Fearghus Ó Conchúir Choreographer and Dance Artist

Label: The Rygbi Project

July 27, 2019

Annwyl i mi/ Dear to me. Weeks Two and Three

 

Photo Pablo Sansalvador

Photo Pablo Sansalvador

A year ago, I was dancing outdoors on the Walthamstow Wetlands.  This week in Cardiff Bay, we’ve started to take Annwyl i mi from the studio in Dancehouse to a piece of grass nearby.  Because our first iteration of the the Rygbi Project will be outdoors, it’s been important to build this experience of responding to the unpredictability of environment, public and surface into the choreography and into the dancers’ knowledge.  Though we’re building a structured performance, we’re also improvising with the material regularly so that we are practised in adapting together to whatever the necessities of performance that arise.  On grass, in public space, in the open air, that adaptability is a necessity if we’re to remain open and responsive to the possibilities of the place we’re helping to make through our performance.    It’s been exciting to see how quickly the dancers have adapted to the challenges of being in a public environment, with people passing, children playing etc and how they’ve still held the focus of the work.  Better still they’re finding how to be porous to that environment rather than trying to fight against it for attention.  So we can see the butterflies that pass through while someone dances a solo or notice the wind rustling through the trees as the group flows across the grass, and they’re not distractions but enhancements of the work.  And they’re gifts that we’d never have in the studio.

Farghus

We decided to use the fact that Annwyl i mi is an outdoor piece to have one of our regular open rehearsals in Bute Park this week.  It takes quite a lot of work to ‘show up’ on the grass of a public park, particularly since we wanted to set up a surround sound system to try out Tic’s music.  There are permissions from the council to secure, power sources, toilets, parking, as well as all the extra technical kit to put in place.  It’s not quite the same as the pop up solo dances I’ve inserted into public spaces in the past.  But the effort was worth it.  Seeing the work in the beautiful outdoor setting confirmed that it works in the way I’d hoped and the dancers showed really commitment but also pleasure in bringing the environment, the sensations of the grass and the brightness of the evening sunlight into their performance.  The audience, both for our official Open Rehearsal and for the earlier run though we did, was engaged.  In our discussion session after the rehearsal, people talked about how seeing the dancers engage with their environment made them appreciate their own sensations of the place.  They also recognised the emotion of the piece which pleased me especially.

One of the dancers commented afterwards that doing our rehearsal in the park made them feel like we’d arrived in Cardiff, by which they meant that we were able to connect with people, incidental passers by, that would never come and see us working in the Dancehouse.  I’m proud that the company can show its ability in this generous and porous way.  And I know it takes effort, skill, resilience and care to be that generous and porous.

I wanted Annwyl i mi to be an outdoor work to demonstrate our resilience and to show the ability of dance to resonate in worlds beyond the stage.  I’m happy to see the dancers proving the power of that resonance already.

 

July 14, 2019

Annywl i mi/Dear to me. Week One

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It’s the end of the first week of our making Annwyl i mi/Dear to me (the piece we’ll premiere at the Eisteddfod in August).  The team has gathered: the dancers (Aisha, Ed, Elena, Faye, Folu, Tim, Nikita), the composer (Tic Ashfield), the costume designer (Carl Davies) and everyone in the NDCWales company who’s been working in different ways on the project for a while already – communicating about the work, organising how it will all happen, planning for it, raising funds for it, ensuring there are opportunities for learning and participation through it.  Though we’ll see the company’s performers visibly carrying the work, it’s a work that’s made possible by many more around them.

66778915_10155966839561626_5243498591254740992_nWe’re excited because while we’re aiming for our premiere in Eisteddfod, it’s just been made public that this outdoor piece is going to be presented in Japan as part of the Welsh government’s cultural programme around the Rugby World Cup in September and as part of  UK in JAPAN 2019-20 a British Council and British Embassy Tokyo initiative.  It’s a big opportunity to present our work around the World Cup, an opportunity for the company and for dance to be visible in that context.  Exciting but also some pressure.

66524199_10155966840416626_7455640287541460992_nHowever, that pressure isn’t useful in the first week of a making a new piece.  Instead I’ve wanted to continue the spirit of exploration that we had in our previous two weeks of Laboratori so that we could use this work inspired by rugby as a way to forge relationships, communities, teams of support  – support that would take care of people but also that would support them to take the risks necessary to excel.  I want the work not to be about community but to model it and that means taking time to figure out the structures and approaches that will support our community.