Watching my children watch theatre and dance is one of the most precious gifts this life has given me. To see them become absorbed in the magical world being portrayed before them, to see them follow the journey of the performers and be swept up in their imaginations, few things make my heart swell as much as this. Thursday 27th October we went to watch Cwmni'r Frân Wen's Dilyn Fi at Venue Cymru, Llandudno. My two year old sat captivated for the duration next to her little friend, also two. They shared giggles, cuddles and cheeky smiles throughout the performance as the two dancers opened up a world of make-believe and play before them. The set design, costume and ambience of the piece drew both children and adults in to witness this sweet story of a young girl who has just had a new baby brother. The soundscore was a particular highlight, giving life to the journey of the two performers, who played the balance of acting as children particularly well. The was space to imagine, space to play and space follow as the performers manipulated the set to create scenes of wonder and excitement for the mini audience members. My daughter rose to the call of this beautifully crafted performance and followed the dancers on their journey into imagination. We left anew, having experienced something lovely, we could not ask for much more on a Thursday morning.
If you get a chance to see it near you, I would thoroughly recommend experiencing this sweet piece with the little people in your life. Aethom ni i weld y sioe yn Gymraeg, but they have a version in English too.
Cliciwch yma i weld mwy
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“It doesn’t happen all at once,” he said. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
I currently have a bunny obsessed two year old. We love all things rabbit related, jumping up and down, hiding, running away (unfortunately this is often accompanied with shouting "can't catch me" at the top of her lungs across crowded shops - we're working on that!). She is a fan of the Velveteen Rabbit, as am I. If you aren't familiar with the story it's well worth a read, and if you are anything like me you may well shed a tear. During our recent bedtime cuddles, the words above resounded with me, they are said by the rocking horse to the Velveteen Rabbit when he is feeling unwanted. Even though I have called this blog 'Being (a Mummy and a Dancer)' neither of these things are, like being "Real", something that happens all at once. Being a mother is a process of becoming, something I am understanding even more now that I have two little people to whom I am Mummy. As a dancer I am constantly being challenged to reassess my ideas of who I am through the challenges of choreographic work or the surprises that come my way in an improvisation jam or capoeira roda.
In this adventure of motherhood I am discovering more and more about myself. As my elder daughter becomes more vocal I am beginning to see who I am in her eyes; a place of security where she can nestle when she is tired or scared, a provider of snacks, a voice of encouragement, the guardian of the television remote, her example of how to engage with the world, a hand of confidence and of course, the unreasonable adult who won't let her run off in the supermarket. As she is find her voice and her (quite fast!) feet in this world I am also finding mine. Becoming her and her sister's Mummy.
My daughter and I love doing artistic projects together, she particularly enjoys painting. Everything! It's safe to say there is carnage when the paint brushes are out and it's best we do it when Daddy is not in, as the possibility of a new pink dining room is a highly likely outcome!
I have read many books, written many lectures and marked many essays on how children learn through play, but there is nothing like experiencing it for myself, through the eyes of my daughter, to gain an understanding of how she is beginning to make sense of the world.
The favourite activity of the moment is painting her feet and then stamping on the paper (and now very slippy mat protecting the floor!- I think the slipping is half the fun, though it does make me rather nervous!). The delight on her face as she stamps away is a real joy, occasionally there is one really defined footprint and I get excited, and try to whisk it away to send to a Grandparent, before I am quite clearly told "Nooooooo!". She is not finished, and there is a tone of "what are you thinking Mummy? I have clearly just begun" to her little voice.
The finished product is of no importance to her, she is far to busy in the process of making, to worry about what it will look like. Mixing the colours with her hands, covering her hands, feet, elbows, ears and hair (I'm not so keen on the hair!) in paint and squidging it between her fingers and the paper are far more important. As I try to declare that we are finished and it is time for a bath, again I am told "Noooooo!" with the same intonation as before.
She is right, she is not finished, the process will never be finished, there is always more to discover and to learn, more paint to squidge. Though I do make a conscious effort not to endgain, through seeing my daughter's complete disregard for a finished product, I have realised how much I focus on it, when making art with her, or in the choreographic process.
