The Coronavirus pandemic has pushed artists to make online videos. This has too often resulted on mediocre videos of a dance or theatre piece, forgetting that film has different rules. With Draw From Within,Rambert were careful to avoid this mistake by commissioning choreographer and filmmaker Wim Vandekeybus. The camera movements are integral part of the show. Yet, Draw From Within fails to draw the audience in because, ironically, not enough attention has been given to the needs of film-making. Rambert’s dancing is impeccable; the visual impact is non-existent.
The intro is perhaps the most cinematic part of the show. We see two dancers talking on top of a roof and then follow the flame of a match down the stairs. The show takes nearly thirty minutes to take off and it quickly lands nowhere. According to Vandekeybus, Draw From Within is about “threat but also about liberation, about death but also about birth.” He says he wanted to “go under the skin and draw upon our innate human qualities: the human heart beat that unites us, the arc of a human life, the blood which courses through our veins.” With no story, no dramatic visuals, and dreadful music, I doubt many viewers kept away from the allure of their phones.
I have no idea why Rambert chose to make the video of a real-time live-stream show instead of making a dance film, which would have given them more flexibility. It suggests a simplistic understanding of what is a really ‘live show’ (in person). A live show has intimacy and an energy flow between performers and audience. It is irreplaceable. Live TV conveys reality as it’s happening not intimacy. Film is a very different medium from the stage. It is a two-dimensional visual product that requires many elements to work together to draw the audience in. If you have no story, it’d better look good. Draw From Within looks boring.
The obsession with narrative found in film-making is due to the necessity of keeping people with you for hours. It is lazy and performance artists should not follow the rule-book of commercial film-making, yet they should study the rule-book anyway instead of dismissing films as not art. Covid-19 is disrupting the arts but it is also an opportunity to go beyond the fixed boundaries of theatre, dance, film, performance art, circus. The arts are in great need of innovation. This can only come when artists watch, listen, and reflect on other types of performance. Now is the time.
National Dance Company Wales (NDCWales) and English National Ballet’s Dance for Parkinson’s programme has been transported from the Dance House (Cardiff Bay) and Blackwood Miners Institute (Caerphilly) to a new Zoom online class to help support those most vulnerable and still shielding.
NDCWales has been running the high quality dance classes for people living with Parkinson’s, their family, friends and carers since 2015 at the Dance House and 2017 at Blackwood Miners Institute, both part of a UK wide programme with English National Ballet.
Dance for Parkinson’s has been proven to support people with Parkinson’s to develop confidence and strength, whilst temporarily relieving some participants of symptoms in everyday life. Classes are expressive, creative and promote feelings of freedom from the physical and social constraints of having Parkinson’s.
Since the start of lockdown NDCWales and English National Ballet have been piloting a version online to support existing attenders to take part from the comfort of their own home, many of whom are vulnerable and have been shielding since March. It’s also allowed existing attenders to the classes to stay connected to people through lockdown sociably.
Dance for Parkinson’s Participant said, “The lockdown has been very hard, as I was no longer able to see people and my family. I felt isolated and my speech was suffering. I found the Zoom sessions helped me reconnect and it was lovely to see the teachers and all the participants of our group. The sessions were very uplifting for me and I always looked forward to them.”
As well as setting up the sessions online, NDCWales has partnered with Digital Communities Wales who work with digitally excluded people. Helping them deliver digital inclusion activities so they can do it well and make a bigger impact. They helped NDCWales to provide free training and support for those who have never used Zoom before.
NDCWales’ Learning and Participation, Guy O’Donnell said, “The feedback we’ve had from our loyal Dance for Parkinson’s participants is that they wanted to still feel connected and still continue to feel the benefit of the programme on their health. They were keen and wanted to be adventurous and learn about technology, and fortunately with the continued support from Digital Communities Wales we have been able to do this.”
Following the pilot over lockdown, Dance for Parkinson’s will now be available online for new members to join in from Thursday 17September, 1.15pm-2.45pm. The programme runs across 12 weeks and participants can join in at any time. The first class on the 17 September is free and the first class is free for new attenders, classes are £3.50 per week thereafter. Each term the programme focuses on one English National Ballet or National Dance Company Wales production and explores the themes and ideas around the movements of that dance piece. This term, Dance for Parkinson’s will be focused on NDCWales’ production of Ed Myhill’s Clapping?! which was adapted for online during lockdown.
As well as encouraging new members to take part in Dance for Parkinson’s, NDCWales and English National Ballet are continuing to look for volunteers to help support participants in the programme. If you would like further information and to sign up to the programme as participant or a volunteer please contact – Guy O’Donnell, Learning and Participation Producer, NDCWales email email@example.com or ring 07305 534 981.
Dance for Parkinson’s is supported by Caerphilly Council, Hodge Foundation, The Moondance Foundation and The Goldsmiths Charity Company.
Mae rhaglen Dawnsio ar gyfer Parkinson’s Cwmni Dawns Cenedlaethol Cymru ac English National Ballet wedi cael ei symud o’r Tŷ Dawns (Bae Caerdydd) a Sefydliad Glowyr Coed-duon (Caerffili) i ddosbarth ar-lein Zoom newydd i helpu i gefnogi’r rheiny sydd fwyaf bregus ac yn parhau i warchod eu hunain.
Mae CDCCymru wedi bod yn cynnal y dosbarthiadau dawns o safon uchel i bobl sy’n byw â Parkinson’s a’u teuluoedd, ffrindiau a gofalwyr ers 2015 yn y Tŷ Dawns a 2017 yn Sefydliad Glowyr Coed-duon, pob un yn rhan o raglen ledled y DU ag English National Ballet.
Profwyd bod Dawnsio ar gyfer Parkinson’s yn cefnogi pobl â Parkinson’s i fagu hyder a chryfder, gan leddfu dros dro symptomau ym mywyd bob dydd rhai o’r cyfranogwyr. Mae’r dosbarthiadau’n fynegiadol, yn greadigol ac yn hyrwyddo teimladau o ryddid rhag cyfyngiadau corfforol a chymdeithasol Parkinson’s.
