Staff changes

This season we say goodbye to 2 of our dancers who have been with us for 4 years.  Mike will be moving on to concentrate on his role as a choreographer and personal trainer, we wish him well in his new ventures and very much hope that we see him on a regular basis. Assistant to the company director, Megan Griffiths, will also be leaving us after 4 years. Megan will be moving on to diversify her performing skills and will also be sorely missed by the company.  She will be fondly remembered by us all.

Natasha Wade Image Paul Trask

Natasha Wade
Image Paul Trask

We welcome Natasha Wade to the company as from September: she has been a friend of the company for the past year, attending our Professional Performance Development course and also spending time taking class with us.  Her biog will appear soon on our company page. She is a beautiful dancer and will bring a new sparkle to our team.

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 …

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

Solos, photos and a birthday

IMG_3125As I sit here happily munching on a slice of birthday cake (a Percy Pig one which is very nice) and a lovely cup of tea, courtsey of my FFIN family, I now feel that I can begin to reflect upon the last week of our current rehearsal period.
This past week, we have been exploring the wonderful piano Partita by Bach, who just happens to be my favourite classical composer, with each dancer having their own accompaniment as we all form our own solos. The first piece we are creating, choreographed by our director Sue Lewis, entitled “Fractal”, explores the ideas of how fractals occur in nature, as similar patterns which can be developed upon. I shan’t try and explain what a fractal actually is as many theories are in debate and I’m still trying to understand it, but I still think of the florets of a broccoli. When cut up, you can see how the small patterns or shapes are similar to the bigger picture as a whole.

We began by creating 6 abstract air and floor patterns, which we then taught to each other. We could then draw upon all these snippets of material to create our solos whilst closely following the score of our own piece of music. My music is quite folk like in its quality with a Gavotte tempo, yet at first it did seem very fast and a little worry did set in. Musically I have been trying to explore the intricate musical patterns, or little tunes, and to try and translate that into my movement material. This has been quite a challenge, which at times I have really enjoyed whilst others have been very frustrating. One quality I have continued to work on in my time with FFIN, is to fully utilise my long limbs and depth of my plié to help ground my centre and to achieve a more crisp and clear action with my legs and feet. I naturally find my movement material to move from small intricate movements kept quite underneath my centre line to large torso and arm work with a fluid and sustained quality. (Trying to achieve clarity at speed without looking rushed is a quality I’m trying to embody as much as I can, sometimes occurring with ease whilst others proves to be a little battle) To apply this to my lower body has continued to be a personal goal of mine. And since my music has very few long sustained notes or trills, I have found the intricacy and clarity quite difficult to execute but I am sure in time it will come, I hope so anyway.

Creating a piece largely structured by solos has been a great experience and opportunity for me. I haven’t really explored much solo work before, only in small sections, and it has been very liberating to try and form a personal quality of your own that really identities you as a performer alongside the music you are given. I am looking toward to spending some more time with Sue working on developing my own solo and fully exploring its structure, clarity and musicality.

I’ve also enjoyed exploring material created by the other dancers, trying to embody their own movement quality as much as possible with my own body. Definitely need to find some local ballet classes to help with a few things here and there 🙂

Today (which just happens to be my 29th birthday) was spent with the amazing Paul Trask who has become our trusted regular photographer working on our promotional images for our 2014 tour. It’s always exciting getting in front on the camera, even when it proves difficult to move fully within a small shooting space. It’s always interesting to see what works on camera that can really stand out compared to others. The day was spent with lots of giggles, a few biscuits and a birthday song 🙂 Im looking forward to seeing which few photos proved best.

The rest of this week will be finalising “Fractal”, trying to cement our solos and group material, and to begin exploring our second piece “Stand Up Straight”, choreographed by company dancer Catrin Lewis. After seeing a taste of the material at today’s photo shoot in person, I’m very much excited to begin learning the piece and learning more about its creative process and stimuli. Looking at it, it’s a piece that will really test and challenge my skills, maybe even a few movement fears, I hope I can rise to the occasion and embody the feeling and quality of the piece to my utmost capabilities.

Bring on day 3 and the rest of the week. Till then……

Mike 🙂

And so the pages close

Hello everyone!

IMG_1264Well, it certainly has been an incredible this year which culminated in our recent trip to the wonderful setting of Burg Namedy, Germany, where once again we were greeted with open arms, a warm reception from both the household staff and the audience members for our two performances. Both of which were sell out performances. The space, a beautiful hall of mirrors, presented a unique challenge as a performance setting, as the space provides an ‘in the round’ feeling so a true front didn’t exist. This was quite the challenge as we had to chance various facings so that all of the audience could have a unique view without feeling neglected. It also proved exciting, yet quite tricky at first, for us as dancers as it kept us on our toes and heightend the need to support each other throughout each piece, through the unison sections to acknowledging each other in the space throughout various points within each piece. I felt this most acutely throughout our 3rd piece, Axiom Tangent, as the whole majority of the piece consisted of double duets in unison, and so required a lot of mutual support, spacial acknowledgment and continuous focal intention between each couple.