With a little help from Mummy and the scissors, the pink paintings have turned into Easter Eggs, which will adorn cards that will grace the fridges and mantelpieces of proud Grandparents. I got my cards in the end, and this time, it did not come at the expense of process. A great reminder that as I parent and as a choreographer, I need to allow the time for play and discovery, I need to embrace the carnage and the chaos to remember that process has many stages, and without the first of experimentation, investigation and exploration (all the -tions!) the end result will not demonstrate the discovery of the process - which for me is where the wealth is.
One of the benefits of having a little person, is a legitimate reason to attend Children's Theatre performances. This Saturday myself, my daughter and her stuffed bunny (aka Bunny), were in the audience of the world premier (pretty exciting!) of the fantastic Bikes and Rabbits Circus Company's production These Books Are Made For Walking at Pontio in Bangor.
We entered the Studio Theatre to find a set of seemingly precariously stacked ladders, adorned with an eclectic selection of books that were carefully balanced on the wooden rungs. Beautifully lit, the space was instantly magical, setting a tone that did not disappoint. The young audience giggled, gasped and watched on with awe as the set came to life with three characters who embodied the ingenuity of the set design with skillful moments of circus and dance. Books became costumes, hats and performers in their own right, much to the delight of a young girl sat behind us who proclaimed 'That's funny!'. Indeed it was.
Though only 19 months old, there has been much book studying in our house since from my daughter. The possibility of the page has become much more than just the words and pictures on it, the stories that are being written as we read the books are just as exciting. A great chapter to add to any upbringing would be to watch this performance as it tours the UK in the next few months.
I have been thinking about starting this blog for a while, I see lots of posts from friends who are dancers and mothers or mothers-to-be who are having similar experiences to myself and so I thought I would share a little of mine. I think it is also a lot for me, so I do not loose these thoughts in the mists of the sleep deprivation that is to come.
I'm currently in the third trimester of my second pregnancy and have been doing a lot of pondering about motherhood and what it is teaching me about my dance practice. I probably did this in the third trimester of my first pregnancy, but I didn't write it down, and there have been a lot of sleepless nights since then, so it is almost as if I am experiencing it for the first time again! The realisation that there is a new little person imminently on their way into the world has dawned. As many new mums and mums-to-be will tell you, the concept of making a small person is a bit baffling. I cease to be me as I have been until now, I have become a home. A home that nurtures, nourishes and protects, if I think about it too much the responsibility becomes overwhelming. On occasion I forget that I am pregnant (I know it sounds daft, but when I am engaged in the things that are so habitual to me, commuting to work, brushing my teeth, I forget, until a wave of nausea or little jab in ribs or bladder reminds me), then I am brought back to the now, to become aware of these early days of motherhood again. When I dance, especially when I improvise, the presence of the tiny person inside me, and the awareness that I am more than I have been before, is never more present. My dance becomes a duet, this idea is probably more obvious viewing from the outside, than it is to me from within the dance, as the ever growing bump is a visible cue to acknowledge the presence of another. My movements are different, the constant renegotiation of my balance makes settling into habits difficult, my decisions are considered on based on my rapidly altering figure and how I can work with this me. I have begun to realise that making a baby really does have a lot in common with making work. Being engaged in these two acts of creativity side by side is bringing me closer to my practice. I am guided to question, where as previously I may have acted habitually, I am encouraged to explore new opportunities, where as before I may have stuck with the old, and I am steered into the present to process the ever changing environment surrounding and within me.
This was filmed a week before my first daughter arrived. I headed down to Talacre beach about 10mins drive from where I lived at the time after noticing the beautiful sunset colours appearing in the sky. I placed my camera (a little wonkily) on some rocks and began to film. I had about 10mins before the sun disappeared and the tide engulfed my camera.
Quando a maré baixar, vou ver Juliana, vou ver Juliana e, vou ver Juliana
Song: Juliana, from Itapua Beiramar and Ruan de Vargas Roda À Beiramar