Putting dance in the spotlight article


Putting dance in the spotlight

Dance may be more popular than ever thanks to TV programmes like Strictly Come Dancing but there are still invisible barriers to the art form. Karen Price speaks to Carole Blade, who hopes to change this

CAROLE BLADE is packing her bags for a trip to Paris when I call. But while she may be looking forward to experiencing the French capital during the spring, sight-seeing isn’t at the top of her list.

Instead, she’s going to be meeting up with like-minded people from other countries who have one thing in common – a love of dance.

She was recently appointed creative dance producer for Coreo Cymru, an Arts Council of Wales initiative to encourage new dance activity and support existing companies and performers.

For Blade, it’s a dream job.

“It merges my artistic past with my administrative skills,” says the mother of two, who trained as a dancer and was later artistic co-ordinator for Welsh Independent Dance. “It’s a wonderful role.”

While dance has been in the spotlight in recent years thanks to popular TV programmes like Strictly Come Dancing, Got To Dance and So You Think You Can Dance, Blade believes that there are still “invisible barriers” to the art form.

“I think the label ‘contemporary dance’ is so broad,” says Watford-born Blade, who moved to Cardiff with her family when she was two years old.

“If you go to see something quite experimental it might feel alien to you and put you off going to see anything else that is labelled ‘contemporary dance’. You have to have experimental stuff as it’s vital to push work forward and while some work is more challenging than others, I really want to get the message across that there is work out there that’s audience friendly.”

She hopes to help break these barriers down by taking contemporary dance to the masses. One of the plans is to stage performances inside a large touring dome, which will be installed in Cardiff city centre on July 7 and 8.

“We want to take the dome to shopping centres and not necessarily let people know that a dance event is taking place inside,” she says. “People will be curious to see what’s happening and hopefully they will enjoy what they see. It may then encourage them to go to an arts centre to see dance.”

Another initiative, Dance Roads, will feature a touring programme of dance from different countries, including Wales.

In fact, the reason for her trip to Paris is to meet up with others involved in the project.

“I’m meeting up with the other partners to make sure everything’s in place,” she says.

The tour starts in Montreal on May 6 and will arrive at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff on May 25 and 26. Tanja Raman will be representing Wales and the other countries involved are Canada, Italy, France and the Netherlands.

“All of the performances are short pieces so it’s a really good opportunity to see lots of different work from established artists who don’t yet have an international profile.”

There will also be a co-production with the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff later this year as part of its annual Blysh Festival.

“We’re working with six performers to create a piece. It will also be toured to open air festivals and other events.”

And there will be a collaboration with Ballet Cymru which will fuse Welsh clog dance with parkour (free running) and modern ballet.

In a bid to reach out to very young dance audiences, there are also plans for a touring dance/acrobatic show aimed at pre-school children based on Channel Five’s animation series Igam Ogam.

Blade herself has spent her whole life absorbed in dance.

Her interest began at an early age with ballet classes at the Penny Lemon School of Dance in Cardiff.

At the age of 10, she became involved with the Cardiff Community Dance Centre and later Rubicon. She enjoyed an Easter residency with New York-based internationally renowned choreographer Kei Takei, whose work, even by today’s standards, would be considered highly avant-garde.

Most of her teenage years were spent performing with many diverse and well-respected companies in including Orbit Theatre, Jumpers Youth and National Youth Dance Company (UK) where she was the only Welsh member of the company.

After completing her formal training at The Laban Centre of Movement and Dance, London, in 1988, she returned to Wales to work as a freelance dance artist before taking up her role with Welsh Independent Dance.

She’s now looking forward to her new challenges with Coreo Cymru.

As well as taking dance to the masses, she’s keen to support the companies and performers.

“We want to provide them with the opportunities to take strides forward,” she says. “There are quite a few layers to the Coreo Cymru programme.”

Blade, who lives with her husband Duncan and sons – four-year-old Conor and two-year-old Jake – says that when it comes to being a spectator, she enjoys something with “great quality, total movement and also a narrative”.

“I can be drawn into it best from beautiful, visual movements,” she says.

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