Ers dechrau’r cyfnod clo mae CDCCymru ac English National Ballet wedi bod yn treialu rhaglen ar-lein i gefnogi mynychwyr presennol i gymryd rhan o gysur eu cartrefi eu hunain, y mae llawer ohonynt yn fregus ac wedi bod gwarchod ers mis Mawrth. Mae wedi caniatáu i fynychwyr presennol gadw mewn cysylltiad â phobl drwy’r cyfnod clo yn gymdeithasol.
Dywedodd Cyfranogwr Dawnsio ar gyfer Parkinson’s, “Mae’r cyfnod clo wedi bod yn anodd iawn, nid oeddwn yn gallu gweld pobl na fy nheulu rhagor. Roeddwn yn teimlo’n unig ac roedd fy lleferydd yn gwaethygu. Helpodd y sesiynau Zoom i mi ailgysylltu ac roedd yn wych gweld yr athrawon a holl gyfranogwyr ein grŵp. Roedd y sesiynau yn codi calon ac roeddwn bob amser yn edrych ymlaen atynt.”
Yn ogystal â sefydlu’r sesiynau ar-lein, mae CDCCymru wedi uno â Chymunedau Digidol Cymru sy’n gweithio gyda phobl wedi’u cau allan yn ddigidol. Gan eu helpu i ddarparu gweithgareddau cynhwysiant digidol fel eu bod yn gallu ei wneud yn dda a chael mwy o effaith. Gwnaethant helpu CDCCymru i ddarparu hyfforddiant a chymorth am ddim i’r rheiny nad oedd erioed wedi defnyddio Zoom o’r blaen.
Dywedodd Cynhyrchydd Dysgu a Chyfranogi CDCCymru, Guy O’Donnell, “Yr adborth a gawsom gan ein cyfranogwyr Dawnsio ar gyfer Parkinson’s ffyddlon, oedd eu bod eisiau teimlo mewn cysylltiad o hyd a pharhau i deimlo buddion y rhaglen ar eu hiechyd. Roeddent yn awyddus ac eisiau bod yn fentrus a dysgu am dechnoleg, ac yn ffodus gyda chefnogaeth barhaus gan Gymunedau Digidol Cymru rydym wedi gallu gwneud hyn.”
Yn dilyn y cynllun peilot dros y cyfnod clo, bydd Dawnsio ar gyfer Parkinson’s bellach ar gael ar-lein i aelodau newydd ymuno â’r rhaglen o ddydd Iau 17 Medi, 1.15pm-2.45pm. Cynhelir y rhaglen dros 12 wythnos a gall cyfranogwyr ymuno unrhyw bryd. Mae’r dosbarth cyntaf ar 17 Medi am ddim ac mae’r dosbarth cyntaf am ddim i fynychwyr newydd, ar ôl hynny codir tâl o £3.50 yr wythnos am ddosbarthiadau. Bob tymor mae’r rhaglen yn canolbwyntio ar un cynhyrchiad gan English National Ballet neu Gwmni Dawns Cenedlaethol Cymru ac yn archwilio’r themâu a syniadau y tu ôl i symudiadau’r darn dawns hwnnw. Y tymor hwn, bydd Dawnsio ar gyfer Parkinson’s yn canolbwyntio ar gynhyrchiad CDCCymru o Clapping?! Ed Myhill a gafodd ei addasu i’w arddangos ar-lein yn ystod y cyfnod clo.
Yn ogystal ag annog aelodau newydd i ymuno â Dawnsio ar gyfer Parkinson’s, mae CDCCymru ac English National Ballet yn parhau i chwilio am wirfoddolwyr i helpu i gefnogi cyfranogwyr y rhaglen. Os hoffech ragor o wybodaeth a chofrestru i’r rhaglen fel cyfranogwr neu wirfoddolwr, cysylltwch â – Guy O’Donnell, Cynhyrchydd Dysgu a Chyfranogi, CDCCymru e-bostiwch firstname.lastname@example.org neu ffoniwch 07305 534 981.
Cefnogir Dawnsio ar gyfer Parkinson’s gan Gyngor Caerffili, Hodge Foundation, The Moondance Foundation a The Goldsmiths Charity Company.
As the lockdown confined us into our homes, choreographers and performance artists began exploring how to do dance digitally. Choreographer Matteo Marfoglia decided instead to bring socially-distanced dance to people who were especially vulnerable: people in care homes and in hospitals.
The project, funded by the Arts Council Stabilisation Fund, is an adaptation of Matteo’s 2016 show Crossword, which was a co-production between National Dance Company Wales and Festival of Voice, uses dialogues as music. During lockdown Matteo kept trying to think of what he could still do without necessarily using video, as soon as it would be legal to do so. He says,
“A lot of arts was going towards the digitalised form. I couldn’t find myself in that world yet. I asked myself ‘What can I still do that makes me feel I can contribute something and which doesn’t necessarily need to go digital’?”
“I woke up at three in the morning and said ‘we can do that!’. There is no contact between dancers in Crossword. I began to think of what places might be in most need of art. I initially thought of hospitals and health settings.”
Crossword became an opportunity to bring dance to people who might be at a particularly vulnerable time in their lives, but also people who might have never seen contemporary dance. That included one of the residents in a care home, who was a 94-year-old ballerina in the Royal Ballet.
“She was a dancer in the Royal Ballet and her daughter was also a dancer in the Royal Ballet. She said, ‘I have never seen contemporary dance. I’m so glad I got to see contemporary dance.’.”
Matteo tells me that the music gathered people like an invisible smoke insinuating itself inside the hospital. He says,
“In hospitals, chefs from the kitchen and nurses were clasping a cup of tea on their break came to watch the show. They were watching it through the windows so there was no interaction. For residents in care homes, the show was also an opportunity to be outside and talk to someone they didn’t know, and watch something new to them. Some people had never seen contemporary dance.”
Matteo wondered how best to enter that world with dance and movement. He felt it was a little ‘naughty’ intrusion because people would normally expect the beautiful music and graceful movement of ballet. They got something very different: an emotional journey that goes beyond a story and uses words as music.
In Crossword, the music is made of dialogues in the Italian language. The show was first designed around the theme of voice, to be part of the Festival of Voice. Matteo wanted to explore how to turn dialogues into music.
“At that point I was interested in dialogues and how voices in dialogues can be music, not just as a song or needing an instrument. I worked a lot with Italian dialogues, taking fragments from different conversations. From that we created a soundtrack.”
