In Welsh folk dance we refer to some of the patterns as a "pleth" or a plait. There are many variations of a pleth, just the top couple crossing top and bottom, everyone crossing just top.... The pathways created in the space are intricate and interesting to watch and dance. There is something about the terminology too, "plethu" to plait, to bring several parts together to make them stronger. Perhaps for us, on this project, it's the past and the present, drawing upon memories and the act of remembering to tell stories that are rooted in a cultural history that has shaped our sense of ourselves.
Welsh Clogging has long been a fascination of mine. I love the stories about it and being part of a living, breathing "tradition" (I am always a little wary of using this term because of it's connotations with the past, I'm not sure it is the right word to use as clogging is very much alive and kicking (excuse the pun!), but I am short of another so it will have to do) I love that I am continuing to do something, that once a long time ago, someone else did, they passed it onto someone else, and eventually it got to me.
Clogging managed to survive the Methodist Revival and is Wales' only unbroken dance tradition (there's that word again!). Emma Lile states in her book A Step in Time: Folk Dancing in Wales, that the reason clogging survived was largely due to the gypsy families 'who were less influenced by the condemnation of religious leaders' (Lile 1999: 34). Dance in Wales had almost been obliterated, Hugh Mellor recalls that when he began collecting the dances of Wales at the beginning of the 20th Century he was told ‘Wales has no dances; if she had they have been forgotten generations ago.’ (Mellor in Williams 1985: 6).
Religion was life for the Welsh who set for Patagonia 150 years ago. There is a lovely clip of Nain Maggie ( of Casa de te Nain Maggie) talking about the crossing and the importance of Capel here, I can only find it on facebook so appologies for the poor quality.
So we have this dichotomy. The Nonconformist views of the Methodist Church and the folk dance which it tried it's hardest to repress. So, what happens we use both these as influence?
The Welsh Folk Dance we know today has been shaped by the history it has endured, it is remembered in pieces and fragments of memories from those who saw it. When working with it to create choreography we are allowed a freedom, to wonder, to imagine and to create. The patterns of the dances captivate me, as dancers weave in and out of each other, I cannot help but imagine the whisperings between each other! (Often when I dance they are a reminder of which direction to go next!) But what if these were stories being told, of journeys and voyages, and the pathways of the dances maps guiding the next generation?
One of my favourite movement in Welsh Dance is the Gypsy. Two dancers lock little fingers and turn to change position. This fleeting moment of a concealed touch gets my imagination whirring... what message does this secret touch contain, from today yesterday or 150 years ago.
Just to keep with the gypsy theme and because it's a lovely recording, here is Nansi Richards playing Pibddawns y Sipsi on the triple harp.
This is the Patrwm Patagonia going through the loom at Melin Tregwynt, Pembrokeshire. It is a combination the Tehuelche and Welsh approach to symmetry. This pattern will be glimpsed throughout the show and one of the places it will be referenced is...... you guessed it.... the choreography!
Dyma'r Patrwm Patagonia yn mynd trwy'r gwŷdd ym Melin Tregwynt, Sir Benfro. Mae'n gyfuniad o dull Tehuelche a Chymraeg i cymesuredd. Bydd y patrwm hwn yn cael ei cipolwg trwy'r sioe i gyd ac yn un o'r llefydd bydd yn cael ei cyfeirir yw ...... Dyma fo .... y coreograffi!
Felly, sut i wneud hyn?
So, how to go about this?
Using the pattern we have developed a score for the dancers to follow. It's difficult to envisage exactly how it will work until we have all six dancers in the studio. The beginnings though are promising for an intricate step pattern, that reflects the precision of the loom, the accuracy of Welsh clogging/ stepping and focus and drive of the Welsh settlers who landed 150 years ago and successfully created a community that still thrives today.
Gan ddefnyddio'r patrwm rydym wedi datblygu sgôr i'r dawnswyr. Mae'n anodd rhagweld sut y bydd y sgôr yn gweithio tan bydd y chwe dawnswraig yn y stiwdio. Ond mae'r dechreuadau yn addawol am batrwm o gamau cymhleth, sy'n adlewyrchu cywirdeb y gwŷdd, trachywiredd clocsio Cymreig a'r ffocws a hymrwymiad o'r Cymry a laniodd 150 o flynyddoedd yn ôl.