Mae’n ddrwg

Photo of PRINCEIt’s with huge apologies that I write this blog, after what seems like an eternity.  Since the company has taken on the running and management of The Beaufort Theatre in April 2017, my life has been rather taken over with operational things other than writing blogs.

 

Things are at last settling down and we have had an amazing 9 months learning new skills, meeting new people and of course expanding our business.

Next week sees the start of me making my new work with the company dancers: it’s a tribute to the music of one of my favourite artists, the late, great Prince.  Please keep posted for a further insight

We will be looking for another dancer to join us later this spring, keep your eyes open for the advert – it could be you joining our team!
We will also be updating this website and introducing you to a new page dedicated to The Beaufort Theatre.

Hope you join us on our 2018 journeys, happy New Year to you all

sue lewis

 

Full time for Wales

Fascination Image Paul Trask

Fascination
Image Paul Trask

Well our last 2 weeks of Welsh studio time have ended, and now we see the dancers moving to London to spend time with Gary Lambert for the next three weeks.  Gary and the dancers will be making his new work for our Power Of 3 Tour, whilst I will stay in Wales working with the dance faktry ready for our Easter Faktry Festival 2015

The six weeks that we have spent making d-cay and Fascination have been a real pleasure; I know now why I gave up working full time as a lecturer, with a steady wage and paid holidays to start a professional dance company from scratch.

You may have seen the excellent article that Rachel Mainwaring wrote me about in last weeks Western Mail describing my work in the community and how FFIN DANCE started out. Je ne regrette rien: it’s amazing having the freedom to create work, worth every sleepless night and panic about how to pay the mortgage, I’d recommend it to anyone.  I will be live on air on Radio Wales tomorrow evening at 6.30pm if you’d like to listen in, I’ll be talking about creativity.  It’s such a vital and important part of our being to create, so many people I have worked with over the years have said that creating in some way has been an escape, a day dream, a delicious new recipe and even a glowing work of art – but it’s there in us all, we just sometimes need someone to show us the way.

So as we come closer to our tour, we hope that you’ll join us for one or some of our performances.  Please keep posted for some more blogs from our London based lot during the coming weeks.

sue lewis

 

Rambling

FFIN DANCE Still Standing Tour Image Paul Trask

FFIN DANCE
Still Standing Tour
Image Paul Trask

Well what a week it has been! It’s been so lovely to be back in the studio with the Ffin family.

As Effie has mentioned in her blog, we have been rehearsing for our ‘Still Standing’ tour. It looks set to be a cracker!
We began the week refreshing ‘Synapsequence’ choreographed by our associate choreographer Gary Lambert. I have thoroughly enjoyed slipping back into the piece. It feels like a comfortable pair of shoes you haven’t worn for a long time.
Relearning it has bought back all the memories and fun I had whilst creating it way back in 2012. I’ve found it fascinating the way that my body can remember not only the movement content and structure but also the way my ears are automatically listening for musical cues and my eyes for visual ones.
‘Synapsequence’ is one of my favourite pieces to perform. There is nothing to hide behind and you have to constantly push yourself to keep the piece fresh and to stay true to the material.
This phrase is something that I’ve been pondering about…’staying true to the material’ what does that even mean?  I have been rehearsing and running this piece all week and the material is inherent in my body. However, am I staying true to it? Most of the time when I run the piece I no longer need to think about what comes next or how I should dance this bit or that bit but I wonder if by doing so I loose a sense of where the material has come from thus loosing the identity that made that piece of material what it is? Slightly hard to explain but I’ve been having this internal chatter with myself throughout the weekend.
We moved onto Cat’s piece ‘Stand up Straight’ next. I have a sort of love/hate relationship with this one. I love the physicality and dynamic of it but can’t say I’m a massive fan of making myself dizzy and then having to fall over safely, without loosing that edge you have if you did fall, and lifting and being lifted when you’re not quite on balance. It’s hard work and often leaves me in a bit of a weird head space.
It was lovely to begin work on Sue’s piece for the company ‘Fractal’. We made this back in October and as is often the case with Sue’s work we worked closely with the musical score. This was similar to ‘Synapsequence’ in the sense that the material came back to us pretty quickly except one frustrating part of my solo (which resulted in a little mini diva strop and several attempts to slow motion myself on our video reference). Apart from that, things have been plain sailing.
It’s interesting to see how my ear has found new things to listen for in my solo music. I have made some dynamic changes to parts of my solos as they weren’t quite sitting right for me. As well as these changes I’ve also changed some of my accent points, rhythmic patterns and the way that I approach some of the material. You may not be able to notice the difference physically but it helps me to be able to perform it better.
It looks set to be a great show and the company and myself would love for you to come and share our work at Nantgarw Campus, Coleg Y Cymoedd on 11th March…
Thanks for reading
Meg

