DANCE ON LOCATION 006: Raglan Castle, Wales, UK

I dance my way through the grounds of Raglan Castle, the fortress-palace of Sir William Herbert, the fifteenth century sheriff of Glamorgan and constable of Usk Castle.

I can honestly say that Raglan Castle in Monmouthshire is quite possibly one of the best castles I have ever visited, because it looks like something straight out of a fairy tale.

I loved fairy tales as a child. In fact, I still have the battered and well-loved copy of Grimms' Fairy tales given to me by an elderly neighbour back in the 90s. These stories of castles may well be one of the reasons that I love visiting castles to this day. But, Raglan was definitely the first time I have ever seen a castle with a inner moat, which is still filled with water and wildlife.

This gorgeous 15th century Welsh castle has quite a history. Founded by Sir William ap Thomas by transforming Raglan Manor into a castle after he purchased it in 1432, the castle was added to in great detail by Thomas and his son, Sir William Herbert, in the following years. Herbert became sheriff of Glamorgan and constable of Usk Castle, as well as Earl of Pembroke. The castle was at times home to other nobility, for example; Henry Tudor (the future king Henry VII) was raised here. During the English Civil War, the castle fell to the parliamentary forces in 1646, after which it slowly turned to ruins until it was turned into a tourist attraction in 1756.

The Dance

I have a confession to make about these dance videos - I should say that I don't do the scouting for these incredible locations - it's my partner (the Director of Photography and man behind the camera) who has that incredible skill. He has been amazing at finding so many locations which offer new and interesting features for us to work with, and he's got an incredible eye for detail (Thank you Ian!)

I love that this video begins with a focus on my hands, with eyes closed. Being placed within the restriction of a relatively small frame, I found myself thinking very carefully about how to make small but dynamic movements. I like the juxtaposition of the initial placement of the hands with the winding of my wrist and then spirit-finger like movements as I slowly open my eyes. All the while you can hear the fervent whip of a bird flapping its wings nearby.

In our continuing experiment with these one-shot videos, this time we went for a 'big reveal' of the backdrop of the castle and that gorgeous moat. I love how I move from red brick backdrop, to a darker, older brick, before the camera pans around to reveal the architecture of this late medieval castle.

There's something about my shoulders in this video... or is it more about angles? I see my shoulders switch up and down, back and forth, but then I see my knees bending over my toes, torso heading downwards towards them. I felt like my feet were always shifting in diagonals beneath me, like something was pulling be down towards the earth. The castle's resident wizard, wishing me to join them, perhaps?

There was much more to play with here than at Ogmore Castle, as there's much more of the castle left intact. Whilst this provides a more majestic backdrop in this video, the effect also extends to visitors' personal explorations of the rest of Raglan Castle - you can see the rooms clearly and you have more of an idea of what they looked like and what happened in them.

COVID-19 Restrictions

If you fancy a trip to Raglan Castle whilst COVID-19 restrictions remain in place in Wales, you must book in advance on the Cadw website. Outdoor historic monuments are currently open in Wales, but they are operating at a limited capacity and so booking is essential.

The lovely front of house staff at Raglan Castle told us that they were initially starting to open with a capacity of 100 people per day (50 in the morning, 50 in the afternoon), but that they would be reviewing this figure every 3 weeks, in line with government guidance.

Something that was interesting about Raglan Castle's COVID-19 plans, was the instance of these orange signs (above) where steps would lead down to an enclosed space beneath the castle. You're only allowed to enter these spaces if they are empty, and so the castle has asked visitors to shout down into the stairways to check if any is already in the space. Nifty idea!

If you're developing a particular penchant for my dance videos at castles, then check out the following posts:

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