“The dancers were all British so they didn’t understand what was going on and I didn’t tell them.
We really used it as music. We devised the show for them to respond physically and emotionally.”
The first reaction in most audiences was the search for meaning and some found it frustrating. He tells me,
“We always look for meaning in language for us to connect to it. How can we find a way to emotionally connect through a language that we don’t understand, through something that is not the meaning, so is it the tone? The speed in which people talk, which triggers an emotion?
“For me it was trying to connect both the performers and the audience to an emotional state which goes beyond the literal understanding of words, but more about how the words are being said.
“One of the residents said ‘once the journey started I forgot that that was language.’ Once they let go of meaning, it started to be sound. It became an emotional journey.”
Contemporary dance is still largely ‘different’ for most of us. It has no straight narrative, or no narrative at all. For many, it is like a foreign language. Crossword has been an opportunity to embrace that ‘foreignness’, a ‘foreignness’ that has multiple dimensions. Crossword made use of the ‘foreignness’ of Italian language to create music and movement; it drew on the ‘foreignness’ of contemporary dance and music made of dialogues to bring the audience through an emotional journey; and it took contemporary dance to a foreign land, that of hospitals and care homes, who have been at the centre of the pandemic and where, perhaps more than anywhere else, body and mind need healing.
Get the Chance member Helen Joy, interviews Poet Marvin Thompson. In this interview Marvin discusses his background. How issues such as Black Lives Matter have impacted on his current practice and Plethu a collaboration with Literature Wales/National Dance Company Wales and Dancer Ed Myhill.
Plethu / Weave: Triptych Part 1 by/gan Marvin Thompson and Ed Myhill
Please note: This video contains deliberate use of a highly offensive racial slur and images that some viewers might find distressing. These elements are relevant to the context of the artistic work which explores Wales’ relationship with the transatlantic slave trade.
Gemma Connell is a dance artist based in Wales, whose latest work, footSTEPS, is a series of dance films in starkly different locations. Born in south Manchester and with Welsh ancestry, Gemma started dancing in her local youth club. She explains,
‘I come from a working class family and a very big family, certainly couldn’t afford dance lessons. So it was the youth club, it was things that were free that were there for me.’
She later went to Warwick University to study English literature, but found herself spending most of her time dancing and setting up shows. It was then when she decided that she wanted to devote her life to the arts. I ask her what dance is for her and she tells me,
‘Dance for me has always been therapeutic. It’s my way of processing the world, It’s my way of working through things that I find difficult. It’s a way of expressing myself when I can’t find the words.’
Used to moving freely, the lockdown in the spring brought a new challenge. She didn’t have enough space at home to dance, she tells me,
‘You try and dance and you’re gonna hit the coffee table. I felt trapped and I think footSTEPS was a way of trying to get that freedom back. Dance and dancing outside was a way of dealing with that.’
Once allowed to go over 5 miles from the house, Gemma and her partner Ian Abbott, who is the Director of Photography , decided to explore different locations and experiment making short dance films. footSTEPS thus became her escape.
‘I felt very free the first couple of times we tried to create these dance films. I suddenly found myself really excited about dancing again.’
The first season of footSTEPS is set in south Wales. The locations include Chepstow Castle, Wentwood Forest, a bus graveyard, an underpass in Newport, and a beach in the Vale of Glamorgan. In her dances, Gemma interacts with the features of each place and reacts to their different feel. Bringing contemporary dance into a castle felt like a meeting of two eras, while the bus graveyard had an apocalyptic feel to it. She says,
‘There’s something for me with being at a castle of one time meeting another. We film in this medieval space but I’m very much in modern clothes and doing this kind of dance that they definitely wouldn’t have done back then.’
‘The bus graveyard for me was quite eerie. It looked a little bit like the apocalypse. As if humanity had disappeared and everything had been left. It made me a little bit nervous that site. I think it comes across in the movement as well. There’s something about me trying to create a boundary, a barrier around me. I seem to be making circles around myself.’
In each film, Gemma improvises bringing together different dance styles to respond to her immediate environment; yet there is a consistency in her moves. I ask her what Covid made her realise about dance. She tells me,
‘The tactile nature of the way I work. I do a lot of contact work. Covid means you aren’t allowed to touch anybody or anything, that you’re not allowed to get close to people. As a dancer, I’m used to being in contact with people all of the time. I found that very, very difficult.’
I remark that in our everyday life we, non-dancers, tend to suppress movement. We are not at ease with our body. I ask her how dancers gain that confidence to express themselves through movement. She tells me,
‘The late Ken Robinson used to talk about this and I think he’s brilliant. He said that people are educated out of their body and into their heads. I really do believe that. I work a lot with young people. As young people, they get less and less comfortable with their body or with moving in a certain ways. I do think that that is related to an education system which is focusing on academic achievements. There are so many kinds of intelligence. I think dance is one of those kinds of intelligence. Embodied knowledge certainly is.’
For non-dancers, dance is something one might do in a club or a dance class. We do not dance on the street, in a park, or forest. Gemma takes her dance into the wild, into historic settings, and urban sites. She frees it not just from the confinement of lockdown, but from the restrictions our society imposes on dance. Movement is how Gemma, as a dancer, deals with life and expresses her emotions. We might do well to follow the example of footSTEPS and dance wherever and whenever we feel like it.
The lockdown with its different rhythms, the enclosed physical spaces, and enforced digital presence has been an opportunity and a challenge for artistic creation. National Dance Company Wales and Literature Wales have come together to produce Plethu/Weave, a series of four solo performances where dancers interpret a poem.
Dancer and choreographer Faye Tan has created a subtle piece of just over one minute to the poem Ust by National Poet for Wales Ifor ap Glyn. The poem Ust (Shh) is highly physical in sound and imagery. It speaks of words as a body that moves and is translated beautifully by Faye in her delicate and yet intense movements.
Faye was born in Singapore and has trained in ballet and contemporary dance at the Singapore Ballet Academy and School of The Arts before graduating from the Rambert School in London. She then joined Verve, the postgraduate company of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds. She was always interested in learning new dance styles and has often taken extra classes to try new things. She tells me she likes “being a chameleon.” She likes the variety and exploration that contemporary dance allows. She says,
“I always try to remember that there’s this whole spectrum of movement and amount of energy, and a whole spectrum of options to use when you dance because it’s contemporary dance. There is no expectation from the genre to do something in a certain way.”