It was also wonderful to see Ben Craft again, who we hope to work with in the next year or so, who brought along two of his students who performed a beautiful statuesque duet. Taking ideas from his solo performance last year, his students used one of the rooms within the castle that housed old suits of armour and animal skins which gave an ancient, dark and regal atmosphere to their piece. This was combined with a soundscape by Ben using a variety of different sounds hidden from the audience alongside a beautiful accompaniment by bass player Bart Tarenskeen, a close friend of Ben’s.

Of the two pieces i have toured this season within the triple bill, I have felt most affection for Missing Pages, a beautiful and telling piece which takes inspiration from a war time short story which was then accompanied by the luscious sonata by Ravel. It seems only yesterday, when in fact it was almost a year ago, that we began exploring aspects of the story to inform our own story and to search for our own missing pages. My duet partner (in both pieces) Effie has been truly inspirational this season. I feel we have truly connected as a couple and have learnt a lot about ourselves and each other as both artists and people. Over the course of the season, i feel we have grounded each other, learnt to listen to each others movement language and cemented a lasting working relationship.

In addition it has been a privilege this year to once again work alongside Megan and Catrin, who once again joined us in Germany to replace a cast member within Axiom. Catrin herself worked incredible hard under pressure and within a short time frame to learn her parts within the piece alongside Megan as her duet partner. A huge credit to both.

It has also been lovely this year to have worked alongside Adam throughout the majority of the season. He brought a unique and powerful atmosphere to the company, and it was nice to have another male within the company for some banter 😉 I wish him all the best.

As i sit here writing this, with a very large cup of tea, i am now looking forward to the coming 2014 season. I am looking forward to getting back into the studio in the autumn and start getting the creative juices flowing again. Until then………….ttfn

Mike 🙂

Jumbling and Juggling….

FFIN DANCE Photo Simon Scott 2012

FFIN DANCE
Photo Simon Scott 2012

Wow, so we’re already nearing the end of this rehearsal period ready to get the Inspired tour on the road – the time has flown by. What has really struck me during this rehearsal period is how much we have had to keep juggling all of our balls in the air – it’s been a consummate effort for both minds and bodies switching between class, Missing Pages, Axiom Tangent and back again – hence the lack of blogging activity! Meg has to cope with rehearsing Degrees of Freedom on top of all of this and I really respect the sterling job she is doing (although how she is managing is beyond me – I get home of an evening and am completely physically and mentally spent as it is!).

What is incredibly evident though, in terms of being most economical and productive with time, is how much we all have to pull together as team. As Gary pointed out today, we all need to work to our own strengths and attribute different roles between ourselves – it is this sense of sharing out the workload which allows us to function.

Having learnt the mechanics of the duets for Axiom Tangent last week, we have begun setting spatial relationships and timing this week. Picking up the counts was seeming like a big ask at first but it highlighted the importance for us to trust Gary with the counting and get on with the dancing ourselves, allowing the nature of repetition to help the counts to settle and pick out important ‘marker points’ to count from.

Outside of the studio, I have been sharing lifts with Adam this week and for me this has been a really conducive part of the process. During our journey, we have just enough time to get in the mind-set to tackle the day ahead or reflect on how it has gone, bringing a sense closure to the day. It is so useful to share this discussion with someone who is going through the same process and gives us a moment to allay some of each other’s concerns. Big thanks to Adam on this front.

I am very humbled to be working with Sue, Gary, Mike, Meg and Adam – here’s to teamwork and pushing on through with rehearsals – very excited with how everything is coming together.

Effie 🙂

What a week :)

FFIN DANCE Image by Simon Scott 2012

FFIN DANCE
Image by Simon Scott 2012

Hi everyone,

Its been a while and this week so far has certainly been a busy one and as soon as I get home my brain just goes ahhhhhh. But here we go……

It has been so nice to be back in the studio after the Christmas period and to start working on our new pieces with our associate choreographer Gary Lambert. The first is a group ensemble and the second is a solo for company dancer Megan. I’m looking forward to seeing her work with the material, and the small snippets I have seen her rehearsing look very interesting.

Over the last few days we have been learning a vast amount of duet material and some ensemble phrases which have been quite taxing on the brain but incredibly exciting. The duets are full of athletic lifts (which are making several muscles ache lol) and moments of small interactions. Its also been interesting revisiting Gary’s notion of ‘paralysis of analysis’, his dynamic approach to movement, his eye for detail and his utter passion for his art.

With regard to the new duets we have been learning, Gary has been instilling into us to have the calmness and smooth quality that marking material can bring yet still executing clarity,form and articulation when moving at a fast pace. A contradiction but a fascinating one. The group phrasing is meaty, fast and dynamic, and is going to be fun having to develop it 🙂

In addition, this week we have had the pleasure (more than I can truly express) this week of having our company class being led by the lovely Ben Craft, a close friend and fellow Royal Ballet school mate of Gary.   To be taught and to learn from all of Ben’s many years of experience in many different dance and somatic forms has been beyond a privilege. Its going to be very sad when he returns to Arnhem, Netherlands.

Our first week is almost over and we still have a lot to do but let’s meet the challenge head on 🙂

Off to write up some notes from the past few days before next week as my computer has not been my closest friend of late.

Till next time

Mike