From the 16th to the 20th September Groundwork took over at I.D.
A forerunner of Groundwork and one of a handful of organisations who’ve inspired us with their programming, innovation and artist led model for supporting the professional development of dance artists, I.D is a natural partner for this year’s program. We teamed up with them among others to bring CI legend Karen Nelson to the UK in July and they generously invited us to guest curate a week of their program. Having been studying for my MA at ID just before starting in my role at Groundwork, I loved having the opportunity to bring these two lovely teams together. Because at Groundwork we’ve found that somatic and improvised practices work really well for us and our community, ID’s ethos and program also align very well with ours.
The week was also a wonderful opportunity to bring together artists whom I greatly respect and spend time dancing and discussing with them: Jo Fong, Eeva-Maria Mutka and Cai Tomos. I wasn’t able to involve all the artists working somatically in Wales and there were many more I’d have loved to include, but couldn’t due to limited resources. I’d like to thank Simon Whitehead, Stirling Steward and Joanna Young for their time in discussing the program and acknowledge Jessica Lerner, Rosalind Holgate-Smith, Hugh Stanier and I’m sure others, whose work would also have fit beautifully into the program.
We had daily classes, an evening event and everything included Welsh cakes! On Monday we began the takeover with a lively, refreshing and nourishing class with Jo Fong. The beautiful roof studio at Siobhan Davies Dance was fill to the brim with Candoco Dance Company and many independent artists. It was a sweaty, joyful morning. In the evening Eeva-Maria Mutka led a beautifully imaginative improvisation session for a lovely group of 22 people ranging from someone who’d never done an improvisation class before through to professional dance artists. Everyone had a lovely time. I myself, tired from a long day and the previous days travel became engrossed in a quiet hand dance during a story Eeva played about an acorn. The magic was made real, however, when I came into the studio the next day to find an acorn basking in a sunny corner. Tuesday morning was another energising full class with 28 people connecting and dancing led by Jo.
In the evening we came together along with a lovely group of artists and producers to ask- what is community? All four of us work with communities in different ways, all placing people at the centre of our practices and all keen to acknowledge the ways in which the people that we’ve worked with have enriched and influenced our work. Jo shared images of and thoughts about her work Ways of Being Together, Cai a film he’d just made in the Basque Country with Elders groups from there and from North Wales, Eeva her beautiful film Lovely as a Tree made with Mary, a dancer from a care home project and I the film made by Ruth Jones of our collaborative projects The Big Flock and Gather/Casglu. Spanning West, North and South Wales, was well as Spain, each project is unique and yet they seemed so connected by a sense of place, of connection and of the personal narratives of the people at their heart. We then, facilitated by Jo, had some open discussion with those present about what community meant to us all. No conclusions were drawn, but the desire for connection felt at the heart of it all.
Wednesday I led morning class, joined by some of my MA cohort and dancers who’d been part of my research, as well as new faces and some dancers I’ve met in movement at ID before. It felt such an honour to facilitate in that space, and a natural progression from my thesis research. It also came right after my Groundwork debut as a teacher and so I was in the flow. Professional class is such a joy because it has this potential to feedback as much knowledge and new information as you put out- or even more, so that leading class can be as much professional development as participation is. I met a young Welsh dance artist living in London who’d come because she’d seen that it was the Welsh takeover, such a joy to connect to her.
On Thursday it was Cai’s turn. The most diverse group in terms of age, unsurprisingly perhaps given his work and reputation, and a beautiful morning of opening the senses in order to nourish our dancing. Friday, despite the climate strike, a small group gathered for our last class, which I led. It was lovely to finish off the week and thank the space for hosting us so elegantly.
It felt a strange urge that I’d had initially to ‘takeover’ almost hinting at a reversal of the English invading Wales. There was something about saying, we, Welsh and Wales based dance artists, have validity in the national dance scene. And we were welcomed with the upmost respect by ID and the members of their community.