Recapping and revisiting…

FFIN DANCE Still Standing Tour 2014 Image Paul Trask

FFIN DANCE
Still Standing Tour 2014
Image Paul Trask

Rehearsals this February have a different feel than usual – rather than using this period to create another piece we are refreshing our memories on Fractal and Stand Up Straight as well as picking up Synapsequence (from Connections 2012) ready to première in March.

It has been really interesting to return to Synapsequence by Gary Lambert as the movement material was generated by ourselves (albeit 2 year younger models!) and so re-inhabiting it feels relatively natural.
Often a comment we get from audience members is that they can’t understand how we retain and remember all of the movement. I was surprised this week by how efficiently we could pick up a whole piece which we had last performed 18th months ago. For me I don’t feel that the memory of Synapsequence was particularly embedded in my brain but as soon as I started revisiting the material it felt as though my muscle memory came into play re-finding these previously visited places.

I found this none more so than with a duet section which I had originally created with Lucille and due to a cast change in the season hadn’t performed since March 2012. As such, I asked Meg to re-teach me my part but soon found that I could remember details and sequentially what happened next with little input needed – fitting back into the movement just made sense in my body, allowing it to happen instead of over-thinking it.

In one section of Synapsequence, we switch from one person to the next for short duets which are specific to each partnership and occur concurrently. When we had re-established the details and connections in each partnership to the extent that we felt comfortable with it, Sue asked us to run through this section with our eyes closed. While this request was greeted with an air of preposterousness initially, we were actually able to manage it for the most part and it gave us a really good sense of knowing our spatial relationship without over-relying on visual feedback. Don’t worry though, we’ll definitely go back to having our eyes open for performances!

So now it’s time for a weekend off (and a bit of time for planning morning class) before returning to Abertillery for week two of rehearsals. Here’s hoping there’ll be no more weather related stand stills on the Heads of the Valleys next week!

Effie :-)

Rehearsal hangover…

IMG_3110So it’s the morning after the night before…or that’s what it feels like anyway! I’ve definitely needed this weekend to recover, but as a result of my actions in the studio rather than any other kind of over-indulgence.

For the latter part of week 2, we began working on Stand Up Straight, a piece which Catrin Lewis is reworking for the company (have a gander back at her blogs for more info), which couldn’t be more different from any of the pieces I’ve danced previously for Ffin. My experience thus far is that Catrin’s concern is less with the aesthetic presentation of material and more with invoking true sensations and physical reactions on a personal level relating to the subject matter of vertigo.

One of the tasks which Catrin has set us has involved standing up and spinning for 30-60 seconds with our heads dropped back and focus up to the ceiling.

IMG_3209

It is the movement that we perform subsequently when we are in a self-induced state of dizziness that Catrin is most interested in – the choices that we make whilst somewhat incapacitated, as opposed to our normal learned movement patterns which result from years of studio time.

Another component within the piece is being able to get over the fear factor of allowing yourself to fall off balance so that another dancer can break your fall and take care of your journey to the ground. This is a moment where it is really mind over matter – all of my instincts are screaming at me to take a step and regain my own balance – especially when I’m falling backwards and can see the dancer who is going to support my fall in front of me!

While I’m used to self-inflicted aches, pains and bruises after rehearsals, Stand Up Straight is really taking its toll on my mind – it’s this headachy hangover which has made me very glad of two days’ rest before gearing up to our third and final week of rehearsals.

Effie :-)

Going Solo…

IMG_3103So we’ve just begun week 2 of rehearsals and today has been mostly spent finding a culmination point for Fractal, Sue Lewis’ latest work for the company. While this entailed establishing group unison and duet relationships with generous helpings of canon and counterpoint, we have in fact spent much of rehearsal thus far on our own individual journeys developing solos which slot in to the overall piece. Hopefully this will give you a little bit of insight into how I’ve been finding the process so far…

The nature of working on solos is such that I’ve spent a lot of time this past week in my own head – not least because I’ve got my headphones in to concentrate on responding to the music for my section.  This has had both its high and low points – moments when I’ve been on a roll I’ve hardly noticed anyone around and have been able to immerse myself in both the music and my movement (albeit finding ways to pass my iPod between hands and negotiate getting tangled up in my headphones to bring me back to the real world with a bump!)

