A fond farewell

Missing Pages Photo Paul Trask

Missing Pages
Photo Paul Trask

It seems fitting somehow to say “cheerio” to our senior dancer Effie, after such a successful run of events to celebrate our 10th anniversary season. Our season will continue into the spring of 2017 with new dancer Sarah joining Catrin, Natasha and Julian, whilst Effie is moving on to pastures new.
Effie has been with the company for 5 years, having met us at our Winter Intensives.  We were so impressed with her that we offered her a place to learn some of Gary Lambert’s work for the company, to replace Lucille Tappa in Synapsequence.

Effie has created and danced many lovely roles for the company over the years, but I think it was Missing Pages, that really brought out her lyricism and technique more than any other.

Effie has been a wonderful workshop leader and teacher too, with her quirky ways of motivating children and young people; especially noteworthy is her “bananas of the world unite” and her numerical jogging pattern warm ups. We will miss her zany music in professional class, Dr Who will never be the same again!

The image by Paul Trask that is featured above, carries a story, I’m sure that Effie won’t mind me sharing it.  The company was in Llanhilleth Wales, shooting some images for our tour Inspired: Paul wanted to shoot somewhere local and out of the studio.  This obviously caused a bit of a stir in the village and gathered quite a lot of spectators who were generally supportive and also inquisitive. After a little while, word got around and we were hailed with some children shouting “come over here boys, there’s a stripper down by the railway station” The photo above and some others too, were the culprits of this mistaken identity. We laughed about that one for quite a time, as you can imagine.

So finally it’s time to say a very fond farewell.  We wish Effie well in her future pursuits and will miss her tremendously as a wonderful dancer and warm, faithful friend.  Please keep in touch.

sue lewis

Language, images and reflections….

B0001467Firstly, apologies – I meant to write this blog after our first couple of sessions with Gary a week or so ago, but always got caught up in something else. Now, I’m finally realising my good intentions before returning to the studio with Gary this evening – hopefully it will give me some time and space to recap and reflect the thought process we have begun using.

I think one of the things that has most struck me about working with Gary this season is how he is using language and evoking imagery through what he is saying to compel us to explore movement rather than physicalising much himself. Essentially, he is trying not to show us too much so we don’t get bogged down in searching for an aesthetic or codified movement language which appeals to him.

Instead we are currently playing with a lot of constituent parts, thoughts and images to get a grasp on what will work going forwards. So what are some of these things?

First off, we have the solo material which we learnt from video during our time in Abertillery – a linear form which takes us from A to B. This acts as an existing world and reference point that we can improvise from and return to. The phrase gives us a commonality of language – otherwise it is like having 3 dancers in the space speaking French, German and Italian – all valid languages but no-one fully understands each other.

There is also a freedom to stop moving – knowing when an idea has been exhausted and not just continuing to drift for the sake of it. On our second rehearsal day, we taped a performance space on the floor – allowing the possibility to step out of that realm completely. Allowing time to consider and watch from a standpoint completely outside the world that the movement inhabits.

Layering on top of this are lots of images and ideas that Gary feeds in each time we undertake the practice. Here are a few examples:

Having a conversation. The ability to shift the attention between people. Being able to talk to a group but only have eye-contact with one person at a time.

Jumbled thoughts. So much to do – racing through your mind. Inability to hone in on one thing for very long before transferring to the next.

Sediment. Start Simple. Layer by layer – build it up, don’t try to start with a whole strata.

Minority Report. The possibility to deviate from a pre-ordained pathway.

The more images and ideas we have, the greater the temptation to want to try and do everything at once which simply isn’t possible! I wonder what new information will come tonight and how I will cope with processing it…

Effie :-)

Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey…

Fascination Image Paul Trask Chor Sue Lewis

Fascination
Image Paul Trask
Chor Sue Lewis

It’s always the way with studio time – it seems that you can blink and suddenly you’re nearly at the end of 2 weeks together. Having said that, I feel like these 2 weeks have really allowed us some time and space to progress both Fascination and d-cay, and given us a good dollop of preparation time for beginning work with Gary next week. (Plus a handy helping of pancakes thrown in for good measure!)

With Fascination, we spent last week working through section by section – refining detail and quality and looking at all of those pesky entrances, exits and transitions between sections. This has helped in establishing a sense of cohesion throughout the piece which we pulled together for a run through this afternoon.

