That was the week

PabloPicasso-Three-Women-at-the-Spring-1921_grandeSo that’s the first studio week over creating my new work for the company – Fascination.

I’m working with a trio of women, Effie, Catrin and Natasha examining some of Picasso’s paintings and why he used three figures in his work so much.

I’ve been astounded at the dancers’ response to the tasks that I have set them: such depth of understanding from tiny intricate details to larger more general pictorial representation.

Many choreographers dislike working with 3 dancers, thinking that the numerical variations possible with 3 can be limiting, but I personally love it1 I adore the asymmetry, the lop-sided qualities, the angles, the relationships, the patterns and so on and on.

And then on to my role – the manipulation of material.

Already starting to structure (just can’t help myself ), I have a very clear vision of where the piece will go. My last work for the company – Fractal – was a series of solos that unfolded as episodes, with occasional groupings thrown in for good measure. Fascination doesn’t work in that way: the sections are governed by the score as in Fractal, but each scene varies from the previous and subsequent one. Today we are working on 5 separate vignettes, inspired by Picasso’s Three Bathers including a trio, 2 solos and 2 duets that will be performed concurrently.

It’s been a most rewarding and exciting week, hope the dancers think so too!

Join us next week as we continue our work with Picasso

sue lewis

 

 

 

 

The finale

Burg Namedy

Burg Namedy

Well what a tour it has been. Last week saw the company travelling to Milton Keynes to perform, for the final time this season, in the Motus Dance Festival.

It was such such a lovely day and a great way to say goodbye to the current ‘Still Standing’ tour. The sun was shining and we had an incredible space to perform in. Ffin Dance was a group of happy chappies.

We performed three of the four pieces of rep (Fractal, Sentient Trace and Stand up Straight) which all seemed to go down very well with the audience.

I always feel quite sad to say goodbye to pieces, especially when you have just reached that stage where you know the pieces so well that you don’t have to worry about what comes next, or looking for those little intricate moments, or trying to remember corrections you have been given or one of the other thousands of things that performers have to think about for new pieces. My main aim for our last performance was to enjoy it. Luckily I did.

Fractal is always a bit of nightmare to get yourself ready for. The material for the whole piece requires a lot of stamina, both mental and physical. There’s a lot of standing on one leg, hitting double pirouettes, intricate foot work, unison to get, musical phrasing etc. These combined are all things that I worry about and usually things that I’m trying to get everytime. Sometimes I’d be concentrating so hard on trying to find these that I’d come off stage and would only see the things that I didn’t do right rather than look at what I did get right. It was so nice to come off stage on Sunday after Fractal and think ‘ooo I enjoyed that!’.

Sentient Trace has been a special piece for me to perform this tour. Working with both Gary Lambert and Catrin Lewis was such a privilege. I have known Catrin for many years and being able to work and perform with such a close friend gave the piece a totally different quality. We know each other so well that the piece could grow and change throughout the tour. It was a very different type of piece to what I have performed in previous seasons with Gary but it was definitely an experience that I won’t forget.

Last on the bill was Stand up Straight. I felt that the company really went for it.  We had the space to really indulge in the ‘motion not movement’ brief that we have been working to. I know I woke up with some bruises from this on the following Monday!

It was also a bittersweet end to the tour as it marked my last performance with the company. I joined the company in 2010 as an apprentice when I was a fresh faced graduate and I now leave my position as dancer and assistant to the director with all the knowledge and experience I have gained but hopefully still looking fresh faced.

It has been an incredible journey for me with the company and one which I will struggle to put into words. I have learnt so much from Sue, the dancers and all the other guest artists who I have had the privilege to work with and I would like to thank everyone who has been a part of the Ffin Dance family, past and present, who has been a part of my journey. Words can not describe.

Thank you also to everyone that has supported the company by attending workshops, classes, shows, drink receptions at Hobbits. Your feedback has been invaluable and I will take it all away with me.

I can honestly say that working with the company has never been a chore and I’ve always felt so lucky that I’ve looked forward to going into rehearse and perform during every creation period – except using the bus to get to the valleys!

I have many happy memories to take away with me and I will always look back at my time at Ffin with fondess and a sense of great achievement.

I wish the company the best of luck for their future and I look forward to watching them from the other side of the stage on their next tour.