At dance school she developed her physicality and learned the vocabulary of dance. As a professional dancer, she is learning to express herself in dance in a more subtle way. She says,
“In training there was a lot of discovering of the limits of my physicality, how high I can go, how much I can push myself. It was when I joined a company in Singapore, after the training, that it was more about what the work needs rather than physical training. I felt allowed to quieten down physically and discover nuances.”
I ask her about working with poet Ifor ap Glyn. She tells me that they were matched by NDCWales and Literature Wales. “It was like a blind date”, she says with a giggle. She describes the poem saying that it felt like “I could zoom to a moment in time.”
I ask her what was her process, she tells me,
“I spent a couple of days at home in my living room thinking of movements and the words and how they would come together. I decided because I was confined as well and I couldn’t go out very much, I thought I’m going to do it on my balcony with quiet a plain background so that the body is the focus.”
The evocative moves that lend a body to the words capture the delicate motion of the poem and its intensity. It seems effortless, yet Faye tells me that in the beginning she had a creative block. She tells me,
“I did not expect the creative block. The concept was very exciting. But I had to be performer, choreographer, and director. I enjoy working with other bodies.
I am not surprised me at her initial creative block. Lockdown confined the movements of all of us and separated us from other people. In Faye’s dance, I glimpse at the experience of confinement. Her moves happen in a small space and are trapped in close-ups. In Ust, Faye’s movements draw out Ifor ap Glyn’s words in beautiful harmony, or better, cynghanedd.
Hi Daisy, it’s lovely to meet you and to get the opportunity to pick your brains. So just to introduce yourself to our readers, please can you give them some background on yourself and how you define yourself as an artist?
Hey Guy! Yes, so I am a Contemporary Dancer/Director based in Manchester. I trained at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance where I graduated in 2018 with a Masters in Contemporary Performance.
I am Welsh born and proud, so split my time between working in North Wales and across the North of England. My work is a whole mix of things really, from teaching to choreographing, to performing professionally and directing my own company. I like to spin many plates!
At the moment my artistic practice is very much based in collaboration, working heavily with digital creators, movement makers and sound artists. Concerning a definition, I am a person whose artistic world is constantly changing, so I am more of a chameleon than anything else! I like re-developing and re-branding who I am as an artist. I don’t like getting boxed in. So with my practice as a maker, teacher and mover, I feel like I have my own specific interests and style, but also something tangible that is reactive to the situations and people around me.
Your company has a Virtual Performance Party on the 28th of August. You will be premiering your new work, ‘Night People’, which is described as a “visual art, rave inspired, dripping with dance and bass, screen-dance film! Inspired by nightlife adventures and underground club nights, we bring to you an evening of music, movement and misfit mayhem!” This sounds like an exciting event! Can you tell me more?
Of course! This is all very exciting as it is the first time myself and collaborators have made a purely digital work, made for screen. I currently work within a trio, consisting of myself (Director of Brink Dance Company), Animation Powerhouse ‘Howl Creative’ and Composer ‘LSMarley’. Together we make cross-collaborative performance work that focuses on the electric blend of animation, visual art, contemporary dance and sound. We draw upon the themes of Rave Culture and the Dnb scene, bringing to life these underground landscapes of community, escapism and midnight mayhem. We began our collaborations whilst training in Leeds, with our passions to bring contemporary art to a new scene of young people and venues uniting us together. Over the years we have worked in various Club settings and Theatres, alongside showcasing our work in Churches, Bars and Shopping Centres.
Our new work “NIGHT PEOPLE” is our latest ambition, commissioned by Social Conventions London. The whole event aims to bring the night out to your night in, offering an insane mix of dance work, visual creations and DJ sets direct to your screens. We are fiercely attempting an online festival line up, one that follows the storyline of a collection of Pro Ravers on their night out, whilst showcasing a range of DJ and Visual Art sets in between. The whole event is geared towards those missing the party scene and the nightlife culture. However this event is also geared towards those interested in Digital Art, DJ mixes, Animation, Motion Capture, and simply for those who want a fun and energetic Friday Night to enjoy! Tickets can be found on our Facebook Page at Brink Dance Company and cost as little as £1. This is a brand new look at how we can create connection and party via this new lockdown world, so come and join the movement!
Artists features include sets by the incredible DJ and Visual Artist, Izzy Bolt, a completely new soundscape of Dnb/Experimental goodness by LSMarley, Movement & Groove from the phenomenal dancers Iolanda Portogallo and Maya Carrol, Digital Creations and Film from the fantastic Howl Creative and much much more….
Contemporary Dance can be perceived as an elitist art form do you think your practice seeks to break down any perceived barriers?
Completely. Coming from a very traditional dance background, I will always have a love for pure dance on stage, with the theatre audience watching and bows at the end. However as I began figuring out my movement style whilst training, I realised this didn’t always connect with me. My experiences dancing at raves, exploring the club scene and finding connection in these places of music and groove, were the reasons my love for dance and performance grew. I found my feet. I found a place where my body understood how to move. I found a style that expressed who I truly was. And it was amazing. From then on, I wanted dance to move from a place of tradition and bring it to a new scene of people, locations and communities.
My work aims to bring contemporary dance and mix-medium performance to audiences that may never have set foot in a theatre. I wanted to showcase how dance can be used as a tool for communication and dialogue, rather than something people simply observe from afar. I think art is about people and isn’t something that should be contained by old notions of performance and presentation. My work strips this away and offers a raw physicality and emotive landscape of people communicating what they really feel. It is also a reason I have taken dance away from just dance in its pure form. I wanted to work with other creators and other mediums to enhance my process and thankfully through luck and chance I was able to connect with some incredible artists who have helped make this happen. Breaking down notions of art forms being apart or away from each other has been a career changer for me and essential in breaking down limitations of how I view dance and where I see dance going creatively. It is about learning from new sources and being open to the fact you don’t have all the answers. Giving into this and entering various scenes of art, creation and rave enabled my process to blossom and is a huge reason why my work has taken many twists and turns.
