix is probably the answer but a smarter way of doing both would be great.

Viv Goodman, Performing Arts Lecturer, Coleg Gwent

With the roll out of the Covid-19 vacancies, the arts sector is hopeful audiences will return to venues. If venues want to attract audiences, what do you think they should do?

Looking at this purely through the lens of drama education, venues have been a key issue for Performing Arts courses throughout the pandemic. When the prospect of face-to -face learning returned there were considerable restrictions over the number of students who could be in our rehearsal rooms at any one time and -with around 100 students across four different courses at Coleg Gwent -this was very difficult to accommodate in a practical way that was meaningful and workable. The real turning point came when we were offered financial support from Welsh Government that would enable us to hire venues off campus so that all our students could re-commence practical work safely. At that point I was working with our USW degree students on Tracy Harris’ play ‘Ripples’ , which had been written for the final year BA hons and Masters degree students at RWCMD in 2020.

Having spent the entire rehearsal period remotely, with students auditioning for Tracy online and working with original cast members Shannen McNeice and Mark Henry Davies over Teams, we were then able to hire a rehearsal space at RWCMD to workshop and film the students’ performances. It felt both apposite and a privilege to take the play back to its roots and the funding meant that I could have Tracy and Mark with us to develop the students’ work further. So, for us , something incredibly positive had emerged from such challenging circumstances and the student experience turned out to be above and beyond what I had originally hoped for them. As a Drama educator I feel very fortunate to be teaching in Wales and to have had this support for missed learning made available to us; in recent months it has been dismaying to read of proposed funding cuts to Performing Arts education in England and I hope very much that this is an indication of greater support and encouragement in Wales.

In response to Covid-19 Many theatres and arts organisations have developed work to be performed outside. Have you seen any work created in this way and can you see audiences having an appetite for it to continue?

This was, of course, an obvious solution to proposed performances over the last 18 months and it is so encouraging to see some exciting productions happening again. I remain a little concerned by this, however, as is an option that is only really available to specific styles of performance and can therefore only solve the problem in a limited way. At one point during remote learning it was suggested to me that we perform student pieces outside but this option is at its most effective in more expansive performance styles such as classical plays or family entertainment. I had already made careful selections of material for the students to explore, and of course this is always done with their specific learning and training needs in mind, and I really didn’t feel that an outside performance would meet the needs of the piece or the students. In addition to this point, I feel that outside performance exists quite within its own right and to mis place styles within it or to over-use it could take away from its uniqueness.

Lisa Parry, Playwright

With the roll out of the Covid-19 vacancies, the arts sector is hopeful audiences will return to venues. If venues want to attract audiences, what do you think they should do?

I think it basically comes down to clear communication and theatres are very good at communicating with their audiences. We’re used to living in a Covid world now, so simply making everyone aware of the rules and regulations before they arrive will help people’s stress levels I think. I think theatres need to cater for people who are nervous about returning though, and people who are clinically vulnerable too. Will theatres have special performances where social distancing is maintained for example? I think the emphasis needs to be on welcoming people back and accommodating them rather than excluding them if they haven’t had both jabs for example.

Which venue has a special place in your heart and why? 

I’m going for two. Theatr Clwyd because the care it has shown for its audiences, community and freelancers has been second-to-none and I can’t wait to get inside the building again. And also the Sherman, because that’s my local, the theatre which has helped develop me as a writer and a place where I’ve seen life-changing productions and made lifelong colleagues and friends.

The National Youth Theatre on Great Britain planned to produce The Masters House on the 14 -17 July. On the 10 July they announced that due to Covid-19 isolation requirements they have had to cancel the performance. One of the plays directors Chris Sonnex tweeted in response.

“We can’t forget it’s also a reminder of the incompetence of this government, Johnson acted too late over & over, the people in charge hired their incompetent friends & they’re systematically letting down the arts. The disregard they give artists and theatre is because they are scared of the power we have, the opposition we send, the empathy we encourage. We weren’t working with young people, we were working with artists and activists, who will not forget this governments shit. I don’t want to hear anyone chatting about talking Tory or being apolitical. I want you all to hold these incompetent pricks to account. They’re letting your parents down, you are down and the younger generation down. Artist must revolt. Create. Revolt and fight.”

Is Chris correct?

No one will forget the way the government has reacted to Covid – certainly not the younger generation. I was on the school run the other day when a friend said to me how the generation coming through will remember it in a similar way to how he does the miners’ strike and how it’ll affect how they vote as a result. In terms of the work they make, of course it’ll be there.

More widely, is it theatre’s place to revolt and fight? It’s difficult to say it’s not when you look at the legacy of Brecht and Boal. My worry is how the government is already heading that opposition off. Freelancers and buildings which join together to make that kind of work are on their knees because of Covid and a lack of support from the government. Yet at the same time the government has dangled £120 million in front of companies from across the UK as part of its Brexit Festival, now named Festival 22, and some have embraced it as a funding source, despite the outcry from freelancers because of its political origins. If it’s our job as an industry to create, revolt and fight – is that fighting? Can state-sanctioned projects ever really be in opposition to the agenda of the state, however arms-length the organisers’ claim it will ultimately be? Should those companies have refused the money and called on the government to reassess the entire thing after Covid wreaked so much havoc? This debate is hurtling towards us but if you even think Chris might have a point, it’s difficult not to start thinking about what your approach to the festival might be and what the legacy of it will be in terms of artistic opposition across the UK.

In response to Covid-19 Many theatres and arts organisations have developed work to be performed outside. Have you seen any work created in this way and can you see audiences having an appetite for it to continue?

No, not yet. I’m hoping to catch some things later this year. I’ve seen the sets for work outside Chapter and it’s lifted my spirits. I don’t see why that wouldn’t continue – it makes complete sense, especially if audiences feel safer outdoors. Theatre is a relationship between creatives and audiences. If outdoor work will get an audience – why wouldn’t we make it?

Prior to Lockdown many venues did not stream any pre-recorded or live performances should they continue to do so and if so, how can they do this without harming their physical performance offer?

Yes, I really think they should. We have the technology. The National Theatre even has a sharing platform. Is there a way to establish some kind of UK-wide platform, or piggyback onto the NT’s? Theatre is a live medium and live will always be the best experience but it feels really unfair to see London companies getting more cash because they have a UK remit, and then keeping all of that work in London when they could so easily stream it. Streaming after the show has gone down is one way to allay fears re people not going in person because they know it’s going to appear online, but I genuinely can’t see it affecting ticket sales, especially after the time we’ve all had apart. People want to be physically together again. I just think if this experience has taught us anything, it’s that we have a responsibility to each other and as a theatre community that means thinking about audiences who can’t, for whatever reason, see the show in the building. I also think it could bring audiences to theatre too, although there are huge issues in all of this regarding online access etc.

Tafsila Khan, Theatre Director, Access Consultant and Creative Associate, Wales Millenium Centre.

I feel as a disabled person, the last 18 months have given us the time and space to think about what venues offer to their audiences. I believe as venues start reopening they should have their audiences at the center of all decisions. I think something else we have learned is that there is more than one way to engage audiences, for example through digital works. 

Scott Arthur, Actor and Co-Director, The Far Away Plays

With the roll out of the Covid-19 vacancies, the arts sector is hopeful audiences will return to venues. If venues want to attract audiences, what do you think they should do?

First and foremost, venues need full support so that they can be as ambitious as possible. Over the last 18 months people have become so accustomed to staying in that it might take a while for them to even realise that theatre is an option for a good night out again. Of course, lots of regular theatre-goers will be chomping at the bit to get back into venues, but in order to attract a diverse audience too, who might not think theatre is for them, the prospect of going to the theatre needs to seem as exciting as possible. Venues also need a little bit of help from artists who can guarantee a high audience turn out too. It would be great to see well established actors, writers, and directors from Wales, who’ve made a bit of a name for themselves and carry a bit of clout, commit to being part of a play at a venue in Wales that badly needs the support and attention. This would also be a great opportunity to make sure lots of recent drama school graduates are part of a production too, many of them having the most difficult start to their careers.

In regards to venues feeling COVID safe, it’s a relief to see the Welsh government has a little bit of sense, compared to those in Downing St, when it comes to face masks and social distancing. The main priority is making sure all audience members feel safe, and I’m sure Welsh venues will lead the way in doing so. regards to the venues feeling COVID safe, it’s good to see the Welsh government has a little bit of sense in compared to those in Downing St, when it comes to masks and social distancing. The main priority is making sure all audience members feel safe, and I’m sure Welsh venues will lead the way in doing so.

Which venue has a special place in your heart and why?

Theatr Elli, Llanelli. Sadly, it closed its doors back in 2012 due to the opening of Ffwrnes, but it’s this beautiful, old Art Deco theatre on the inside, whilst on the outside it’s an almost dystopian looking building that’s bang in the middle of the town. It meant so much to so many artists from the area. Word on the grapevine is that a private investor is trying to restore it to its original glory and for it to become an all round arts centre once again. That would be truly special.

Theatr Elli

Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea, has a special place in my heart too. It’s such a beautiful theatre and an incredibly vital arts venue for South Wales too. 

The National Youth Theatre on Great Britain planned to produce The Masters House on the 14 -17 July. On the 10 July they announced that due to Covid-19 isolation requirements they have had to cancel the performance. One of the plays directors Chris Sonnex tweeted in response.

“We can’t forget it’s also a reminder of the incompetence of this government, Johnson acted too late over & over, the people in charge hired their incompetent friends & they’re systematically letting down the arts. The disregard they give artists and theatre is because they are scared of the power we have, the opposition we send, the empathy we encourage. We weren’t working with young people, we were working with artists and activists, who will not forget this governments shit. I don’t want to hear anyone chatting about talking Tory or being apolitical. I want you all to hold these incompetent pricks to account. They’re letting your parents down, you are down and the younger generation down. Artist must revolt. Create. Revolt and fight.”

Is Chris correct?

Absolutely. Theatre’s been in need of a revolution for far too long now, even way before the pandemic.

Prior to Lockdown many venues did not stream any pre-recorded or live performances should they continue to do so and if so, how can they do this without harming their physical performance offer?

It’s difficult. Streaming performances have given a whole load of people the chance to see a production who wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to watch that particular piece. Perhaps the way forward is to stream the production for two/three nights only, right at the end of the run, or after the play has finished? The physical performance element has to be prioritised for sure.

Elise Davison, Artistic Director & CEO, Taking Flight Theatre

I went inside a theatre today to start planning a project that should have been delivered in 2020 and is now scheduled for 2022.  Most of our discussions centred around all the things we used to talk about pre pandemic. But there was one major difference, we were not only focussing on what would be happening in the space but also about how we could make that available in a creative way to an audience watching from home. 

As we re emerge lets not forget that for some people coming to a physical theatre building is still not a possibility, maybe it never was.  Lets not unlearn the lessons we learnt out of necessity ‘because we had to’ when we don’t ‘have to’ anymore. For some of our audience will still want the option to enjoy theatre from home and we now have the tools to do this.

Lets not forget about flexible working, remote recruitment and meetings. Lets explore a hybrid approach to making work, for the audience but also for the creatives.

Lets keep our spaces open, experimental and welcoming and please lets continue to work collaboratively. As we press reset lets use this as a chance to keep removing barriers to keep thinking outside the box.

Avant Cymru gave a response based on how their organisation has embraced the challenges of working outdoors to create new work for and with the public.

Avant Cymru are a forward-thinking company from the Rhondda Valleys. We have been living and engaging with our community throughout lockdowns and through conversations around recovery. Planning the events which have taken place though live social distance events or through digital showcasing; Rooting Hip Hop Theatre in Wales workshops, Hydro Jam, Henry V, Cyber Jam, Coming of Age, Hip Hop for Better Mental Health evening, Twelfth Night and Dark Thoughts R&D as shows and we have been involved in newsletters #OurStreet, graffiti pieces #PositivePorth, Stage Combat courses, regular dance session and engaging with others events.

We have key collaborators who co-design our work in the local community and with people from our community of interest. Co-designing, listening and being inspired by our communities needs and ambitions are our shared goals. We believe that there is room for everyone to access the arts and listening to everyone is the most relevant way to create cultural provision.  

Our work is still a hybrid between digital and live/in person.  We featured work in last years C Venues Ed fringe and we are preparing work to do the same this year. As well as other exciting work which we are going to be testing and trailing using zoom read throughs and continuous conversations with both local communities and communities of interest.

Outdoor work has always been a part of our repertoire. Jams, festivals and shows made and adapted to fit in many types of outdoor spaces. The outside work has been sometimes out of necessity, the doors have not always been open for disabled, working class or hip hop artists all elements which are relevant to the work we create. But also through choice, because the Rhondda provides, green (eco-friendly) and beautiful spaces, where the work we creates sits perfectly in these settings.

We are really grateful to Porth AFC and Welcome to Our Woods who offered us Outdoor space during this time. To Welcome to Our Woods for providing us with the opportunity to create in a place an amazing space, where the wood used to build to build the stage will be relaced, through new trees being planted and hydro electricity from the water running off of the mountains, and only a short walk from the train station, a place where the planet and the people could be healthy. Greener ways of working will be involved in all projects going forwards.

As well as amazing venues, we have been able to collaborate with over 114 freelancers; freelancers from RCT, and from drama, dance and Hip Hop communities. We have been able to work together to support not only creative work but each others mental health and well-being. It has been a hard time for many and the opportunity to come together either digitally or in times in person, has been invaluable. We are grateful to each and every freelancer who has collaborated with us at this time, we cannot wait to start planning the next projects together.

Avant have upcoming digital shows, live classes opportunities already on our website www.avant.cymru with more opportunities coming soon.

We have 5 spaces on the next stage combat course from the 30th of Aug, if anyone is interested in getting involved email us at hello@avant.cymru or follow us on social media.

You can read more about HydroJam in this article by Ann Davies here

Cory Shipp, Theatre Designer

With the roll out of the Covid-19 vacancies, the arts sector is hopeful audiences will return to venues. If venues want to attract audiences, what do you think they should do?

I think they need to advertise what they are doing to make audience safe, which is ultimately our biggest problem at the moment but honestly we could have done with higher audience numbers anyway! I’d love to see more theatres doing Pay What You Can, advertising better prices for single seats for those of us who go it alone as well as better access.

Which venue has a special place in your heart and why? 

Oooh tough choice! I have so much love for The Orange Tree in Richmond as they did such a huge amount for me as a designer when I was starting out and are incredibly welcoming and supportive with a real focus on artists well being. In Wales, it’s always going to be Theatr Clwyd.  I’ve only been lucky enough to work their once, just before the pandemic, but they really opened their doors during the closure to freelancers, with regular check ins, bursaries for those of us who were struggling financially and generally are a great advocate for wells talent which I really admire.

The National Youth Theatre on Great Britain planned to produce The Masters House on the 14 -17 July. On the 10 July they announced that due to Covid-19 isolation requirements they have had to cancel the performance. One of the plays directors Chris Sonnex tweeted in response.

“We can’t forget it’s also a reminder of the incompetence of this government, Johnson acted too late over & over, the people in charge hired their incompetent friends & they’re systematically letting down the arts. The disregard they give artists and theatre is because they are scared of the power we have, the opposition we send, the empathy we encourage. We weren’t working with young people, we were working with artists and activists, who will not forget this governments shit. I don’t want to hear anyone chatting about talking Tory or being apolitical. I want you all to hold these incompetent pricks to account. They’re letting your parents down, you are down and the younger generation down. Artist must revolt. Create. Revolt and fight.”

Is Chris correct?

100%. I admire Chris Sonnex so much as a director and a human – he’s a great person who has passion and fight in all the right places, and he’s determined to make change. It is no secret that a Conservative government doesn’t support the arts – I don’t know why, they just don’t. As much as I admire people who don’t want to make art political I don’t think we have a choice anymore if we want to survive and make change. It is thanks to the choices this government made that a lot of us have ended up with very little income, grants or any level of financial stability mainly because they put the needs of themselves over others, and failed to listen to our industry leaders who were telling us this wouldn’t work.  We shouldn’t be taking this lying down anymore.

In response to Covid-19 Many theatres and arts organisations have developed work to be performed outside. Have you seen any work created in this way and can you see audiences having an appetite for it to continue?

I think outdoor work is incredible and should be seen more. Its a shame it took a pandemic to bring back the wonderful outdoor touring circus/festival vibe that appeals to so many people! I don’t think its a replacement at all for indoor theatre, but a complete alternative experience – although I think people avoid it due to the terrible unpredictability of British weather….

Prior to Lockdown many venues did not stream any pre-recorded or live performances should they continue to do so and if so, how can they do this without harming their physical performance offer?

I don’t think it will ever harm the physical performance! Surely it just increases audience numbers and improves accessibility chances.  A lot of us will still always prefer to see it physical, but perhaps cannot because of travel, financial ability and a variety of other reasons.  You don’t see the NT struggling with audience numbers because of NTLive….

If we open up smaller performances to a much wider (and sometime international!) level I cannot see any reason that that wouldn’t be more successful than none at all once the initial costs were dealt with – which I appreciate is expensive but ultimately we’re improving access and that is so important and is the way we need to look at moving forward.

Dan Jones – Artistic Director, The Other Room Theatre

With the roll out of the Covid-19 vacancies, the arts sector is hopeful audiences will return to venues. If venues want to attract audiences, what do you think they should do?

In the first instance I think some joy is needed, a celebration of the shared live experience that has been out of reach for so long. A reminder that when humans connect, creativity leads to magical and enriching experience. But that is not to say that it should all be sunshine and roses. I believe we have a duty to be honest. But if we can find hope in the truth it would be a much-needed remedy.

Which venue has a special place in your heart and why? 

The Other Room of course. I have quite literally given my 20s to it and traversing the next 12 – 24 months to secure the legacies of Kate, Bizzy and everyone else this theatre has touched is very important to me.

The National Youth Theatre on Great Britain planned to produce The Masters House on the 14 -17 July. On the 10 July they announced that due to Covid-19 isolation requirements they have had to cancel the performance. One of the plays directors Chris Sonnex tweeted in response.

“We can’t forget it’s also a reminder of the incompetence of this government, Johnson acted too late over & over, the people in charge hired their incompetent friends & they’re systematically letting down the arts. The disregard they give artists and theatre is because they are scared of the power we have, the opposition we send, the empathy we encourage. We weren’t working with young people, we were working with artists and activists, who will not forget this governments shit. I don’t want to hear anyone chatting about talking Tory or being apolitical. I want you all to hold these incompetent pricks to account. They’re letting your parents down, you are down and the younger generation down. Artist must revolt. Create. Revolt and fight.”

Is Chris correct?

I think there is a lot of truth in that, and many ideas chime with my own. A word of caution on revolution, however. Access to opportunity in the arts is a colossal issue for the sector. Revolution requires sacrifice. It must be those with privilege that revolt, those who can shoulder the sacrifice, but at all costs they must protect fair and equitable conditions for those starting out and those from marginalised and less fortunate backgrounds.

In response to Covid-19 Many theatres and arts organisations have developed work to be performed outside. Have you seen any work created in this way and can you see audiences having an appetite for it to continue?

To my shame, no. This isn’t an offering that has found me in my current circumstances. I think if the decision to be outside is earned creatively, that is to say it enhances the story that is being told, then I think audiences will lap it up. Meaningful and rich story telling can take place anywhere. The famous words of Peter Brook are the foundations of The Other Room, and with the uncertainty of our future I predict some exciting adventures that will expand our brand and creative horizons.

Prior to Lockdown many venues did not stream any pre-recorded or live performances should they continue to do so and if so, how can they do this without harming their physical performance offer?

Personally, I do not think digital offerings pose a great threat to theatre as we know and cherish it. I suspect a lot of people like me (who worked on and offered digital content) became fatigued by the offering pretty quickly. We are not filmmakers; we are theatre makers, and the live shared experience is the cornerstone of the medium. To me, digital offerings cannot compete with that. That isn’t to say elements of the digital experience cannot be incorporated. They just need to be earned creatively.

There’s no denying though that the digital offerings seen over the past year or so have made a lot of work accessible to those who would otherwise not have been able to consume it. Asking questions of all access barriers is only a good thing. For me that is what theatre can do, view digital offerings as a weapon to wield against access barriers and inequity. I keep faith that the commercial potential of digital theatre is capped and will not pose a meaningful risk to the live “physical” performance. This is a belief and opinion though, so perhaps as a contingency, if we all view the digital form as a tool for structural change maybe we will stay on track.

Branwen Davies, Playwright, Literary Manager, Sherman Theatre

With the roll out of the Covid-19 vacancies, the arts sector is hopeful audiences will return to venues. If venues want to attract audiences, what do you think they should do?

I think venues, despite the complications and hardship of Covid, had a responsibility to keep in touch with their audiences and their freelancers during lockdown and to find a way to nurture and provide during the long months of lockdown. It’s been interesting to see how different venues and companies have done this and adapted and reacted as months went on. Dirty Protest for instance have been holding weekly ‘Writer Gyms,’ Pontio held a series of workshops and Theatr Clwyd had their outside stage and online play readings.  I think the venues who have been successful will see a sense of loyalty and these audience members readily return and support. Some venues and companies have discovered that maintaining an online relationship and communication has enabled them to connect with new audience members and I hope that the ease and practicality of connecting online won’t be lost when venues re-open. Not everybody will be jumping at the chance to return to the auditorium and venues will need to be sympathetic to different needs and provide variety and options and to communicate with audience members. I strongly believe also that there needs to be a celebration of being able to reunite and return to venues and that venues provide joy, escapism, comfort and connection. 

Which venue has a special place in your heart and why? 

I was recently appointed as the new Literary Manager of the Sherman Theatre so perhaps biased but the venue does have a special place in my heart! I first performed at the Sherman in 1997 when I was a member of National Youth Theatre Wales and performed there as a RWCMD acting student. I have also had various plays performed at the Sherman (‘Dominos’ and ‘Gwagle’) and the opportunity to direct Criw Brwd’s ‘Yn ei Blodau’ in the studio theatre. I have led on the ‘Fresh Ink’ projects and the ‘Young Writers’ programmes in the past and benefited in taking part in writer groups at the Sherman led by Alan Harris and Brad Birch. I am very excited about the plans and productions in the pipeline and the voices and stories the Sherman are nurturing, celebrating and supporting. There is a breath of fresh air to the work and I am really looking forward to seeing how the Sherman can grow and evolve in this new theatrical landscape. 

Sherman Theatre

The National Youth Theatre on Great Britain planned to produce The Masters House on the 14 -17 July. On the 10 July they announced that due to Covid-19 isolation requirements they have had to cancel the performance. One of the plays directors Chris Sonnex tweeted in response.

“We can’t forget it’s also a reminder of the incompetence of this government, Johnson acted too late over & over, the people in charge hired their incompetent friends & they’re systematically letting down the arts. The disregard they give artists and theatre is because they are scared of the power we have, the opposition we send, the empathy we encourage. We weren’t working with young people, we were working with artists and activists, who will not forget this governments shit. I don’t want to hear anyone chatting about talking Tory or being apolitical. I want you all to hold these incompetent pricks to account. They’re letting your parents down, you are down and the younger generation down. Artist must revolt. Create. Revolt and fight.”

Is Chris correct?

Chris is correct! We need to be vocal and honest at how atrocious and incompetent the government in Westminster have been and continue to be.  Theatre is powerful. It does have the power to transform lives and choosing not to support freelancers, artists, community and young people’s projects will have a long lasting and devastating effect on society. Yes, many sectors have been affected and yes the pandemic forced many difficult decisions but the Arts have suffered blow after blow and yet it was the Arts and artists that people turned to to survive during the lockdown! This is an industry that can adapt and respond and make things happen safely and effectively (have you met stage managers?!) but also an industry that has the power to heal and help make sense of it all as well as the ability to unite and bring people together. If we remain quiet, if we are not willing to speak up then we are in danger of losing a vital cog in what makes society work. 

In response to Covid-19 Many theatres and arts organisations have developed work to be performed outside. Have you seen any work created in this way and can you see audiences having an appetite for it to continue?


Outside work is nothing new but seems to be another alternative currently with our theatres closed. Theatr Iolo have created beautiful work for babies and young children – Baby, Bird & Bee and Hoof for instance. I’m excited that Os Nad Nawr, a company Wyn Mason and myself set up are currently co-producing a new play ‘Gwlad yr Asyn‘ (Donkey Land) with Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru. The play opens at the WMC on August the 10th and then tours outside venues including Theatr Clwyd, Plas Glyn y Weddw, Pontio, Pembrey Country Park and Aberystwyth throughout August. This has been made possible by venues collaborating and a real need and want to reach out to audiences starved of live theatre. The production is a part of a series of open-air shows at the various locations. There is a real festival feel to the productions and I think that we are hardy and experienced enough to enjoy outside entertainment whatever the skies throw at us! 

One of my main joys regarding theatre is the ability to share the experience live with an audience. That is what I’ve missed the most. Sitting in the dark with strangers experiencing something in the moment and being moved and enthralled together and then discussing  what we’ve experienced in the bar or the queue to the toilet after! However, I have enjoyed watching online theatre during lockdown, especially productions that were created specifically for an online platform and devised and experimented with the platform or retained a theatrical feel. Eddie Ladd’s ‘Fy Ynys Las’ was a great example as was Dirty Protest’s ‘Kill Me Now’ (which can be enjoyed again at the Edinburgh Festival – Summer Hall events) and Frân Wen’s ‘Faust +  Greta.’ 

I’ve also enjoyed online productions streamed from venues and locations I probably could never have travelled to and I know venues have been able to attract new audiences by providing online streaming. I feel venues need to continue to develop online streaming and provide online options as it has huge implications with accessibility and attracting audiences who can’t or are uncomfortable travelling to the venue. 

Zara Mader, Artist

With the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccines, the arts sector is hopeful audiences will return to venues. If venues want to attract audiences, what do you think they should do?

I think they should make ticket prices more accessible regardless of where you sit in the theatre, consider the programming and who and what is commissioned.

Which venue has a special place in your heart and why? 

I am quite fond of The New Theatre. Although the seating is snug, I’ve seen an array of plays there and I always feel like it’s a bit special. 

The National Youth Theatre on Great Britain planned to produce The Masters House on the 14 -17 July. On the 10 July they announced that due to Covid-19 isolation requirements they have had to cancel the performance. One of the plays directors Chris Sonnex tweeted in response.

“We can’t forget it’s also a reminder of the incompetence of this government, Johnson acted too late over & over, the people in charge hired their incompetent friends & they’re systematically letting down the arts. The disregard they give artists and theatre is because they are scared of the power we have, the opposition we send, the empathy we encourage. We weren’t working with young people, we were working with artists and activists, who will not forget this governments shit. I don’t want to hear anyone chatting about talking Tory or being apolitical. I want you all to hold these incompetent pricks to account. They’re letting your parents down, you are down and the younger generation down. Artist must revolt. Create. Revolt and fight.”

Is Chris correct?

Yes I think what Chris says is fair and correct.  The arts offer so much to people and bring so much money in to the economy and this government’s flippancy and incompetency is jaw dropping. 

In response to Covid-19 Many theatres and arts organisations have developed work to be performed outside. Have you seen any work created in this way and can you see audiences having an appetite for it to continue?

I have been to a couple of offsite film screenings and have been to the wonderful Minack Theatre in Cornwall so yes I could see audiences wanting it to continue. It adds another dimension to the theatre going experience.

Prior to Lockdown many venues did not stream any pre-recorded or live performances should they continue to do so and if so, how can they do this without harming their physical performance offer?

Yes I think venues should continue streaming performances if they can. It is particularly good thing to offer other theatres and possibly cinemas particularly if audience members cannot make the physical performances when and where they are originally on. These types of performances could bring new audiences in to the theatre and possibly give the idea that a job in the theatre is an option.

Owen Thomas Playwright

With the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccines, the arts sector is hopeful audiences will return to venues. If venues want to attract audiences, what do you think they should do?

It is primarily going to be about restoring the confidence of the audience in the first instance. Things aren’t just going to pick up where they left off, so a cautious, pragmatic approach is key. The thing that makes the theatre so special, namely sharing a unique experience with a group of strangers, is the thing that has also made us vulnerable. I was lucky enough to see ‘Under Milk Wood’ at the National Theatre recently which showed me how it is possible to see work safely indoors. We sat in distanced pairs, we were safely marshalled in and out of the theatre and we all respected the Covid requirements. It felt a little odd, if safe. But when the lights went down and the show began we were all able to forget the world for a while. It was a profoundly moving experience and for the first time in a long time it gave me a sense of hope.

Which venue has a special place in your heart and why? 

There are many venues in Wales that have a special meaning for me. Theatr Brycheiniog is where my theatrical career began, and the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff is where I was given the opportunity to develop. But because of the huge impact the building has had on so many aspects of my life, then The Torch Theatre in Milford Haven is incredibly special. Working with Peter Doran on both ‘Grav’ and ‘The Wood’ ultimately gave me the confidence to become a full-time writer, and for that I will always be grateful. I will always carry a torch for the Torch.

The National Youth Theatre on Great Britain planned to produce The Masters House on the 14 -17 July. On the 10 July they announced that due to Covid-19 isolation requirements they have had to cancel the performance. One of the plays directors Chris Sonnex tweeted in response.

“We can’t forget it’s also a reminder of the incompetence of this government, Johnson acted too late over & over, the people in charge hired their incompetent friends & they’re systematically letting down the arts. The disregard they give artists and theatre is because they are scared of the power we have, the opposition we send, the empathy we encourage. We weren’t working with young people, we were working with artists and activists, who will not forget this governments shit. I don’t want to hear anyone chatting about talking Tory or being apolitical. I want you all to hold these incompetent pricks to account. They’re letting your parents down, you are down and the younger generation down. Artist must revolt. Create. Revolt and fight.”

Is Chris correct?

Without question the Arts is one of the sectors that has been most overlooked in this pandemic. It is worth noting that one of the things that kept most people going during the lockdown periods was the arts in some shape or form, be in boxsets or podcasts or plays or music. We are a resilient and creative sector, but I do agree with the sentiment that it is time to fight for what we love. The thought that there are young people who have decided against a career in the arts because of this pandemic is very worrying as we depend on the talent and innovation of the next generation of artists. Before becoming a full-time writer, I was a Drama teacher for 20 years and I saw year in year out the enormous benefits that the subject, and other arts subjects has on the lives of young people. I find the governments plans to cut funding for Arts subjects in Higher Education to be yet another worrying sign of their attitude to us as a sector.

In response to Covid-19 Many theatres and arts organisations have developed work to be performed outside. Have you seen any work created in this way and can you see audiences having an appetite for it to continue?

This week I am very excited to be going to see some outdoor theatre, namely ‘Hoof’ by Theatre Iolo. They are a brilliant company who I am incredibly excited to be developing an outdoor show for at the moment. Open air theatre can be an amazing experience, if somewhat restricted by the tempestuous British weather and the turn of the seasons. But there is clearly an appetite for people to see theatre outdoors. It can be an excellent way of keeping audiences engaged and another step on the road to building up their confidence to come back into a theatre again. There is a great tradition of outdoor theatre in the UK and some brilliant, innovative companies and performers out there, so yes, I think the appetite will remain strong.

Hoof

Prior to Lockdown many venues did not stream any pre-recorded or live performances should they continue to do so and if so, how can they do this without harming their physical performance offer?

I think streaming is going to be a part of theatrical output for the foreseeable future. As people’s confidence rebuilds, this is a good bridge between the audience and the theatre. We recently filmed ‘The Wood’ and one positive was attracting audiences from further afield to the play.

The Wood

In my opinion it will never replicate the feeling of being in a theatre, as the lights fade and the audience settles. But if it keeps work being developed and enjoyed by audiences then that can only be a good thing. Revenues are going to take a while to return to what they were pre-pandemic, so streaming becomes not only a way of continuing to engage with your audience, but also a source of much needed finances as the theatre begins to find its footing once more.

Alétte Fontaine, Playwright

With the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccines, the arts sector is hopeful audiences will return to venues. If venues want to attract audiences, what do you think they should do?

With the success of the vaccination programme against covid-19, we are starting to see a positive shift in attitude from the arts sector in regards to reopening venues. For a majority of people, the wearing of masks has become commonplace, though the government’s plans of asserting new “freedoms” and lifting restrictions has stirred inevitable concern for some members of the public, amid fears of spreading and catching the virus. In conjunction with the cautiousness and protection of perhaps the most vulnerable members of our society, would it not be sensible to continue the wearing of masks in enclosed spaces, if not so to decline the sheer volumes of people being required to self-isolate? 