At other times, particularly at the start of the week, I would have spurs of loneliness or paranoia – seeing the others in the space around me with seemingly reams of movement material would make me question whether I was working quickly enough or producing material and structuring it to meet the demands of the task with enough clarity.

Come Friday, we ran and filmed all of our solos and group sections in order. This enabled us to watch back everything within the context of the (almost) entirety of the piece. Being able to watch film back is an incredibly useful tool to give you an outside eye on the work that you are creating and inhabiting. Oftentimes, there is a distinct difference between what it feels like you are doing (according to your own mind’s eye) and what an onlooker observes.

One of the areas which I earmarked for myself to work on, having looked back at the footage, was the depth, length and fluidity of my legwork down into the ground. This – along with feedback from Sue and the other dancers to delve into a chewing-gum quality of elasticity as I perform the movement, to really locate the trills in the music within my movement language and to think of moving from the middle of back so arm movements don’t become merely gestural – gave me plenty of ideas to go armed back into my own world of solo development this afternoon.

Thankfully now I’m getting to the point where my enjoyment and the challenge of working solo is managing to mostly quash those lonely moments!!

Effie :-)

Stand Up Straight 1

Russell:Lily tiltWelcome to the first of my choreography blogs, sharing with you my ideas and r&d methods of my new work Stand Up Straight for FFIN DANCE

Following an intense time of research into the condition known as vertigo, spending time with each of my five dancers at Trinity Laban enabled me as a choreographer to discover new and exciting concepts that I had not associated with my subject matter. By way of a series of individual movement tasks the dancers made their own unique discoveries, which have been embedded into both the movement vocabulary and the dynamic qualities of the work.

Using spoken text and a video clip that I found while researching, I  further embedded the reality of the vertigo condition: the treatment manoeuvre is particularly graphic and lends itself well to actual movement content. The dancers utilise the patient’s turning head movements to great effect, as well as drawing attention to the head area of the body it also serves to portray the subject content of the work. There was a need to be true to the actual condition and not merely act it out. My research led me to direct the dancers in this way.
The Lempert roll manoeuvre is a specific type of treatment that is used for severe Vertigo attacks. The ‘position’ of lying on one’s back with someone supporting the bottom of the skull has been incorporated into contact duets in the work as a reference point to this method of treatment especially in order to demonstrate this rather bizarre treatment remedy.  I have also treated this image as a subtle gesture in other parts of the choreography. For example, one dancer supports another out of a fall by clasping the back of her skull as she continues to suspend in the space, causing her to fall as she no longer has the support from him.

The manoeuvre consists of moving through a series of positions, which are designed to dislodge the debris that has inappropriately entered the semicircular canal. Each dancer performs these set movements in order to stabilize and ground them before they disorient themselves. Some of these are repeated at the end to prevent nausea or further discomfort for the dancers.

I felt that I successfully made the movement vocabulary relevant and clear by encouraging my dancers to believe that they were on a type of ‘medical journey’ within the process.  In this way the solos represent their reaction to the “spinning” and “loss of balance” tasks. The physicality, risk and nuances that each of them highlight (through direction) further exemplifies making the movement relevant/apparent. Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) is caused by a fault in the inner ear’s vestibular system. It is this section of our ear that helps us maintain our balance. The two types of BBPV (paroxysmal and positional) means the attack can occur suddenly or with a change of head positioning. This element can be viewed by a phrase within the work that purely concentrates on the head, which pays particular attention to changes of direction and strong focus to run alongside wherever the skull was facing. I have encouraged the dancers to not allow any secondary movement from the rest of the body and maintain a high level of direction and angle throughout. Each of these unique solos were structured to represent a Vertigo attack at the climactic point of the piece that is the full representation of the process.

Thanks to Lily Turner and Russell Preston Fine who appear in the image above.

Thanks for taking the time to read about the subject matter of the piece, See you soon for second blog

Cat xx

The same but different

IMG_1251So once again we found ourselves arriving at Namedy in the pitch blackness after a long trek on the Ffin Dance minibus, thankfully with a few less accidental detours! Being greeted by Gary and on stepping into the castle, it was nice to feel less at odds with our setting, having a sense of knowing where we’re going and easing back into our Namedy lifestyle has been a swift process. Overall, there is a distinct feeling of sameness with a healthy new edge of difference (not least exhibited in a new fringe being sported by myself!).

