DANCE ON LOCATION 002: Llandegfedd Reservoir, Wales, UK

I battle with the speed of my own arms on the edge of a reservoir in South Wales in this second outdoor dance film at Llandegfedd Reservoir in South Wales.

Llandegfedd Reservoir lies just north of the city of Newport in South Wales. It's 174 hectares in size, and there's a rigorous 10km walk around it. The walk takes you through various woodland, meadows and farms around the water. It can get quite steep at times, but it's good fun. It's a long walk around the reservoir, but worth noting that you don't actually get to see much of the reservoir itself. Instead, where the walk deviates from the water's edge it takes your quite a bit inland through the local area, and where it gets close to the water the view is often obscured by dense trees. When you do see a way through, please note that you can't necessarily walk right next to the water - this area appears to be reserved for fishermen only, and you need a permit to be down there, although there aren't any signs which say so.

The walk is currently open during the COVID-19 restrictions, but please make sure you observe Welsh social distancing rules (i.e. stay 2 metres apart at all times). However, as a site of special scientific interest, the reservoir is closed to all visitors from 1st November to 1st March each year due to over-wintering wildfowl. More information about walking and opening times at Llandegfedd, can be found here.

The Dance

Let's be clear: these dance videos are (for the most part) not planned or choreographed in advance. Often, I have never been to these locations before, but as I explore I look for a place that might both be interesting as a backdrop to a dance film, and interesting to play with as a movement practitioner. I tend to look for a diversity of objects and colours in the background and foreground, and for a space with different levels and/or passageways that I can play around with. (The exceptions to this rule occur when we find a place which would look particularly stunning at a certain time of day, and so we make plans to return to that location. See the night time dance video filmed under an underpass on the way to Cwmbran, for example).

As I began to experiment more with creating these videos, I fell in love with the dance-video-in-one shot idea. I liked that the camera would follow me through the space, sometimes almost losing me before re-focusing on my moving body. In each of these videos, my movement is a response to my immediate surroundings, or to my experiences in that location, and in these blogs I hope to give a little bit of an insight into what I was thinking as I was improvising in these locations.

If I were to give this particular dance film a name, it might be "Unstable Ground." The site was certainly a lesson in keeping my balance. Whilst my feet may look secure at the very beginning, I'm actually stood on a dense pile of wet leaves, which were slowly sinking into the mud beneath them. I kept thinking "upwards", as if to wish myself not to sink with them.

With "upwards" also came "outwards"- in a bid to keep my balance, but also to project my body out into the space to permeate my incredibly green surroundings with the colours of my body and clothes, my arms reaching out from my body in waves. Watching the video back, I feel as if my arms were trying to escape my own body in some way. I remember thinking about the vines of ivy on the wall behind me as if they were a sparkling green strip curtain like the ones you see in old cabaret shows. I imagined my dancing in front of them as some sort of flamboyant grand entrance.

I found myself reflecting on my first video at Wentwood Forest, as I was recording this one (my second video of this project). I recalled smooth transitions between movements and I wanted to challenge that here. I think this is why I initially propelled my arms to move at speed, before reminding myself to "slow down." Each time I'd obey, and then almost instantly speed up again, at odds with my own decisions. As I result, I see the second half of this video as a teetering battle between slow and fast - perhaps quite representative of many lockdown experiences. I have personally experienced a shifting between feeling like this is an opportunity to slow down and relax, and working frantically to fill the time whilst I wasn't able to go anywhere much.

Maybe that's a pseudo-title for 2020 - "The year of the fast-slow".

If you find yourself wanting to watch more dance videos set in nature, then check out the following posts:

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