It all begins to sound very arty as I describe it but essentially I owe a great deal of my creative ethos to the rave scene. As a maker and particularly as a dancer, this unlikely scene of haze, bass and underground antics moved me in such a way it broke down my perceived barriers of what I thought art was and what it could be. These places of sheer music and escapism shook my creative habits to a point of change and enabled me to see what I truly cared about as an artist. My practice has grown from this place of joy and boundless energy, removing personal and professional barriers so that I can reach audiences beyond the rigidity of traditional performance. Taking my work off stage and opening the doors to all manners of performance, audiences and venues has been an incredible journey and one I hope I can continue in the future.
Rave culture informs a great deal of your practice, how do you curate the music that becomes part of Brink’s artistic vision. What tunes are exciting you now, personally and artistically?
I am blessed to work and be friends with the incredible LSMarley.
We began collaborating on one of my first commissions in partnership with Light Night Leeds and Light Waves Manchester in 2018. We met Luke and it just clicked. Luke has a fantastic ear for sound and composition, alongside being able to produce incredibly unique tracks that gel effortlessly with movement. His music has been a huge influence on the aesthetic and overall movement style of our work. Essentially I think our music and movement is curated through genuine pleasure and joy. We make what feels right and makes us feel good.
I wouldn’t say it is an overly thought out process, it is more about sensation and being honest with each other. It is also through observation and taking interest. I listen to Luke’s music within my everyday ongoings. Luke has watched me perform and dance countless times. We have been in the studio playing and jamming together for the last three years. I think through simple experience and listening to each other we have naturally come to an understanding. I think it is all a little unspoken and I think this is what makes it so magical.
Apart from Luke’s sound, my music style for work takes inspiration from various pools of EDM artists and DNB creators. Some of my favourite ‘going out/research’ tracks are by Lenzmen, Calibre, Nicolas Jaar, Caribou, Thundercat, Marcelus, Chimpo Halcyonic and G Roots and Children of Zeus.
You were recently working for Theatr Clwyd providing arts based activities to key worker children. How did you approach delivery given the limitations of Covid 19 and do you have any hints for colleagues as regards delivery of participatory activity?
Ah this was such an incredible part of lockdown! One of my biggest passions is teaching and working with young people. It was such an honour working back in North Wales and helping these children experience art and dance after such a tough lockdown!
Delivery was all focused on protection for both teachers and students, alongside creating a super safe and welcoming atmosphere. We were lucky enough to work in a huge theatre, so that really helped keeping the 2m distance rule. We had colourful 2m squares painted on the floor for the children to work in and have as their own which was really lovely. The main actions we took were developing games and activities that would involve a whole group whilst keeping distance, so there was lots of re-inventing the classic games and making them Covid safe! We wore masks around the building at all times, apart from in sessions and washed our hands religiously! Having hand sanitiser on you was key and we made sure the kids we routined in regular hand washing within all sessions.
It was a crazy experience diving into this work environment and I know for many dance teachers re-entering the scene feels risky and under-researched. I guess the main factor when it came to delivery was prioritising your safety as a teacher and making sure the space was set up in a way so that you could keep distance, whilst being able to lead. Little things I got into the habit of doing was taking spare clothes to change into throughout the day so I wasn’t taking ‘unclean’ clothes into my car/living spaces, disinfecting materials and surfaces I used regularly (my phone/speakers/trainers) and being very clear and open with the students about when they should wash their hands and the importance of keeping distance. It is totally possible to make a teaching space fun, enjoyable and feel relatively normal, you just have to be super on it with hygiene and be creative with your practice!
How has lockdown affected you as an artist? What long term effects do you see Covid-19, having on your artistic practise?
Big question. And I feel one where the negatives could naturally be the main answer here. Obviously the financial impact is huge, especially on freelance artists. Alongside loosing months of passion projects, contacts, performances and creative support, there was also a huge loss of momentum for freelancers self generating their own work and putting endless hours into making their ideas come to life. Through a loss of income and creative development, I still feel a sadness for all the things that were cancelled and taken away once lockdown hit. These impacts have been truly devastating for many artists and I cannot deny the damaging affect this loss of time, money and security has had on many.
However I think it is also incredibly valuable to look at the long term positive effects. Covid-19 was a huge blow for my freelance practice. I lost all my work over night and I had to basically start again. BUT (and this is a big but) when there is a will there is a way and damn I was going to find a way! Due to lockdown I switched up my aims, practice and pretty much my overall artistic outlook and set out to learn a bunch of new things. During this time I have been lucky enough to develop my skills in film and digital media, take lectures in screendance and movement capture. I was able to be part of online R&D’s and several digital creations, alongside delving into my writing practice and developing my online classes. I’ve managed to reconnect with old artistic ambitions and have the space to come up with new ones. I’ve become more efficient and savvy with finding work and directing my passions. I’ve had chance to think long term and not rush from one project to the next. There have been so many things I would have never done and I feel beyond grateful to have had these experiences come my way. I think there has to be a big shout out to all ALL artists and organisations taking Covid-19 on with re-invention and innovation and I feel very proud to be part of an artist community that is pushing new boundaries and re-shaping the path forward.
The Get the Chance team are big fans of the ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ podcast and something they do on each episode is ask their guest “If they were in government as an advisor for their specialist field, what would be the first change that they would make?” So I’d like to ask you, if you were an advisor/ representative for the Arts sector, what would be the first change that you would make?
Diversity and accessibility. I think a great deal of work is still needed in these areas, to help make art that is a true representation of the communities we live in and offers diversity in voice, experience and narrative. I think more has to be done to create an arts sector that offers fair opportunity and reflects the social changes that are part of our current 2020 lives. I think the arts sector can be seen as a liberal place but it is also stuck in tradition, old schools of thought and certain infrastructures that limit artistic creation from a truly diverse pool of artists. I believe art is for everyone and what we generate, create or shape can make a real impact to those who engage with it. It can be a kick starter for social change, dialogue and awareness and I would love to see the scene develop further in audience outreach, art inclusion and diversity in engagement and opportunity. I think a great deal of this comes from employers and art funders being aware of their positions of power and the change they can implement through re-shaping old ideas concerning art creation and its outlook. I see innovation happening across the sector, from dance and music, to visual and digital media, to how we showcase art and offer accessibility through viewing and participation. However I know a great deal more is to be done and that these conversations need to move from discussion and board meeting chats, to quicker modes of change and action.