Furthermore, in order for theatres amongst other venues to reopen successfully, it may be worth reflecting on the pilot testing schemes such as the World Snooker Championship held at the Crucible earlier this year. The event held just under 1000 spectators, at full capacity during the final between Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy. Within this pilot testing scheme, 28 cases of Covid-19 were detected and tracked which helped to prevent further spread. 

As always, the risk of infection is on the tip of everyone’s tongue, and to allow full-capacity audiences back into our venues, matching pre-pandemic conditions, could be a step too far. To welcome people back safely, providing evidence of a negative test is arguably one of the better ways for reassurance of both performers and viewers alike, and I believe being cautious with numbers as we slowly ease back into “normality,” may be the most suitable option moving into autumn and winter.  

Which venue has a special place in your heart and why? 

A venue I believe warrants a special place in my heart is the Sherman Theatre, based in Cardiff. Since 2016, I have undergone two minor shows as a young performer; now moving onto producing original work as part of their Introduction To Playwriting programme, led by Tim Howe.

Sherman Theatre

The team have always been fully committed to producing new writing as well as elevating voices which have not had the platform they deserve, to share work and build relationships with the theatre.  As a young playwright, it can be difficult to gain representation and respect in such a competitive industry, with many arguing you’re too inexperienced to be given a moment of presenting your work onstage. As such, I am beyond grateful for my local theatre to have supplied me with the chance of producing a monologue for online viewing, an audio drama and now being able to showcase alongside four professional writers as part of their autumn festival for new writing. With numerous guest speakers including but not limited to Tim Price, Catherine Paskell, Nerida Bradley, instructive tutors such as Branwen Davies, Matt Hartley, Katie Elin-Salt, Tim Howe, I have equipped authenticity and insight into honing my craft and knowledge about how the industry works. 

Prior to Lockdown many venues did not stream any pre-recorded or live performances should they continue to do so and if so, how can they do this without harming their physical performance offer?

Pre-pandemic, it was uncommon to see shows streamed online, as theatre has predominantly, and will continue very much to be about the live aspect and atmosphere built in intimate venues.  Taking away this live, physicalised aspect of theatre can also remove its integrity and emotional impact on an audience, as we often struggle to regain this sense of feeling from looking through a screen.

Despite this, earlier in the year I witnessed an online production of Rhiannon Boyle’s “Kill Me Now,” which was hosted by Dirty Protest theatre group. This was featured live via Zoom. Overall, I felt the formatting was successful and engaging with its audience, with the play’s subject matter of promoting funeral services bonding well with its webinar style. 

After seeing this production, I now believe that physical theatre can work in collaboration with online performances, without hindering their physical performance offer. It may also be a good idea to suggest the recording of live productions in an archive which people can pay access to view, as with National Theatre’s “at home” platform. 

Additionally, I believe after an introduction of my work being digital and the increasing number of digitalised performances, we should continue to explore theatre in all mediums, and often these online performances allow for better connectivity and accessibility, such as the use of closed captions, interpreters, audio descriptions, versus live theatre.  

Announcing a year of activity with Ar y Dibyn for people affected by addiction

Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru – in collaboration with Literature Wales, Adra (Tai/Housing) and the lead artist Iola Ynyr – are delighted to announce a year of activity for people affected by addiction through the project Ar y Dibyn. This new development has been made possible thanks to the support of the programme HARP ( Health, Arts, Research, People), financed by the Arts Council of Wales, and Y Lab (Cardiff University and Nesta).

Ar y Dibyn gives people affected by addiction  – whether they themselves are living with addiction, or supporting other people with their addiction – the opportunity to come together and share those stories in a creative way and through the medium of Welsh. With the artists Iola Ynyr and Mirain Fflur at the helm, the aim of the workshops is to promote creativity to celebrate the possibilities of addiction, rather than the obstacles it presents, and to develop heart-felt creative work to share more widely. Iola Ynyr, lead artist and founder of Ar y Dibyn, said:
“It’s a pleasure to begin another series of Ar y Dibyn workshops within a year of activity funded by HARP. It takes great courage to participate in activities such as these after periods of isolation in the grips of addiction. But we offer an environment of acceptance without having to reveal any details. Creativity is the tool we will be using to open the door to our inner treasure. We look forward to discovering what will be created by our participants over the coming year!”

This year of activity will expand on earlier projects held face to face at Galeri, Caernarfon, and on-line during the lockdown periods. One participant who took part in a workshop at the end of 2020 said:
Fear held me in a tight grip, and I didn’t mention to a living soul apart from my husband that I was attending the workshops. Fear, shame, nervousness… but by the end I was looking forward to the next session. I hadn’t realised that there was an intention to create a film or script or anything – I had no end goal in sight, I just wanted to give myself some time and space to recover, to be in a room with people who were similar to me, people who understood, and to have the opportunity and the permission, in a way, to be myself, in my own language.”

With support from the North Wales Area Planning Board for Substance Misuse, Adferiad Recovery and Stafell Fyw, Ar y Dibyn also highlights the importance of the relationship between the arts and the fields of health and well-being, and responds to the need to develop the support that is available through the medium of Welsh. Professional health specialists are at hand in every creative session to give support as required. Rhian A. Davies, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru’s Executive Producer, said:

“We are very grateful for this grant provided by Nesta, as part of their HARP (Health, Arts, Research, People) scheme, to develop the Ar y Dibyn project that gives people throughout Wales living with addiction an opportunity to come together to share their stories in a creative way and through the medium of Welsh. Our ambition is for the project to become permanent – in collaboration with partners in the health, care and third sectors, both current and new – and to show the importance of the role of the arts in recovery and health, and the health and well-being of Welsh-speakers.”

The HARP programme also focuses on giving the arts an opportunity to play a leading role in the health and well-being of the people of Wales. Rosie Dow, HARP’s Programme Manager for the Arts and Health, said:

“We’re delighted to be working with Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, Iola and their partners to explore how Ar y Dibyn can reach as many people affected by addiction as possible. We know that there is a need for Welsh-language creative interventions to support people’s recovery and wellbeing, and the team’s combination of passion and expertise will really help to change peoples’ lives for the better. HARP is all about how innovative projects like this can grow and become embedded in health and care in the long term, so we look forward to exploring with the team how that might be possible.”

The first series of Ar y Dibyn workshops in this new year of activity started on 6 July 2021 – but a warm welcome is extended to any participants or artists who are interested in joining the project. Go to theatr.cymru/arydibyn for information.

Mae Cwmni Dawns Cenedlaethol Cymru (CDCCymru) yn eich gwahodd i ymuno â nhw am berfformiad awyr agored 45 munud o hyd ac i ailddarganfod llawenydd dawns yr haf hwn.

Kirsten McTernan

Coreograffwyr yng Nghymru yn creu darnau dawns byrion
i’w perfformio yn yr awyr agored yr haf hwn.

Mae Cwmni Dawns Cenedlaethol Cymru (CDCCymru) yn eich gwahodd i ymuno â nhw am berfformiad awyr agored 45 munud o hyd ac i ailddarganfod llawenydd dawns yr haf hwn.

Bydd CDCCymru: Perfformiad Awyr Agored yn cynnwys dau lais dawns cyffrous. Mae dau o ddawnswyr cwmni CDCCymru, Ed Myhill a Faye Tan, wedi bod yn datblygu eu lleisiau coreograffig dros y blynyddoedd diwethaf ac wedi bod yn archwilio’r syniad o greu darnau ar gyfer yr awyr agored mewn gwahanol leoliadau yng Nghymru. 

Mae Faye Tan wedi bod yn gweithio gyda dawnswyr CDCCymru i greu darn dawns newydd, llawn egni – Moving is everywhere, forever. Dyma gerdd foddhaus i’r weithred o ddawnsio; gwahoddiad i ildio i’r awydd cryf i symud i gerddoriaeth y trac sain gan y ddau artist cerddoriaeth electronig o Gymru, Larch.

Dywedodd Faye, “Dechreuodd ‘Moving is everywhere, forever’ fel gwaith ymchwil i’r syniad o ddawns o foddhad a chatharsis fel ffordd o wahodd cynulleidfaoedd i symud gyda’r dawnswyr, ac ildio i’w greddf naturiol i symud i’r curiad. Roedd hefyd yn archwilio’r syniad fod dawns yn gallu bodoli ar unrhyw adeg, yn unrhyw le.