This week also saw us getting a first viewing of the film that has been made in conjunction with Catrin’s piece, d-cay. It’s a very striking watch which will lead into the live movement section of the piece. Having seen the film has also influenced the proximity with which we perform a particular unison section – there’s no room for error or else there’ll be a whole lot of stepping on toes going on!

For Gary, we have begun using the duet Sentient Trace which was created for Meg and Catrin last season as starting point. We are now looking at each person’s role in the duet as solo material – it has certainly been a lot of material to take on board and commit to memory. We have tried several different methods of learning the material – initially from video, then from each other with talking and then just with physical demonstrations without vocal explanations. It has been lovely to devote time to this (although frustrating at times when watching the same moment on video over and over until you can approximate a physical realisation) and I’m excited to see how things start to proceed when we come together with Gary next week.

Here’s to making the most of our last couple of studio days in Wales this week and appreciating our time together while we have it.

Effie :-)

Take 2…

Fascination  Image Paul Trask

Fascination
Image Paul Trask

In synchronicity, October saw us return to Abertillery for our second creation period ready for The Power of 3 tour with Catrin Lewis taking on the role of choreographer for the second time for Ffin.

Those of you who were lucky enough to catch us on tour last year will remember Stand Up Straight, Cat’s first piece performed by the company. This piece had been created and performed in its first incarnation prior to being added to the company repertory and extended. As such, there was a sense of knowing the intended outcome of the process before we began – which was compounded by learning duets and movement phrases from pre-recorded footage of the original piece.

For D-cay, we did not have the luxury of getting a pre-emptive view of what the finished piece may look like but were instead afforded the pleasure of accompanying Catrin as her new piece evolved in the studio. Ever one to challenge our habitual and learned movement choices (remember last year’s task of generating material after spinning for a minute to imbue disorientation), our introductory task for D-cay involved a blackout in the studio and moving through space with our eyes closed: testing our reactions when confronted with a loss of sight.

During the creation of D-cay, Catrin has asked us to share and embody a fair amount of each other’s material with several tight sections of trio unison thrown in for good measure. As a specific cohort of dancers, this is a new challenge for us (having not been required to work all together in unison for Fascination) and is something that we allocated a fair amount of time to early on in the process in order to get a clear sense of working as a unit.

Overall, it has been really refreshing to work with Catrin on a new piece and I look forward to sharing it with you next year – catch you there!

Effie :-)

Power of 3 Preening…

IMG_0506Tuesday was photo shoot day with Paul Trask in the Ffin Dance studios so there was an unusual amount of preening going on! Having helpfully been sent YouTube tutorials by Sue, we donned the smoky eye look and then set about creating some sleek up-dos with our hair. Let it be noted here that despite having had Meg as a personal hairdresser on tour for the last couple of tours, I was in demand when it came to styling Tash and Cat’s hair!

With hair and make-up up to standard, we danced various sections from both Fascination and D-Cay to capture some images for our marketing material for The Power of 3 Tour coming up in 2015. Due to the nature of the photos being taken and the flash that was being used, we were quite restricted in the amount of space we had to dance in – being limited to only a quarter of the stage space.

Throughout the day, we had a chance to look at the photos on the camera after we’d run a short section which helped to inform our placement and direction before repeating the process. It’s also interesting for us to see those ‘in between’ and transitional moments caught on camera – sometimes it’s rather difficult to figure out from what physical material the moment has been captured!

So there you have it – a quick little insight into our flashy photo day…keep a look out for the new shots hitting your screens on the Ffin website, twitter and facebook pages!

Effie :-)

Going for a run…

Picasso 3 women under a treeSo today saw us slot together the jigsaw pieces and go for a first run of Fascination, Sue’s latest work for the company. It’s certainly an exciting stage to reach (with the exhilaration augmented by the fire alarm going off mid-way through!) – you get your first taste of what the piece will be like to perform and start to make sense of it in its entirety.

The different sections of the piece have not been created in a chronological order of how the final piece runs, as is often the case in the creative process. At the start of the day, we knew that we had one final piece of the puzzle to crack before we could string all of the sections together.

What is particularly interesting about this newest addition is that it is going to be a structured improvisation on each occasion that the piece is performed. So essentially, the movement itself hasn’t already been pre-determined; within given parameters we will make different choices in the spur of the moment each time we dance the piece. I think that this is going to be a really interesting challenge for us to maintain a sense of freshness in our decision making whilst simultaneously improvising movement and avoiding looking like rabbits caught in the headlights!

All in all, a good day’s work – from hereon in we will start to clarify our own internal narrative and physical pathway through the piece. If the first run is anything to go by we’re onto a cracker, with a fair amount of vogue sweatiness thrown in for good measure!