To conclude, is there anything that you’re currently working on or anything that you’d like to highlight/ share with our readers?
I wanted to share the Instagram links of the fantastic artists I am lucky enough work with for our NIGHT PEOPLE project. Their talents, artistry and love for their craft has made this event what it is and I am so proud to have collaborated with this team of wonderful humans! Check out their work below at…
Follow @brinkdancecompany for further info, ticket links and exciting updates about the work, and yes…go buy a ticket! You won’t regret it!
Words by Poet Marvin Thompson / Movement by dancer Ed Myhill
On Sunday 23 August, in respect of International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, National Dance Company Wales (NDCWales) and Literature Wales announced its next short film release from their poet and dancer project, Plethu/Weave, which focuses on Wales’ involvement in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.
The International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, started by UNESCO, is now held annually across the world on Sunday 23 August, which offers an opportunity for collective consideration of the historical consequences of slavery.
Wales based Black Poet Marvin Thompson, and NDCWales dancer, Ed Myhill who is of White British heritage – as part of NDCWales & Literature Wales’ new innovative cross-art form digital collaboration project, Plethu/Weave – will look at Wales’ involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Triptych which will be released on Thursday 3 September uses Marvin’s words together with a new sound scape and movement by dancer Ed Myhill to convey the injustice, the communities and the people affected in a powerful poetic letter.
Poet Marvin Thompson said, “Ed Myhill and myself have created a film inspired by my poem ‘Triptych.’ This poem is a response to a plaque in Brecon that commemorated a slave trader. Ed Myhill took the first section of ‘Triptych,’ an open message to Brecon Town Council, and remixed it over a soundscape that he composed. The film incorporates images of cornfields, the sea and the movement of our bodies to amplify themes of ecological destruction and enslavement.”
Triptych is the third video of eight from the Plethu/Weave project by NDCWales and Literature Wales. The new digital film project, Plethu/Weave sees dancers from NDCWales and the independent sector, partnered with some of Literature Wales’ commissioned poets to create eight short solo film performances during lockdown.
The first two films, Hirddyddby Mererid Hopwood and Tim Volleman and Ust by Ifor Ap Glyn and Faye premiered as part of the National Eisteddfod’s Online Digital Festival at the beginning of August and are now available to view on NDCWales / Literature Wales’ websites and social media channels.
Lleucu Siencyn, CEO of Literature Wales, said, “Literature and the arts can guide us towards a better understanding of difficult and important issues. Through poetry and dance, Marvin Thompson and Ed Myhill openly and honestly examine Wales’ involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and Literature Wales is very proud to support this work in partnership with NDCWales. The Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition is an occasion where everyone around the world – including the citizens of Wales – should pause to reflect the atrocities of the past.”
Chief Executive Paul Kaynes said, “Dance is an artform which relies on deep collaborations – with choreographers, composers, designers and often with writers. Two Wales-based artists – a poet and a dancer – are collaborating to make a work for and about Wales, reminding us of our past in the trans-Atlantic slave trade and challenging us to reflect on how Black Lives Matter, then and now. The power of the work they have made is a testament to them as artists, and the relevance of their subject”
Triptychwill be broadcast on NDCWales/ Literature Wales’ social media channels from Thursday 3 September and will be available to watch for up to 12 months. The next five new short films from Plethu/Weave will be broadcast every fortnightonline as part of KiN:Connected, NDCWales’ digital programme. NDCWales has been showing many of its productions online for the first time for audiences to watch for free as part of its online programme KiN:Connected, including Dream (Christopher Bruce CBE),Rygbi: Annwyl i mi/ Dear To Me (Fearghus Ó Conchúir) as well as a live streamed Zoom version of Ed Myhill’s Clapping.
Full details of KiN:Connected can be found at ndcwales.co.uk and on social media channels over the next week @NDCWales
I had the pleasure of interviewing Multi-disciplinary artist Ffion Campbell-Davies recently. In this interview we will be talking all things arts, creativity, Identity and Wales.
Hi Ffion, it’s lovely to meet you and to get the opportunity to pick your brains. So just to introduce yourself to our readers, please can you give them some background on yourself and how you define yourself as an artist?
I was born and raised in Wales and moved to study at London School Of Contemporary Dance, graduating in 2013. I have since worked in various avenues within the industry as performer, teacher and choreographer. Over the last 5 years I have been developing my own artistic practice and creating my own work as well as collaborating with other artists.
I term myself as a multidisciplinary artist as a few of my disciplines other than dance are at the core of my work. My self produced work cross pollinates with music production, text, voice, expressionism, exhibitionsim, dramaturgical principles and [more recently] visual & digital art.
I am a co-founding member of all female company collective House Of Absolute; we are a diverse group of multidisciplinary females creating boundary crossing, politically active theatre, sight specific and digital movement, sound & visual works collectively and independently.
My work explores themes and subjects around psychoanalysis, gender, race and spirituality, working with experimental devices and the influence of ritual to dismantle conditions around definition, power and politics.
So moving to London from Wales to gain better opportunities in the arts seems like a common trend among young people. Why do you think that is and what can we do here in Wales to change that?
I believe Wales has a lot of resources within its artistic demographic, with multiple communities of various levels and spheres of skill and knowledge. I recognise that infrastructures have excluded and disabled social mobility for many communities in being able to exercise and contribute to the collective central culture of arts in Wales.
There are many conditions which are similar in all cities here in the UK, but I believe London has an effective fluency in generating micro economies for artists to exercise and contribute to the collective culture. There seems to generally be more structures in place for diverse sources of funding to support varying different artistic communities, where sub cultures are actually at the core of reinforcing and empowering the collective. Because of this naturally people of any socio economic background have more of an access point to engage in the artistic climate, with more spread for opportunity and information to be easily accessed.
It is difficult for communities/artists outside of the capital culture [in regards to Wales; the traditional welsh cultural agenda] to be part of the solution of development and empowerment when many organisations of funding, or spaces of information and power are gated for exclusive representatives.