Wrth feddwl am osod y darn yn yr awyr agored, roedd hynny’n rhoi rheswm cryf i’r darn fod yn fentrus o ran y ffordd mae’r perfformwyr yn cysylltu â’r cynulleidfaoedd a’r ffordd maent yn croesawu elfennau newidiol amgylchedd awyr agored yn hyderus ac yn naturiol; cadarnhad nad oes rhaid i ddawns fod wedi’i gyfyngu i amgylcheddau rheoledig, dan do, nac i amser penodol o’r dydd.

Mae wedi bod yn brofiad anhygoel o dwf a llawenydd i bawb sydd wedi bod yn rhan ohono, ac rydym wedi cyffroi o gael cyfle i gyfnewid egni â chynulleidfa yng ngolau dydd yn ystod ein perfformiadau.”

Yn ogystal â chreu perfformiad dawns newydd, mae CDCCymru wedi bod yn ailwampio eu darn poblogaidd, Why Are People Clapping!?ar gyfer yr awyr agored.  Mae ‘Why Are People Clapping!?’ gan Ed Myhill yn ddarn dawns calonogol, digrif a chlyfar tu hwnt sydd wedi’i osod i ‘Clapping Music’ gan Steve Reich, ac mae’n defnyddio rhythm fel grym ysgogi. Mae’r dawnswyr yn clapio, stampio a neidio i greu’r trac sain byw.  Mae’r cyfan yn 13 munud hwyliog, llawn tynnu ‘stumiau a thapio traed.

Dywedodd Ed Myhill, un o ddawnswyr CDCCymru a’r un a greodd Why Are People Clapping!?, “Mae addasu Why Are People Clapping!? ar gyfer yr awyr agored wedi bod yn broses heriol ond cyffrous. Rydyn ni wedi gorfod ail-fowldio ein hunain i weddu i amgylcheddau mwy agored ac ansefydlog. Heb ein gallu arferol i ddefnyddio golau a sain, yn ogystal ag agor dwy ochr ychwanegol ar gyfer y gynulleidfa, mae’r gwaith creadigol wedi bod yn heriol o ran ystyried sut i ailddychmygu’r darn hwn. Er bod cyfyngiadau wedi codi mewn mannau, rwyf wedi cael fy ngorfodi i fynd ar drywydd gwahanol sydd wedi datgelu posibiliadau eraill gwych, ac mae’n deimlad cyffrous gallu cydweithio â’r dawnswyr i ddatgelu’r syniadau hyn. Rwyf wrth fy modd gyda’r llwyfaniad newydd hwn ar gyfer yr awyr agored, sydd hyd yn oed yn fwy egnïol a hwyliog.”

Ar ôl y ddau berfformiad, bydd cyfle i’r gynulleidfa ymuno a dysgu ychydig o symudiadau o’r ddau berfformiad.

Bydd Cwmni Dawns Cenedlaethol Cymru: Perfformiadau Awyr Agored yn Chapter (Caerdydd) – 6 a 7 Awst; Canolfan y Celfyddydau, Aberystwyth – 10 ac 11 Awst; Theatr Clwyd (yr Wyddgrug) – 13 Awst; a Pontio (Bangor) – 14 Awst.

Mae CDCCymru yn cydweithio â lleoliadau a phartneriaid ac yn dilyn Canllawiau Llywodraeth y DU a Llywodraeth Cymru ar weithgareddau Perfformio a Chyfranogi, ynghyd â chyngor gan Iechyd Cyhoeddus Cymru ynghylch lledaeniad COVID-19.

National Dance Company Wales (NDCWales) invites you to join them for a 45 minute open-air performance and to rediscover the joy of dancing this summer.

All image credits Kirsten McTernan Photography

Wales based choreographers create short dance performances
for outdoor performance this summer.

National Dance Company Wales (NDCWales) invites you to join them for a 45 minute open-air performance and to rediscover the joy of dancing this summer.

NDCWales: Open Air Performance will feature two exciting dance voices. NDCWales company dancers Ed Myhill and Faye Tan have been developing their choreographic voices over the last few years and exploring creating pieces for the outdoor in various locations across Wales. 

Faye Tan has worked with the NDCWales dancers to create a brand new energetic dance piece – Moving is everywhere, forever. It’s a satisfying ode to the act of dancing; an invitation to yield to the irresistible impulse of grooving, to the soundtrack by Welsh electronic duo Larch.

Faye said, “Moving is everywhere, forever’ first began as a research into a dance of satisfaction and catharsis as a means to invite audiences to groove along with the dancers, yielding into their own natural instincts to move to the beat. It was also an inquiry into the proposition that dance can exist at anytime, anywhere.

Thinking about situating the piece outdoors immediately gave the piece a strong reason to be bold with how the performers connect with the audiences and how they embrace the ever-changing elements of an outdoor environment with confidence and spontaneity; A reaffirmation that dance does not have to be confined to the indoors, in controlled atmospheres, or a particular time of day.

It has been an incredible experience of growth and joy for everyone involved, and we are so excited to have a mutual  exchange of energy with an audience in broad daylight during our performances.”

As well creating a new dance performance, NDCWales have also been reworking their acclaimed piece, Why Are People Clapping!? for the outdoors.  ‘Why Are People Clapping!?’ by Ed Myhill is an uplifting, funny and ridiculously clever dance piece that is set to composer Steve Reich’s ‘Clapping Music’ and uses rhythm as a driving force. The dancers clap, stamp and jump to create the live soundtrack.  It’s a face-pulling, toe-tapping 13 minutes of joy.

NDCWales dancer and creator of Why Are People Clapping!?, Ed Myhill said, “Adapting Why Are People Clapping!? for outdoors has been a challenging but exciting process. We have had to remould ourselves to fit into what will be more exposed and temperamental environments. Without our usual lighting and sound capabilities, as well as opening up two more sides for audiences to observe from, our creativity has been tested in how we want to reimagine this piece. Despite finding restriction in some areas, it has forced me to go in a different a direction that has revealed some great alternative possibilities and it’s exciting to work together with the dancers to unveil these ideas. I am thrilled with this new staging for the outdoors which has become even more vibrant and joyous.”

After the two performances there will be an opportunity for the audience to join in and learn some moments from the two performances.

National Dance Company Wales: Open Air Performances will be going to Chapter (Cardiff) – 6 & 7 August; Aberystwyth Arts Centre – 10 & 11 August; Theatr Clwyd (Mold) 13 August and Pontio (Bangor) 14 August.

NDCWales are working with venues and partners and taking guidance from the UK and Welsh Government Guidance on Performing and Participation activities and advice from Public Health Wales regarding the spread of COVID-19.

“Dance in Wales needs to have an equal place in how we see our cultural heritage. ” An interview with dance artist Gwyn Emberton.

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

Hello there, lovely to meet you too. I am a choreographer, performer, teacher and, I guess, producer now too. I have mainly worked in contemporary dance and dance theatre. 

What got you interested in the arts?

I was born and raised a borders boy in Montgomery in a tied-house to my dad’s job as a farm labourer. The arts didn’t feature at home, we didn’t have any books but watched a lot of telly. It was probably singing and performing in school plays and dancing folk dances in primary school, where the performing seed was sown. 

I kind of fell into contemporary dance though after doing a drama GCSE at school. My friend who went on to Newtown college to do performing arts convinced me to try it for the acting but I took my first contemporary class and that was that. As is quite typical of coming from a farming background, I wasn’t particularly confident in speaking so doing and moving was a way for me to express myself and in a way I’d never been able to before. Whilst I was at college Diversions Dance Company (now National Dance Company Wales) came to give a workshop and performance where I met Jem Traeys (who was dancing with the company at the time). Jem encouraged me to think about taking dance seriously, it was then that I decided I would go to university to train as a dancer.  

Jem Traeys

Although I knew I wanted to dance I had no idea how to make a career out of it. No one in my family had ever done anything like that before; they were all farmers or worked in the local factory. I needed a lot of support and help from my lecturers and because of them I eventually went to university in London. It was there that I first realised I might actually be any good. I loved how my body was developing, the feeling of being part of a family with my fellow students when we made work together and the sense of purpose and identity it was giving me. 

After university, I went on to dance with some amazing companies both in the UK and Israel, was rehearsal director for some wonderful choreographers and I’ve also taught all over. 