Effie :-)

Change is in the air…

_PRT5070-EditReturning to the valleys for rehearsals this time around has had a really heightened sense of change for me. For a start, it feels like the intervening time from when I was last here in May has been particularly long, on top of that, both Meg and Mike who have been constants since my first Ffin encounters have moved on to pastures new. Oh, and even the family who I stay with during my time here have moved house – adding an extra half hour of driving round lost at the end of my commute here last weekend: trying to negotiate roadworks and ignoring the satnav’s instructions to mosey on through no-entry signs and the wrong way down one-way streets!

Change is what keeps you moving forward though – and let’s face it we’re bang on trend, even coinciding with regeneration on Doctor Who! Our first week back in rehearsals has been fresh and challenging – we have welcomed Natasha Wade and it is lovely to have her as a new input into company life. Each day of the week has resulted in the creation of material with distinctly different energies and I look forward to seeing how Sue will weave this all together next week.

So here’s to embracing change, putting our best feet forward and seeing what new journeys emerge in our pieces and that our 2015 tour will take us on…

Effie :-)

Letting the dust settle…

 

FFIN DANCE Image Paul Trask

FFIN DANCE
Image Paul Trask

So it’s a couple of weeks since our first airing this season at Coleg Y Cymoedd and it’s taken the intervening time for me to actually find a moment to process and reflect on the evening.

What has really hit me is how different Stand Up Straight felt in situ as opposed to rehearsal time in the studio. Of course with every piece there is growth when being transferred from studio to stage…much like when learning to drive, it’s not until you pass and are out there on your own that you fully understand what it takes. You come to anticipate this change – beyond a point there is little more to be done in the studio and the introduction of the fourth wall brings with it an inevitable change.

However, with Stand Up Straight, it was quite a shock to my system how exposed, vulnerable and disorientated I felt in performance.  I suppose this is the very nature of the piece – with several minutes of spinning on the spot included to induce dizziness there’s always going to an edginess to cope with but the amount that this was heightened by having an audience in and the introduction of lighting was considerable. After one of my bouts of spinning, I came to a stop what felt like barely a few inches from someone sat in the front row. This demonstrated to me that the control and adaptability I had built up during studio time had gone out of the window – such a sense of unpredictability is pretty scary to encounter mid-performance!

What scares me even more is knowing that in Abertillery we’ll be spinning on a rake and that there’s a drop at the front of the stage into the auditorium…anybody have some spare crash mats?!!

Effie :-)

Pleased as punch

Earl of WessexThe company opened the Still Standing season on Tuesday at Coleg Y Cymoedd, Nantgarw in Cardiff, and the show met and exceeded all of my expectations with a marvellous performance and excellent audience.

Opening nights are notoriously edgy and can very often veer off into unchartered waters, but this one was a cracker!
The venue is one which we visited last season, and despite not being a traditional theatre setting, really shows contemporary dance very well in terms of shape and pattern.  It’s up close and very personal which works well with our rep this season; particularly well I think with Catrin Lewis’s ‘Stand Up Straight’, a piece which explores the physicality of Vertigo.
We’ve spent a lot of time in the studio this season perfecting timing for ensemble work, and it has paid off – ‘Synapsequence’ was superb.  Created by Gary Lambert in 2012 for the company, there are a number of very tricky double duets which require precision and accuracy as well as superior technique, so the dancers are really on edge.  Pleased to say they rose to the occasion.

My new work, ‘Fractal’, was aired for the first time on opening night, it actually opened the show being the first piece on the bill.  It relies heavily on musicality and the dancer’s technical ability to carry it through or it can look a bit wan.  The lighting that Mark Read and I created is very simple and grows and decays with the musical episodes, giving the audience a sense of regeneration and development interspersed with resting periods.
Pleased to say that the FFIN A Level students noticed this without prompting!

So première over and Megan and Catrin will be continuing their London sessions with Gary who is making a new duet for first viewing in May 2014
Effie and Mike working on some other projects and I am Wales based running the dance faktry and our youth volunteers project New Ground.  Four of our senior youth dancers with the dance faktry will be performing my work for the Earl of Wessex this coming Monday at the dedication service of Diamond Jubilee Square at St Michael’s Church Abertillery, a real honour for us all.
Next up is Easter Intensives and the Easter Dance Faktry Festival in April, then back on the road again.

Never a dull moment, hope you can catch us at a venue near you very soon …

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