I see diversity as a fertiliser for soil, just the same way varying different types of stimuli rapidly develop the neural connectors in our brain, we need constant interaction with varying different human beings of different traditions, sciences, arts and practices to fuel innovation. This is something London taps into very well, in which I believe people from all over the world are drawn to.
Traditions are never lost and I believe Wales has a wonderful opportunity to find synergy with its ancient history and the fertility of its vastly diverse origins to energise and activate all representatives in wales of all different cultural backgrounds to cross pollinate.
As you have mentioned whilst in London, you’ve been a member of the company ‘House of Absolute’ which combines various street styles alongside other styles of movement. How has Hip-Hop culture helped to develop you as a Contemporary artist?
Hip-Hop has been at the axis of my growth and development. It is one of the most iconic symbols for the term ‘contemporary’ quite literally it is with the times. Hip-Hop is not only a ‘style’ but also a culture and even a philosophy with which most people involved would say it is a way of life. Hip-Hop is a mode of resistance, a political instrument for reconstruction. It is one of the most influential cultures on the planet, because of its wealth of knowledge and teachings through trans-generational art, it is legacy.
It is a cultural library archive of the preservation of people of the diaspora, which houses many different languages of the body, many trans-migrational stories of the intersectionality between races and cultures, and serves as a global home for people of any origin to communicate through mind body and spirit.
Of recent years Hip-Hop ‘theatre’ has emerged as another form of innovation to supplement indoctrinated Eurocentric modalities of black box performative culture. The marriage of visual art, story telling, acting, poetry, immersive engagement, grime music and the genius of Hip-Hop movement language and musicality. This has had a great impact on transforming my perception of using theatre space as ritual, broadcasting cultural and ancestral presence.
Overall my support and mentorship has come from; Dance communities and peers in the underground Hip-Hop scene, Artist4Artist an organisation run by artists for artists Founding members and representatives of Sadler’s Wells Breaking Convention festival.
Growing up in Cardiff, do you think there is a significant Hip-Hop scene here and what do you think can be done to help it evolve?
There is definitely a Hip-Hop scene in Cardiff, however maybe lacking a cohesive integration of the multiple layers and dimensions of inclusivity. It is important for artists of all practices, sectors, class and culture to be in dialogue.
For examples different Hip-Hop music and visual artists, writers, poets, event organisers, venues and dancers could have more consistent relations with each other. If there aren’t visible invites and hubs/centres for representation, cultural information remains fragmented, and the overall culture cannot develop infrastructures for impact. Funding is also at the core of this.
I understand that a lot of your work uses Identity as a concept. When in WHO (2017), you said “#TheSystem and #Society do not provide space for authentic self”, what did you mean by that and do you still find it relevant today?
I do believe society has had a long term relationship with resistance to change, and the notion that homogeny is safe, difference is threat. I recognise the culture of duality that has been at play for a long while, and that at present we may be realising as a collective society in our need for each other, dependence and preservation as a whole, which is the acknowledgement of polarity and the active inclusion for unity.
We still seem to have many protected and guarded infrastructures which dictate our attention towards fundamentalism, with which any organically evolving contemporary innovations outside of societally validated constructs are met with fear, discomfort and rejection, unless it is something recognised and originated within elitist culture.
So to draw from these concepts and bring it into the personal sphere, I believe we as individuals have the capacity to re invent ourselves any way we choose, but at the cost of being questioned and challenged constantly by those who are still existing within societal constructs.
On the one side, anything foreign to those constructs causes great discomfort, essentially the unknown, an anomaly to which we feel out of depth with our relatability. On the other side there is fatigue; being misunderstood, misrepresented, displaced, excluded, silenced, ignored, isolated and questioned. For many that is a lived experience that is still happening today. I think these polarities exist everywhere because it is essentially to do with consciousness and perception.
I feel lots of things have become cataclysmic in our society of recent. People are really fighting for spaces to empower authenticity and difference. Actually pioneering companies and representatives look to bespoke and eclectic minority individuals for inspiration and influence. The invisible ones are the influencers for those who are always visible. For example if we’re talking about fashion and media, it’s everyday people who inspire and influence those making decisions on top about what gets modelled and represented.
I still believe there are conditions we are pressured to obtain in the broader mainstream culture which restrict us, only validating and respecting things we are a custom too, things we are told and taught have value, anything outside of that does not posess the same power. Things we do not understand, we do not like or we do not feel comfortable with we disregard. But authenticity, originality and honesty is so powerful, in the overall context of polarity, we as a society now are recognising we need these attributes, and we are seeing willingness for difficult and uncomfortable conversations in the wider culture.
In my perspective for the majority there’s still a lot of shame, fear and taboo around self expression, and this is what makes art so evocative. When many people feel the fear of judgment, they look to artists who do and say all the things most people are terrified to do, there is this sacred unspoken empathic emancipation shared between artist and audience.
You also spoke about the concept of ‘Mind, Body and Spirit coming together at a meeting point’ in an interview with Catch the Vibes last year. How does this psycho analysis come into the process of your making? Be that your movement or your other creative outlets?
It is particularly through the lens of dramaturgy that I get the opportunity through my work to investigate psychology. I often find that for performative works to have concrete coherence in how the work is experienced, there needs to be psychological integrity, either between the relationship of the performance and audience, or also the chronology of the work, and what the work is doing, what role it serves as an experience.
Quite often I have a focal drive to want to evoke and impact the audience in some kind of interpersonal way. In order to do that safely I really do need to understand the effect on myself of what I’m experiencing. The effect of the process, what psychological journey am I undergoing just to create the work, and then from that process constructing an infrastructure that allows me to guide the viewer into the areas of enquiry that exist in the work.
I work with all layers; the visual, the audible, the sensory, the intellectual, to find different ways of inviting my audience into the non verbal conversation between spectating, listening and actively responding. Regardless of how big or small those social queues are, we all feel it when an audience collectively holds their breath at a certain point, sometimes its the silence that communicates consent, or the twitch or cough coming from the upper left auditorium, we know that particular person just non verbally objected ‘subconsciously’.
If it’s an immersive work, there are other dimensions at play, with proximity being a massive psychological conversation. There is our body language and our power dynamics; whether an audience member sits on the floor cross legged, or stands right behind me, we have varying different capacities of what access points we have to a psychological dialogue. And then I wonder which way can I communicate this performance. Of course eye contact and touch being the most dynamic contributions.
