Being – a quick catch-up for sharing

IMG_3150So far so good!!
Catrin and I have so far spent two wonderful rehearsals with Gary improvising following some ‘rules’ that Gary has set

He’s filmed quite a bit of the improvisations and from these we will pick out the bits that are ‘good’ to create phrases. Similar to how I structured ‘Megan’s corner’ in Degrees of Freedom, my solo by Gary last season.
It’s a very interesting process to get inside of Gary’s mind. He said that this is often how he makes material and phrases but he now has a process that he can follow to generate the material.

I think he’s looking to set more ‘rules’ for the improvs in order to get different moods/material.

It was quite funny how often Cat and myself were unaware of what the other was doing but would often pick up on the language of material that the other was doing.

The piece is going to be about ‘being’. Gary doesn’t believe in the term movement for movements sake, as dance is an experience both for the audience and the dancer. He describes it a lot more eloquently than that but that is the gist of what I have gathered!

Really looking forward to continuing with the work, keep dropping by, it’s going to be great.

Meg

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 🙂

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 🙂

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

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 🙂

Fractal 2

fractalpic1Later on today I will be back in our home studio in Abertillery for Day 3 making my new work Fractal.
The dancers have been working from the score of Bach’s English Suite no 3 following the intricate and recurring rhythmic patterns of each movement where they have been creating individual movement patterns within this framework.  Very complex and detailed.

The thinking behind this involves the subject matter of the work – fractals – where a small piece of a whole entity resembles the entire thing.  With this in mind, all of the dancers have also learnt each others’ patterns in order for them to experience the other fragments of the whole work.

I’m very pleased with the depth and quality of what we’ve achieved this far, and very much looking forward to shaping these lovely solos.  The whole work will unfold a series of solo episodes with occasional glimpses of the “whole” manifested in duets and a quartet.

Please keep following our blogs, don’t forget you can interact with us by responding to them, we’d like to know your thoughts

sue lewis

Full stop

 

Missing Pages Image Paul Trask

Missing Pages
Image Paul Trask


Our Inspired Tour has come to an end, with a marvellous 5 days in the German Rhineland, our home from home.  Originally planned as one performance, this sold out with 2 weeks to go; another performance was consequently added which also sold out!  Standing ovations and 4 encores at each performance, our German audience absolutely loved Inspired.

The season has been exceptional with the dancers and technical crew really fitting into the 3 pieces of work, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of our staff, guest artists, our FFIN Friends and sponsors, our Board and of course you our audience and friends for making it such a success.
As many of you know, we are not funded by the Arts Council (neither England or Wales) and we manage our company as a social enterprise and business. This has in turn I believe, made us stronger and ultimately more skilled – learning new business skills, marketing, promotion and budget management, skills not always natural to an artist.  We have made some marvellous friendships and lasting links with like-minded people which may not have occurred had we been part of the mainstream.  So a little word of encouragement to those struggling with funding – keep at it and have faith.

This is my last day in the office before taking a short break to the lovely hills above Malaga in Spain.  As well as hopes of sitting reading numerous books, cooking delicious fresh food, sampling local sherries and wines, I will be working on my new piece for next season.  It’s an episodic series of solos set to some of the divine Bach Partitas, using the concept of repeated patterns in nature and science: it’s called FRACTAL.  It will make up the 3rd piece of our new triple bill with a piece by new company dancer Catrin Lewis, entitled Stand Up Straight which examines the medical condition Vertigo together with a brand new piece made for us by our Associate Choreographer Gary Lambert.

The new show carries the strap line – Still Standing – look out for our tweets and further blogs.

Until then adiós amigos, hasta pronto

sue lewis

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 🙂

Homeward Bound

IMG_2869So the FFIN team have reached the end of the Inspired Tour 2013 and what a journey it has been. I think it’s safe to say that all the members have had an enriching time.
We performed twice in Germany, selling out on both evenings. The evening consisted of our triple bill plus a piece choreographed by Ben Craft and performed by two of his students. Ben took inspiration from his time in Namedy last year to create a piece based around the many artifacts of the castle. As well as choreographing, Ben played a live score along with fellow musician Bart Tarenskeen. What resulted was an interesting collaboration between dancers and musicians.
Both of the evenings went well for the FFIN -ners. The pieces all sit quite comfortably on us now, even with all the new and sometimes confusing facings, that we can really indulge in the material and revisit some of the finer details that may have been lost along the way.
For Missing Pages it was revisiting the original stories that we had way back in September last year that we used to generate material. This was something I had to work quite hard on as I am now without my partner for the majority of the piece. In order for the piece to make sense as a whole I had to create another missing page, so to speak, to allow my story to develop through the piece.
With my solo Degrees of Freedom I was looking to refine the different dynamic contrasts and how I could use the new facings to maximum effect. The whole solo is very sculptural and multi faceted so I wanted to make sure that really worked and pushed the material to its full potential. I feel very privelledged to be dancing this solo as I know that it was very close to Gary’s heart and I hope that I did it justice.
Axiom Tangent has always proved to be a bit of a tricky one to master. With a new cast member it was important that we worked as a team. The majority of the piece is a series of contact duets in unison. Unison being quite hard at the best of times let alone when you’re trying to lift another person! I think this is the piece that grew the most over the time in Germany and it is a credit to Cat that she was able to step in and learn a difficult piece and to then perform with relatively little rehearsal time.
The German audience were very appreciative. They were open and receptive to the work and it was a pleasure to perform to them.
It’s been an amazing experience to share with such talented artists. I’ve learnt a lot over the past four days which I look forward to taking into my working life.
As I write we’re currently driving home. No idea of the location but I can’t wait to get to the ferry for a g&t.
Meg

Opening night Tanz@Namedy 2013

IMG_2859After a marvelous day of rehearsals and restaging Inspired for a round presentation, we performed to a packed audience, who absolutely loved the work.  Each of the pieces was called back to the stage for rapturous curtain calls, the audience refusing to let the dancers get away with just one series of bows.

 

Our new company dancer, Catrin settled well in Gary’s group piece, Axiom Tangent, which was an incredible task for her to learn such a meaty role in so short a time.

Megan, Mike and Effie looked like they were really at home in the work, our last part of this season’s tour.

 

As usual the welcome that we receive from the princess and her staff is amazing, the food and the accommodation incredible.

The crowd are all in the wonderful castle grounds in the evening sunshine, enjoying the beauty of this stunning placeWe’re looking forward to the second performance this evening, it’s been quite a relaxed day, hoping for another great audience and of course even more standing ovations for our work!

sue lewis