DANCE ON LOCATION 004: Sker Beach, Wales, UK

I go dancing in the sea in the name of art for my first water-based movement experiment, on the gorgeous sands of Sker beach in the Vale of Glamorgan.

I have to be honest, I was a little weary about heading to a beach whilst lockdown is easing in the UK. I'm sure we've all by now seen the scenes at Bournemouth and Brighton. As I've mentioned in previous blogs, I'm personally really frightened of the whole pandemic, and crowded places just really aren't for me at the moment. However, we ventured down to Sker Beach near Porthcawl, South Wales, on a weekday and it was almost empty. It felt gorgeous to walk along the sand and paddle in the sea after so much time cooped up.

There are number of Shipwreck's visible at low tide on the beach - we stumbled across just one of them on this long stretch of sand - and some quite large jellyfish washing up on the shore.

I had been thinking about filming a dance video that involved water or the ocean for a little while, and here I was presented with the opportunity to try a little something out.

The Dance

Some dancers enjoy exploring the possibilities of various obstacles in a given space - the giant discarded tyre in my Wentwood Forest video, for example. For some, these objects or different levels and surfaces provide opportunities to experiment with different kinds of movement. This is not always true for me. Why? Because I have a tendency to be VERY clumsy, and when you're improvising in response to a space that you're not familiar with, injury is a little more likely. I think that's probably why I particularly enjoyed making this video at Sker Beach, because the sand was completely flat and free of obstacles, so I felt braver in exploring new ways of moving with much less chance of falling over!

That being said, I was very conscious of the vastness of the space, so I wanted to spread out and not be drowned by my surroundings in the opening section.

The very first couple of movements that I make here remind me of a wave much harsher than the ones I could see in the surf before me. I was thinking about how waves essentially move in two different waves, with the tide coming in and then going out. I suppose those opening waves of my arms and the isolating of my hips and torso was a way of channelling such waves through my own body.

I found it quite interesting to play with the patterns in the sand too - literally tracing my movements out and having the camera follow my path.

On the way to the beach, I had been thinking about the idea of dancing in the sea as quite playful, but I soon discovered the opposite: dancing in rushing water is HARD! I like how you can see the water both moving with me and against me in this video, like it's my partner in a duet.

If you've had a look through my other videos, you might notice something a little different about the sound here. The sound in this video is actually from another beach. As I mentioned at Ogmore Castle, the wind can be quite a but of a pain when it comes to filming these one-shot dance films on the Insta 360 One R, and so I've been having a bit of an experiment with sound. Whilst my video at Ogmore Castle was a silent one, here I've tried out some audio I recorded at another beach in Dunraven Bay, where the wind was behaving a little better.

This was something of an experiment for me, and so I tried out this version of the audio, as well as a silent version, on a few friends before posting. I found their responses really interesting as many said similar things - comparing the sounds of the water to those relaxation tapes you can get - they described watching the video as peaceful and soothing.

In a more arty vein, one of my friends described the soundscape for this video as "an interesting juxtaposition, because while you've got the natural water sound, the wind produces an industrial feel that sits nicely in contrast with the empty beach."

Incidentally, I have uploaded the silent version of this video to YouTube as well, and you can find that here.

Kenfig Nature Reserve

To get to Sker beach, we walked through Kenfig Nature Reserve, which is home to Glamorgan's largest natural lake - Kenfig Pool. Legend has it that a drowned town lives within the pool. Whist I, the empiricist, found no evidence of this, it's an amazing story that goes with a beautiful location. These days, the inhabitants of the nature reserve include the rare Fen Orchid, and other endangered species.

Like Ogmore-by-Sea, Kenfig Nature Reserve is graced with some gorgeous sand dunes. In fact, my research seems to suggest that it Ogmore and Kenfig were once connected somehow, and all dunes were part of the same dune system. Kenfig Castle also lies nearby - a medieval Norman castle of which there's not much left.

Looking for more dance films in natural spaces? Have a nosey at these posts:

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