All of these elements play a vital role in my process, and its why ritual is such a pivotal instrument for creation in my work. Ritual allows the mental/psychological space to be more transient, meaning I can access the collective mental space with the openness and safety of a held experience set by intentions. This naturally propels the willingness of an audience to be vulnerable with me in the conversation, allowing for suppleness and great changes to occur in perception.
Performance work is always a conversation for me, it’s not about interrogating my own psychology to create work, it is about really understanding psychology to execute distinct forms of communication between my work and the audience. To do that effectively I need to understand a great deal of my own psychology. I feel that’s where the freedom to shift perception and rewrite history comes from, the game changers who change the world through art.
How has lockdown affected you as an artist? And also what long term effects, do you see Covid-19, having on your artistic practise?
Covid has given me the opportunity to redefine my priorities, values, boundaries and reinforce my principles. I have had to question my purpose beyond the industry, and become aware of areas that I have not developed and the areas which I have neglected in myself.
This time has also allowed me to rediscover a new way of living, a new way of working and a new way of communicating. I have had many moments of exhaustion, overwhelming bewilderment and uncertainty, but none of these feelings are new to me, in fact the last two years have been so groundbreaking’ly challenging that lockdown was like a breeze. The political and economic climate however has had a great impact on my perception of reality and my stability within that. But it’s the sense of community that has become more evident during this time for me, with a beautiful anchoring in the various relationships I have with people that have grown deeper and stronger during this time.
Following on from that actually, how has lockdown affected you personally? I recognise that we often separate performers from people and that needs to be raised.
Lockdown has allowed me to journey inwards with a great deal of introspection and time to reconstruct myself from the core. These are elements I do practice, however there is never usually time to really uncover the uncomfortable subconscious patterns that need redefining, when I am moving from one project to another with usually no recovery time.
Although challenging, I have been able to sit with myself and confront difficult things and rewrite those narratives. I have also been able to connect with people I would have never usually connected with prior to Covid, simply because online networking is far more direct and immediate. Fundamentally I have been able to slow down and have moments of stillness and solitude, amongst the chaos.
I’m a big fan of the ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ podcast and something they do on each episode is ask their guest “If they were in government as an advisor for their specialist field, what would be the first change that they would make?” So I’d like to ask you, if you were an advisor/ representative for the Arts sector, what would be the first change that you would make?
I would want to change the ‘perceived’ division between economy, finance and the arts. I believe so many fundamental movements within history and society sit on a large library of knowledge in strategy, financial infrastructures, economic preservation, assimilation as well as generational business modes that support successful agendas in all industries.
Often even the simplest areas for accessing training in these fields are seen so far removed from the arts. Educational models are often attuned to industries regarded superior, operating purely from strategic principles within business sectors.
We as artists have major blind spots because of the lack of accessibility to especially tailored training schemes, courses, workshops that provide tools within understanding the financial politics of the arts and its economy. We are unhealthily dependant and unempowered to a degree with previous models such as Arts Council funding applications being the main and only doorway for many. Yet this cannot guarantee long term support and struggles to give artists/companies/organisations stabilised independent agency over their future careers. I’m sure at some point in time we have all witnessed the impact of funding cuts for companies/artists, resulting in the immediate amputation of their capacity. Funding has already been challenging particularly for individuals outside of certain socioeconomic class groups and artists who haven’t had the opportunity to generate credibility with sponsors or funding audiences. Many artists with an excellent capacity are unable to generate work at the rate of their potential. This is debilitating and capping our capacity for genius as an overall industry, only select few names get to exercise their worth. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say a great deal of artists do not get the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding on modes of financial strategy in relation to the artistic climate.
I’m not saying we all as artists need to study business and finance, because often all of that knowledge is difficult to contextualise in specific relations to the neurodiversity of an artist and the unprecedented lifestyle that an artist might live. But what I am aware of is the benefit of having specialists within business, economy and finance working with artistic representatives to establish an access point hub for freelance artists/organisations and younger generations educated to equip themselves with the knowledge and tools to create financial and economic engagement, allowing agency and fluidity within their artistic career.
We as artists promote ourself like business products, we sell ourselves through business models, but if we are to now look at the future of the arts industry, the greater economy an it’s impact on the rest of the world we need to be equipped with the tools to know how to adapt, preserve and not only survive but thrive as artists. I do feel such aspects should be addressed and mandatory within the training of an artist, not just be trained on how to become an artist.
In order to create powerful art that actually has long lasting impacts on humanity and society in the evolution and rewiring of the human conscious, we need money, and we should be educated about how we can generate that independently. We see the value in funding science, it shouldn’t be any different for the arts.
So to conclude, Is there anything that you’re currently working on or anything that you’d like to highlight/ share with our readers?
I’ve been refining and redefining the development of my personal practice, which has felt like a monster to tackle as I exist in multiple sphere’s of discipline. Looking at the intersectionality of where a process begins and ends and where meeting points bridge between one discipline to another within the practice. How voice informs the body and vice versa, and also how multiple forms of conditioning/training practices converse/overlap or contradict within the body. What technique do I hold onto and what do I let go of.
In the productivity of what I’m currently working on is a body of work that holds both my music identity and my visual art and movement identity. I’m generating a portfolio which involves self produced songs with the layers and the depth that I would usually engage with in my conceptual theatre work. Looking at how I can make my approach to music production more performative, and have my body as equally a visible voice as my lyrics and my singing. I’m wanting to use the medium of music and song composition to speak on behalf of things I would usually devise and create dance theatre. I want to present narratives both through live art and digital where the boundaries and cultures blur between music gig and dance theatre. I will be supported by Kaunstrum Gallery to create and present an exert in the autumn.
Aside from that I am collaborating with musician Soweto Kinch for a conceptual music video, and composing/producing/researching with Isaac Ouro-Gnao and Tyrone Isaac Stuart for a production called the Oreo Complex.
Thank you ever so much for your time Ffion, it’s truly been a pleasure talking to you.
Creating opportunities for a diverse range of people to experience and respond to sport, arts, culture and live events. / Lleisiau amrywiol o Gymru yn ymateb i'r celfyddydau a digwyddiadau byw