Diolch yn fawr and toi toi toi.
Meg x

 

Tara Ffin Tara

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 …

Tour starts on March 11th 2014

coleg M poster

We open our new show – Still Standing – on March 11th 2014 at Nantgarw Campus, Coleg Y Cymoedd, Cardiff CF15 7QY  The show starts at 7.30pm, the box office number for tickets 01443 663009

We will be performing:
Fractal – Choreography 2013 by Sue Lewis, music by JS Bach.  A series of solos for 4 dancers set to the sublime English Suite Number 3 by JS Bach.  Abstract movement sentences draw details from repeated patterns (fractals) in nature to form a complex partnership with the musical score

Stand Up Straight – Choreography 2013 by Catrin Lewis, An ensemble which explores the idea of Vertigo, using physical and sometimes unconventional movement vocabulary, set to a sound score including the voice over for the Lempert Manouevre and music by Jon Hopkins

Take a look here, where the piece is performed by BA3 students at Trinity Laban

Synapsequence – Choreography 2012  by Gary Lambert, music by Ronen Kozokaro.
Informed by experiences drawn from an extensive performance background Lambert’s focus and interest is working through the body, where the devised movement becomes an expressive and physical landscape. It initiates from an interest in the manipulation and physical articulation of the body, as a reactive response to the images, sound score and environment.  Movement is the starting point of exploration and space is explored as a laboratory to frame movement. Gary’s appetite for movement has resulted in an eclectic style with an emphasis on physical aesthetics.

Through the interaction of the creative process with FFIN dancers, Gary has made a pure, non-narrative work that is highly unique and reflects his love for athletic physicality
Take a look at an extract of the work here

 

In search of technical sparkle

FFIN DANCE Still Standing Tour Image Paul Trask

FFIN DANCE
Still Standing Tour
Image Paul Trask

Well, what a week it has been. I have so far thoroughly enjoyed being back in the studio with the ffin family working on our new triple bill which premières at the Nantgarw Campus, Coleg y Cymoedd on the 11th March.

Over the course of the last week, we have spent time recapping ‘Synapsequence’ a piece we toured during the 2012 season which was choreographed by our associate choreographer, Gary Lambert. Not to repeat what both Effie and Megan have already mentioned in their blogs, as I concur with everything they have said, but I must say that it has been most enjoyable to return to this piece, and for me I was actually quite surprised at how much.
Looking back to when we first created Synapsequence, I was never truly happy with my level of technical skill or performance quality. I felt that I was always fighting to achieve the quality of movement that Gary wanted and yet quite often falling short of it whilst also dealing with high levels of stress and performance anxiety.
Two years later, a lot has happened and I finally feel as if something has started to click. For the first time I feel I can now truly try to ‘dance’ the piece to its fullest potential. To recap (sorry, I know I said I wouldn’t but I could not help myself) slightly on what Meg mentioned about being true to the movement, I have found that we all have spent valuable time really focusing on the clarity of all the phrases and to refine where they came from and how they were executed. In order for us to continue pushing the level of performance quality and being honest and true to the materials origins, I think we need to stay continuously focused on what is happening throughout the whole piece, even when off stage. This also plays a part in the other two pieces.

Looking to Catrin’s piece, ‘Stand up Straight’, again its been about being honest with the material, or more accurately the motion in space as opposed to choreographed phrases in space and time. I have found this piece quite a mental challenge in its portrayal of the condition vertigo as I have never really felt fond of the spinning that we do as it makes me slightly faint and I have found the solo material quite difficult to recreate yet still be honest to their original origins of off balance. Certainly with mine, which had quite the clumsy quality with quite hard drops to the floor and rather droopy head actions, it took me quite some time to find the desired outcome. However, as we rehearse and refine the piece, I am finding it to be quite an interesting one to be within and it truly keeps you on your toes. I am looking forward to seeing what an audience makes of it.

Finally, we returned to Sue’s piece, ‘Fractal’, a series of solos and two ensemble sections to the wonderfully complex score by J.S.Bach. After our creation period back in October, I was concerned that I would not be able to do my solo justice in both musical and physical terms, and after reviewing video footage of our final rehearsal, I was beginning to dislike what I had created. Now, a few months later, I am finding a true love and affinity with my solo material and have found new nuances within my score that I had not noticed before which is allowing me to fully embody its style and to live and breathe the musical phrasing as an extension of my physical self. For my solo, which is split into two pieces of music, I have been focusing on using a sinuous quality of my whole spine so that I can really embrace the melodic qualities of the score whilst maintaining control of my arms which can often become too florid and slightly wafty in motion. In addition, I have been playing close attention to the articulation and intricacy of my footwork which reflects the quick, clean and precise phrasing of my music. I still have some way to go yet, but I am determined to strive for perfection. ‘Fractal’ is certainly the most technically challenging in its virtuosity and musical embodiment and I am embracing it as best I can.