With performances speedily upon us this year (on Wednesday and Thursday evenings) we have been cracking on straight away today, starting off with company class lead by Mike.  We were also joined by Ben’s dancers Jessie and Manon which was lovely in having a bigger community feel – it’s always great for a new vibe and a different energy to be introduced when working alongside some new faces.

Our Ffin team for the week is reminiscent of last year’s Namedy quartet, consisting of Megan, Mike, Catrin and myself. While this in itself dwells on the idea of sameness, it does in fact constitute a different cast from the preceding leg of our Inspired tour – Catrin takes on the role of partnering Megan in Axiom Tangent while Missing Pages takes on a trio form.

Whilst last year I was highly affected by the cast change part way through our season – with a new partner and undertaking a new role – this year I am probably the least directly impacted so it is interesting to come at the change with a very different perspective. My partnership with Mike feels grounded with solid roots and having consistency has allowed us to develop a much better sense and awareness of one another. Our challenge now is to keep this high sensitivity to each other but also being able to devote enough attention to the other couple in the space so that we can dance as a unit of four rather than two couples.

I’m certainly looking forward to performing again at Namedy but already there is a tinge of bittersweet in the knowledge that we will be saying goodbye to both Axiom Tangent and Missing Pages – I’m not sure I’m quite ready to let go of the Inspired repertoire just yet! Catch it while you can…

 

Effie :-)

 

Road Trip

IMG_1194A quick blog as I’m drinking some rather nice Italian coffee, to welcome you to the German leg of our Inspired 2013 Tour

Today we start our road journey to Namedy in the lovely Rhine valley in Northern Germany: a rather early start from Abertillery in South Wales UK, travelling down to Dover to catch the afternoon ferry to Calais.  Mike, Matt and myself will be travelling from Wales and we pick up Megan, Effie and Catrin in Dover who will be travelling down from London.

We drive through Belgium to Germany and all being well arrive at our stunning home for the week at Schloss Burg Namedy by late evening.

We’ll be blogging our week, so please join us and share our experience

sue lewis

Show on the road…

FFIN DANCE Missing Pages Image Paul Trask

FFIN DANCE
Missing Pages
Image Paul Trask

Phew, what a rollercoaster of a week getting our first performances of the Inspired tour under our belts. Last week saw us swap roles with Gary on the travelling front as we ventured from our base in Abertillery down to Laban Theatre, London for opening night.

We had the luxury of 2 days to prepare, with a studio assigned to us at first while technical preparations got underway in the Bonnie Bird Theatre. The stage space at Laban is amazing to dance in – there is so much room which means movement material can really be stretched to its full potential in order to eat up the space.

For Missing Pages here, we used a gauze for the first section so there was a dream-like, distant impression for the audience and equally for us there was this sensation of separation from the audience – certainly tying in with some of our ideas from the creation period of sitting in a train carriage with the world passing by outside the window and being lost in your own world. Sometimes when you first create and perform a piece it can feel like a memory test going through the motions to get from start to finish, however, Missing Pages has developed far beyond this stage already for me and I was able to garner a real sense of enjoyment and find a new sense of sincerity in bringing it up to performance level.

In terms of Axiom Tangent, the lighting is really integral to marry up with the movement material in order to create a cohesive whole and this certainly took some getting used to at Laban. Also when you are in the space trying to work the lights, there is a very different sensation as a performer to what comes across to the audience – it has been really useful to see video clips as to the effect being created from the front. (If you haven’t already checked them out, there are few snippets of Axiom online so go, go, go!) What is really striking though is that despite working mainly with Mike in both pieces there is an incredible difference and so going into Axiom our partnership feels very fresh even after performing Missing Pages together.

Tuesday saw our first Welsh performance date at Coleg Morgannwg and with one day to get in and perform it is so important for us to arrive with our Ffin heads firmly in place! Mark Read, our production manager, had a lot of work to do in converting the space ready for us to perform and we needed to recalibrate in order to figure out adaptations in spacing – so it was all systems go from the offset. Certainly this was a much more intimate space to perform in and the proximity of the audience was obvious. One of the most interesting challenges was having to negotiate the fluorescent lighting strips which hung down in the space for Axiom, spatial awareness was definitely a must to weave in and out of them even at my measly height! Adding a bit of drama to the evening, the fire alarms were set off by the haze (thankfully during the interval) so the building had to be evacuated while a fire engine and crew arrived.

Next off we’re venturing up to Holyhead today, leading workshops to create a curtain-raiser for our performance at Ucheldre. Oh and I’m definitely going to remember to pack my hairspray this time!!

Effie :-)