Grass Roots: Dancing in Wales/ Dawnsio yng nghymru

Image Credit: Gareth ChambersImage Credit: Gareth Chambers

Before a collective of five independent Welsh dance artists joined forces over coffee and vegetable soup in Cardiff. Professional dance classes in wales were few and far between, especially with the sad closure of Welsh Independent Dance (WID) in 2010.

Dancers who were not part of the National Company would sometimes have to make do with the odd workshop or company class.Yoga and Pilates proved to be especially popular.

As a West Walian who did live and train in London for a number of years I would sometimes seriously question why there wasn’t even a once weekly class being taught in Cardiff? A city which is internationally known for its vibrant artistic and cultural scene.

It’s not like there’s not any successful dancers/dance artists here; Eddie Ladd, Caroline Sabin, Jo Fong, The Clarks, Karol Cysewski. The list is endless… and so are the frustrations.

Luckily I wasn’t the only one who was frustrated,confused and annoyed…

Beth Powlesland decided to do something about it, together with four other successful dance artists Deborah Light, Joanna Young, Chloe Loftus and Jessie Brett. The seeds for Groundwork Pro were sown/planted in 2014.

6 months have past since their first class and now I’m reflecting with the collective over mulled wine, cheese and mince pies, it’s increasingly apparent how much planning and determination was involved in making GWP a success.

Theo Clinkard, Katye Coe,Hugh Stainer and Natalia Iwaneic were selected from a list of teachers that the founders knew would deliver a pedagogical quality that would help dancers taking class in Wales flourish and learn something maybe new.

Making sure there was an equal mix of technique, somatic and improv wasn’t that tricky and provided some great variety. So far GWP has delivered Gaga classes, Cunningham technique, Floor work and Ballet all at £4. Without sounding like a gushing groupie it’s pretty amazing.Who needs to take the Megabus down to London now?

GWP also offers ‘Groundspace’ an additional bonus where once a week after class a studio becomes available for dancers to either rehearse, test out ideas alone or share skills.
It is bonuses such as this which nourish and develop the practices of artists in Wales, GWP also provides an access fund for those who may have difficulty attending class, the fund can cover travel costs and childcare. It’s all about accessibility.

The sharing of practices and much needed discussion about what it is to be a dance artist in Wales is very popular,especially with the current Brexit society we are all living in. Wales voted to leave the EU by 52.5%.

GWP however may not last forever… the 6 month scheme will be drawing to a close at the end of December as the Arts Council of Wales grant will unfortunately run out…
The collective will put in for another grant, which I and so many other artists in Wales and beyond truly hope they will receive. We can’t go back to a time of frustration and anxiety.

It’s so crucial now that GWP continues to happen, the Welsh dance industry now more than ever needs to develop and be sustained especially with more Welsh dance artists showing work in Europe and beyond.

On another note I have often thought that Wales at times clings on to the ‘good old days’ of the 90’s and early 00’s.The era of the experimental performance group Brith Gof and physical theatre company Earthfall have been and gone and it’s now time to invest and nourish what’s happening at this very moment in the whole of Wales. Artists are now looking outwards to their peers in cites such as Glasgow, Leeds(GWP was based on the Pro Leeds class model) and Brighton. London and it’s smoke has been cast aside for something a little bit greener and more earthy. Action rather than procrastination.

More information about Groundwork Pro can be found here