Today in the studio was a good day, yesterday I was very tired and struggled to maintain my concentration levels. I certainly think the peppermint tea today helped 🙂

Tomorrow we begin to bring the three pieces together as a unit. Let the hard work continue and grow grow grow 🙂

Thanks guys
Mike 🙂

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

Back in the studio

Winter Dance Faktry Festival Image Paul Trask

Winter Dance Faktry Festival
Image Paul Trask

We have had an amazingly busy time with our education and outreach unit over the winter months, reaching new children and young people and also new audiences, sometimes seeing contemporary dance for the first time – what a great thing of which to be part!
I’ve been really concentrating on getting some further funding to be able to sustain what appears to be a huge demand for our community work with the dance faktry with not enough financial resources to supply the activities.  Well that’s nothing new!  So keep on keeping on and we will be rewarded soon I know.  We have some wonderful new projects in the pipeline involving our young volunteers programme New Ground and also one of our A Level students would like to put together a programme of workshops for people in the community of Blaenau Gwent who have difficulty expressing their emotions, maybe through grief, anger or financial loss.

Fractal Image Paul Trask

Fractal
Image Paul Trask

Next week the company will return to the studio for rehearsals, to which I am looking forward immensely.  We will be opening our Still Standing Tour next month at Coleg Morgannwg in Cardiff performing Synapsequence by Gary Lambert, Stand Up Straight by company dancer Catrin Lewis and Fractal by myself.

After a quick charge of batteries, we are set for a wonderfully busy spring and summer and will be bringing you news, updates and blogs.  Please keep visiting us and join us at a venue near you.

All good wishes
sue lewis

 

Opening Night

FFIN DANCE Image Paul Trask

FFIN DANCE
Image Paul Trask

Our new show Still Standing will open on at Coleg Morgannwg, Nantgarw Cardiff on March 11th 2014 at 7.30pm.  We will be performing:

Fractal by Sue Lewis
Stand Up Straight by Catrin Lewis
Synapsequence by Gary Lambert

Tickets £6 and £4 concessions for students
Box Office  01443 663202

Fractal – The Finished Item

Fractal Image Paul Trask

Fractal
Image Paul Trask

The past 3 weeks have been really astounding, the dancers have worked tirelessly from the wonderful Bach Suite in G Minor score and together we have created Fractal.

The dance unfolds in a series of episodes – solos that sometimes morph into duets and a quartet.  The overriding subject and title of the piece, Fractal, comes from the theory of fractals found in nature, science, mathematics etc where a small part of the whole represents the whole itself in a series of repeated patterns.  The score by Bach offers an ideal framework for this type of treatment with obligingly repeated motifs and figures in the music.  The suite written originally for dancing, is both simple and witty, abounding in contrapuntal motifs and rhythmic patterns, all of which have been embraced into the choreography.  It is this crafting of work to music that is my absolute penchant, having a profound love of form and structure.

The result is a 20 minute piece which is charming and athletic, a style for which our reviewers have commented upon favourably in recent years.  Fractal will sit well alongside Catrin Lewis’s work Stand Up Straight, and with Gary Lambert’s new work which we start in the new year; a great triple bill.  Look out for #stillstandingtour on Twitter and I hope you’ll join us at a venue near you in 2014

Here’s a quick shot at the final Gigue in Fractal, being rehearsed at our home studio in Abertillery last week

Fractal 4

IMG_3191The piece is now complete and I’m thrilled with the result of the dancers’ exceptional hard work and dazzling creativity in the studio for the past 2 weeks.  It has exceeded my expectations by a long measure.

Following the delightful score by JS Bach, has been a pleasure and of course a privilege. The recorded version of the Suite is played by the fabulous Maria João Pires, a Portuguese virtuoso pianist, who really brings out the complexity of Bach’s genius.  The piece unfolds as a series of solos that culminate in a wonderfully spirited Gigue, where the dancers weave together the separate strands of the whole, as fractals represent a portion of the entirety.

Although we have created this work reasonably quickly, the dancers have achieved a real classic quality, that has been borne out of intense study of the music, its form and of course its texture.
All that’s left is for me is to work through the transitions and then to investigate the production details of costume and stage design.

For those of you who like our ever-growing reputation for producing technical and athletic work, Fractal won’t disappoint.

Back to the studio on Monday, continuing Stand Up Straight by company dancer Catrin Lewis.  An altogether different piece, testing the dancers’ ability to switch the way in which they use their body and mind.

We can’t wait to share our studio experiences with you, please keep following our blogs.

sue lewis