You are the Artistic Director of Jones the Dance (formerly Gwyn Emberton Dance) the organisation’s mission is  “Extraordinary dance theatre that is globally inspired, made from the heart of Wales.” How did the organisation develop and what are you working on at the moment?

Originally Jones the Dance / y Ddawns was called Gwyn Emberton Dance. It was the company I set up in 2013 to create and tour my own group works. As the company grew over time, we started to do more and more things beyond my own work, such as our summer schools in Newtown and supporting other Wales based artists to lead or take part in the international projects we were involved in.  

Particularly in our youth projects, including Quiet Beats our workshops for Deaf young people, I realised we were trying to create a place where dance was available to those who had little opportunity or felt dance just wasn’t for them, whether this was due to geographical barriers or being part of a community where you just didn’t dance.

There is still little infrastructure for dance in Wales with less and less dance happening in schools and it is only down to a few really dedicated people that any dance exists for young people outside of the traditional local dance schools – something which was the case when I was young over 30 years ago. If we don’t change this it will be the same again in another 30 years and our young people won’t get to experience the joy, creativity and, in my case, the life changing opportunities that dance can offer. 

We wanted to shift the company even more in this direction and with that we felt Gwyn Emberton Dance wasn’t the right name any more. So we changed it to Jones the Dance in April this year – ‘Jones’ because it’s a really common name that many of us in Wales identify with (half my family are Joneses) and ‘the Dance’ because it is a fun and lovely way of talking about someone and their job in Wales. 

We are working on a few things at the moment, coming up later this year and into next. We are developing our youth projects Quiet Beats and Jones Bach to run more regularly throughout the year, looking at a dancers’ creative development project with some really cool partners across Wales, finishing my next work which will be a new dance film production that has been on hold since before the pandemic, and we are just starting to work on the next edition of iCoDaCo, the international collaborative project we are involved in, to start in 2022. 

You can read review of (iCoDaCo), It Will Come Later, by Eva Maloes here

The dance sector and your work as a dance artist is inherently international, Brexit and Covid -19 must present some challenges, how have you worked to overcome them? Do you have any future plans for UK and international touring?

You are right, international work has always been a huge part of what we do. International collaboration is incredibly important to us and feels even more so since Brexit. With our colleagues at ilDance who initiated iCoDaCo, we have been talking about the implications of traveling and touring internationally before the pandemic. A significant part of the next project will be focused on how we can still collaborate but environmentally sustainably so. We are looking at what digital technologies we can use, how to share knowledge and experience across cultural, political and language borders. 

With Brexit we are still trying to understand the implications it has for us as a small dance company. We are not sure what our options are yet for iCoDaCo and whether we can raise enough funding for it. The last edition of iCoDaCo we were eligible to be partners in European funding which meant we were able to access the huge potential for us as a small company to offer lots of people work in Wales, as well as bringing a huge project to audiences and the public here. It will be a devastating loss on so many levels if we can’t be involved, both to the artists who would work on the project and to audiences. We are happy that our colleagues in Europe still want us to be involved even though it will present them challenges so fingers crossed. We are determined to make it happen so watch this space. 

With Covid, I have reimagined my new work for film instead of a touring theatre show. It will be shown in really exciting ways which has actually unlocked the possibility to share the work with different audiences in different spaces and communities all over Wales. 

Between May 2018 and October 2020 Gwyn you were the Programme Director of Dance at University of Wales, Trinity Saint David.What was your approach to the course delivery and what aspirations did you have for your students?

I really wanted to make the course a place for those who had somewhere to go in Wales to train and study dance. We took a rigorous approach to training which was supported by theoretical and practical knowledge acquisition. I was very keen to make sure the students had lots of opportunities to work with a range of different artists from different backgrounds and in different styles, from Wales and internationally such as Moya Michael from Belgium, Kiani Del Valle from Berlin, Matteo Marfoglia, Zosia Dowmunt and Jonny Vieco from Wales and the UK for instance.

I was hoping that each student had the autonomy in how their degree developed by the time they left whether that was creatively/choreographically, academically, or through a dance health route. It is such a shame that this course will close, as will the one at University of South Wales. As a whole arts community we need to address this. It seems completely unfair that there will be no conservatoire or place to study and train in dance in Wales, when many courses in Welsh and English exist for theatre and music such as at Royal Welsh Collage. 

 We recently interviewed Kokoro Arts and shared their response to this question

If a dancer wanted to stay and train in Wales and then pursue a career, what support system would you suggest they require in order to be able to do this?

What would be your response?

There are no options at the moment as there is no training which I mentioned above. However, we need to think much more cleverly than just that. The whole infrastructure needs to be looked at for dance in Wales. It needs to have an equal place in how we see our cultural heritage in the same way that theatre and music is. Look at folk dance, probably everyone has done it in school at some point but then it just drops off. It should be the foundation for dance in Wales but there is nowhere to take dance further especially if you can’t afford to go to a local dance school. There are all these amazing youth groups around Wales but there is nowhere to take it beyond that. There is zero dance in secondary schools, no GCSEs or academic qualifications which are the most usual routes for kids to pursue dance later on. 

Every dancer or person working in dance that I know in Wales is trying to link up, find creative ways to counter all the structural challenges we face but it just isn’t enough. It has to come from the government and the willingness to see dance as a cornerstone of a vibrant, varied Welsh cultural life and see its importance in and relevance in all of our lives. We need some kind of manifesto for dance that we can all get behind. 

We have so many of the components already; community, professional, theatre, digital, street dance, contemporary, folk dance, twmpath, classes and performances. We just need to connect and build on them through education, the right support and a commitment to implementing the required infrastructure. 

You also responded to the additional statement from Kokoro below on Twitter

For organisations and project funded companies to regularly advertise for new dancers rather than turning to those they already know.”

You said the below, is there anything more you would like to add? 

Absolutely!!! As Gwyn Emberton Dance & now @JonestheD  we’ve done and will do this. We always advertise for new dancers but we also work with people we’ve worked with previously. We’re not in the luxury position of a regularly company that employs their dancers for the whole year and year after year. The artistic understanding you have with someone over years is just as important as the new relationships you build and also the opportunities you can create. It is a question of how to strike the balance between making sure we are creating opportunities for new dancers to work with us and develop as artists and the need to maintain and build a shared artistic practice over years. This has to be a consideration. We’re working with our board at the moment on developing our open call policy & this discussion is part of that. 

As a project funded company we are limited in how often we can offer/create opportunities due to the sporadic and precarious nature of funding and how we work. We’ve lots of amazing plans coming up in the next few years but without support none of them will happen. My final thought on this at the moment as a choreographer it can be an isolated place so having relationships with long-term collaborators is hugely valuable just as it is so important to meet and support new dancers/artists who they bring their own richness to a creation.

I will add that there needs to be more opportunities across Wales for dancers and choreographers to develop their own work too. We have nothing like Wales Dance Platform any more, where I first presented my work in Wales, or Dance Shorts that Dance Blast used to run.

You can read a review of Wales Dance Platform 2014 by Hannah Goslin here

They were both brilliant opportunities to get your work and name out there and filled the diary with dance work for both choreographers and other dancers. There is nothing like this any more and we are all poorer for it. 

Through the dancers’ creative development programme we hope to give a few dancers opportunities to develop their work, skills, networks which will also give other dance work too. However, this is only a small part of what needs to be available. 

Thanks Gwynn, you are passionate about creating dance experiences for those who don’t usually access the art form.  In October 2020 you set up the pilot project Quiet Beats, the dance workshops for young Deaf people and building on its success, the second week of workshops were held in February 2021. Do you have any learning you would like to share from this work and ambitions for its future development?

We knew we wanted to do this project for a while. We had been questioning why we had never met any young Deaf people in our summer schools. After some research and talking with Deaf colleagues in theatre we realised that there is this misconception that Deaf people can’t or shouldn’t dance which stopped young Deaf people taking classes or workshops, thinking it wasn’t for them or that they wouldn’t be very good. We were very conscious that we were coming into the Deaf community as hearing people and that people may feel wary of us so it has been about building relationships with group leaders, charities, parents and guardians and most importantly they young people who have taken part. There is still so much to do and so much for us to learn if we want this project to really take off with young Deaf people from all over Wales dancing any style in an environment where they are happy to let go and enjoy themselves. 

Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision. Are you aware of any barriers that creatives in Wales face? If you are, what might be done to remove these barriers?

We need to rethink what professional dance is and who makes it. Contemporary dance has become professionalised and has received a lot of support comparatively to other dance styles although not to other art forms. There are other dance styles which are reflective of other people’s experiences and backgrounds which need to have the same recognition. Linked to that I think the fact we don’t have dance as part of core education and there isn’t a conservatoire for dance in Wales really impacts the perception that dance can be a career. This is a barrier for everyone but particularly if you come from a community where dance isn’t seen as a profession or your style isn’t contemporary or ballet based. 

Also, I dont know of, or am not aware of, any Welsh dancers who are Deaf or have hearing loss but maybe one day one or loads of our Quiet Beaters will become dance artists for Jones the Dance making their own projects. There needs to be more visibility of artists or people working in the arts who come from different backgrounds so that the younger generations of dancers coming through see it as a possibility. They need to have people to look up to and to speak with about their own careers. 

Working in dance in a rural setting can be really challenging as there just isn’t the resources, space needed or other people to work with. 

With the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccancies, the arts sector is hopeful audiences will return to venues and theatres. If theatres want to attract audiences what do you think they should do?

Take it slowly but start already!!!! Be imaginative, creative and curious with what you are offering. Trust and let us artists lead the way, as we have been thinking for the last 18 months how to make our work safe and secure for audiences. If sports can have fans then why can’t theatres open their doors. 

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

Obviously, dance. I would want to create more opportunities for people to be making more work, supporting them in making it more public and for it to be recognised. Perhaps a dance festival, digital and face to face, with lots of exciting opportunities for audiences to experience different types of dance and performances. 

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

Wales has so many incredible artists, stories and experiences to share in their work, there are so many voices who we don’t hear from but also we have such a legacy of incredible experienced artists that show what a vibrant, creative and dynamic place Wales is. 

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

I have talked about it so much already but it has to be Quiet Beats. We invited Chris Fonseca to lead the week of workshops, he is a Deaf urban dancer and teacher.

He taught this super cool phase to the young people which they performed at the end of the week. I was so impressed with their focus and commitment, how they dealt with being on Zoom the whole time, and the development of their skills in just one week was phenomenal. One of the participants mum’s emailed me afterwards to say he hadn’t stopped dancing for the next week – there’s a dancer right there! 

Thanks for your time Gwynn.

Get the Chance supports volunteer critics to access a world of cultural provision. We receive no ongoing, external funding. If you can support our work please donate here. Thanks.

National Dance Company Wales (NDCWales) is pleased to announce Matthew Robinson as the Company’s new Artistic Director.

Credit Genevieve Rogers


Matthew will join the company in the Autumn direct from his role as Artistic Director of VERVE, the postgraduate company of Northern School of Contemporary Dance (NSCD) where Matthew has led the company for five years. Matthew is a practising artist having worked as a dancer, choreographer, facilitator, Rehearsal Director and Artistic Director.


Matthew was appointed Artistic Director of VERVE in 2016, under his direction VERVE became known for its bold commissioning, collaborating with world renowned and fresh choreographic voices like Botis Seva, Maxine Doyle and Sita Ostheimer to create distinct, engaging programmes of dance work, reaching thousands of people each year, onstage, online and in outreach work.
Matthew is excited about sharing his vision for what dance can do with audiences and participants in Wales and beyond.


Matthew said: “I grew up in a small Devon town, a young gay person. I did not know how to identify myself. I did not see myself in the media or in my community. Dance offered me an inclusive space where my identity could flourish, I lead with this in mind every day, seeking to develop dance as a safe and ambitious space for all.


Watching or participating in dance can have a profound effect on somebody’s life, it can change how we see ourselves, others, and the world around us. I believe this because I have lived it. Seeing yourself represented on stage, feeling your life experience translated in front of you, or being swept away by an immersive world created before your very eyes. Dance, at its best, is transformative, inspiring, entertaining and provocative. We can challenge and be accessible, be physically thrilling and politically powerful. I believe in engaging, ambitious programming reflective of 21st century society in all its diversity and beautiful complexity. I bring my ambition to reach beyond core dance audiences, to be a catalyst for the change we seek in our world.


I look forward to gaining insight into the unique ecology in Wales. I am eager to learn about and work with the Welsh dance scene. We all have our stories to share, and our perspectives to reveal, and I look forward to having these conversations and collaborations. I look forward to sharing my vision for what dance can do for audiences and participants in Wales and beyond.”


Jane McCloskey, Chair of the Board of Trustees said:


I’m delighted our search for a new Artistic Director attracted such a talented national and international field. Matthew stood out as an exceptional and exciting candidate for the role and will help us reach new audiences, new participants and new heights.”


Paul Kaynes, Chief Executive of National Dance Company Wales said:

“We had an exciting and international field of applicants, but Matthew captured the opportunities to work in new ways to create change in our world, putting the communities of Wales at the heart of his artistic plans, and telling the stories of Wales around the world. His deep commitment to inclusion and diversity in his work and the artists he works with, will enable the Company to continue to present world-class dance made by artists from many backgrounds. We’re incredibly excited to be welcoming him to Wales.”


Matthew is a graduate of London Contemporary Dance School and danced for many years for Scottish Dance Theatre, performing work by a diverse range of international choreographers, including Sharon Eyal, Damien Jalet, Hofesh Shechter, and Victor Quijada. In 2013 he took on the responsibilities of Rehearsal Director, supporting the dancers and guest artists in their creative process, and the company on multiple international tours.

HATCH

Impelo is a charitable organisation that seeks to share the transformational power of dance as far and wide as possible, connecting people of all ages and walks of life in joyful expression. Everybody dancing – for themselves, each other and a better life.

At Impelo we create projects, programmes and productions which explore how dance can respond to health and social inequalities, creative learning and sustainability.  Based in Powys, rural mid Wales we have a great reputation as an innovator of participatory dance practice https://www.impelo.org.uk

Through funding from Foyle Foundation we are delighted to be able to offer 4 collaborative incubation residencies, pairing up Impelo dance associates with recent graduates, or people considering returning to dance, over a 2 week period this Summer. We think this will be a great way of supporting our existing dance associates and bring new dancers to Powys to evolve their practice through a collaborative process.

We want to bring fresh creative energy into Powys by getting to know new dancers at the beginning of their careers and explore how we might work together in the future.

The programme aims:

  • To nurture recent graduates (2019, 2020 and 2021) and those returning to dance or moving from professional performance to community dance practice through a bespoke programme of workshops, classes and advice surgeries;
  • To raise awareness of the community dance landscape in Powys and to develop the ecology through building new relationships with new dancers in or around Powys.

We will select dancers who are interested in developing their community dance practice and connect with the region.  We hope HATCH will contribute to a sense of community with the talented dancers here. 

What we are offering:

  • A ten day incubation residency (online or at our Dance Centre in Llandrindod Wells, subject to Covid restrictions) and collaboration partner from the Impelo team;    ;
  • Shadowing opportunities;
  • Practical workshops on delivering inclusive community dance sessions and making dance performance for specific audiences and communities;
  • Career development support and one to one advice surgeries;
  • Company class;
  • An opportunity to share current work in development or developed during the residency;
  • £700 fee

Who we are seeking:

  • Recent or about to graduate dancers who are curious about developing their careers in Powys as community dance practitioners and dance makers – either currently or planning on living in Powys, Wales or the Borders, or having grown up in Powys;
  • Dancers seeking to return to dance, or curious about community dance practice;
  • We particularly welcome applications from currently underrepresented dance practitioners deaf, disabled, neurodivergent, Welsh speakers and POC (and we understand and appreciate that these dancers may not have come through traditional dance training routes);
  • Dancers who can demonstrate how the incubation will benefit them in developing their careers;
  • Dancers who are ambitious to challenge themselves, their collaborators and us;
  • We especially encourage applications from people who come from a background that is under-represented in dance.

When:

The incubation residency will run from Monday 26th July and end on Friday 6th August 2021.

To apply:

Send us a recorded (audio or video) or written statement telling us about yourself, and how you think the incubation residency will help to develop your practice by 9am Monday 28th June 2021.

Via email: amanda@impelo.org.uk

Interview date

30th June – Zoom Interviews

2nd July – Notified