The dance film that almost turned into a horror movie, under a brutally constructed underpass which holds up the M4 somewhere between Newport and Cwmbran, South Wales.
This video marks a slight departure from the others that we'd made up until this point. Why? Because we'd been here before. For the most part, these dance videos are made in places that we have never been to before. It's upon exploring the site for the first time that we find the right particular location and pathway for the film. However, we'd walked along the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal a few weeks before we made this video, but we'd completed that walk during the day.
On that sunny day, we walked along the canal from Newport to Cwmbran. At a halfway point we stumbled across a graffitied underpass, with the M4 motorway sprawling over the top. We noticed the orange glow of synthetic lighting that would look rather interesting in the dark, and the brutal concrete which offered a rather different feel to the videos we'd made in other outdoor spaces. So, rather than film a video in the bright sunshine, we decided to come back at a later date, after sunset, to film our first one-shot dance film in the dark.
For me, this video is very different to my previous ones in many ways. Firstly, there's the kind of movement that I ended up working with - I think that in my previous videos I'd been thinking about some sort of spiritual or natural connection to a site or to the history of that site, but here I'm very much responding to the geometric lines and the visuals which the site presented me with. These result is 2-fold: a collection of movements that are sharp and jagged, at times seemingly out of control, and other movements which match the fluidity of movement in my previous videos, but are much lower to the ground. My feet feel grounded here.
My shuffling backwards towards the beginning of the video is akin to what I imagine the 'clickers' to look like on the PS4 game "The Last of Us 2". Personally, I've not played the game, and I've not actually seen a clicker on the screen, but from hearing the noises that these creatures make as my partner played it (very loudly) in the next room and how he would regularly scream in terror at their arrival... well, a picture formed in my head and it looks a bit like this!
Once I've shuffled backwards, I feel that my lunging forward is indicative of a grabbing at something... perhaps a grab for the camera? This is also where the horror element of this dance video comes in for me. Throughout the video, it's like I'm constantly being propelled forward - perhaps chasing someone, experiencing some kind of insatiable need to do so. This is echoed in the strange uncomfortableness that I see in the movements.
On a side note, my partner has since informed me that actually some of my more fluid movements on other videos are more akin to the clickers from "The Last of Us 2". Interesting... You can watch a clicker encounter here (Beware: it's not for the faint hearted!)
Starting the video off the ground was also a new element for this particular video. As I've got older I have become more and more scared of heights, and so it wasn't the most calming way to start filming the sequence. What you can't see in the darkness behind the wall that I'm crouching on at the beginning, is the canal and well, me and swimming... we're just not great friends!
I really enjoyed playing around with the light in this video - with me drifting into darkness and then back out again. I like how this kind of momentary darkness breaks up the last section of movement, and that although you can barely see my body, you can clearly see the lights reflected in my glasses. Whilst the audio that you hear may sound like the waves of the ocean, it's actually a steady stream of cars crossing the M4 on the road above me.
This video definitely marked a new adventure in our short dance film journey, but I also unintentionally made the shoot a little more exciting (probably not the right word...!) on the night as well.
So here's the thing... I'm a self-confessed scaredy-cat. You may have gathered that from my mention of heights and swimming above. I genuinely have got much more frightened of many more things as I've got older. On the night of this shoot, I was most worried about my bag.
That underpass is often used by cyclists travelling from Cwmbran to Newport and vice versa. But it was so dark and I got really worried about leaving my bag unattended as I had to move further away from it to film. So worried that when, immediately after finishing the filming of one particular take, I saw a light coming towards me and panicked. Of course, this light was the bicycle light of a very responsible cyclist, but my out-of-whack fight and flight response told me to run and grab my bag. So I did... or at least I tried to. And a few seconds later I tripped over a series of bricks I hadn't seen before and landed flat on my face.
I'll be honest, my pride was hurt more than anything. I ended up covered in dust, with tiny cuts on the heels of both palms. I remember hearing the voice of this well-meaning cyclist asking "is she alright?" Apart from feeling like a complete idiot, yeah I'm alright love.
The Canal Walk
The photos above are from our initial walk along the canal, during the day. There are various walks that you can undertake in this area (some maps are here). The whole canal actually extends from Brecon to Newport, and via parts of the Brecon Beacons National Park, but we just walked the final section (from Cwmbran to Newport), which is still quite a way. Known as the "Mon & Brec", the whole canal is 35 miles long, and operated largely in the 19th century. Various parts of the canal have been restored since then. In terms of wildlife, the canal has stunningly bright blue dragonflies in abundance, plus ducks and swans and generally gorgeous surroundings.
Got a hankering to watch more dance videos where the urban meets the rural? Check out the following posts: