The first time I visited Halsway Manor I felt like I’d come home to a place where I could really
nourish and develop myself, both creatively and personally. This feeling gets stronger with every visit. I am writing this in the comfort of the beautiful wood-panelled bar, looking out over the rolling Somerset hills, delighting in the fact that, in this moment, I’m totally content with where I am in the world and in my life.
The BBC Performing Arts Fellowship has led me on a path to whole new genres of dance, new artists to collaborate with, new friends to enthuse with about dance and folk arts, new places to thrive in, new dreams to nurture of what I might do next.
Opportunities I have enjoyed so far include regular mentoring with Kerry Fletcher, which is a delight and an honour. I also worked with Shooting Roots on their Winter Residency in February. This was a wonderful week, supportive and enriching; again I felt like I’d come home because the creative team running the course were so welcoming and inspiring. I am really excited to be working as a tutor for Shooting Roots at Broadstairs and Towersey festivals this summer.
Shooting Root’s Winter Residency was also invaluable to me because it was there I met Nonny Tabbush. What a wonderful singer and musician! We went on to collaborate on Stepping Out – the most significant part of my Fellowship so far – a dance residency I led during Hot House. Working with Nonny and seven professional dancers, I created a work-in-progress piece for the Hot House Festival based on Sherryl Jordan’s story The Raging Quiet. It was a piece of narrative dance theatre that integrated Morris, Clog, Step, Country, African, Brazilian, French and Contemporary dance and combined them with music and song.Stepping Out was joyful, full on, hard work, stimulating and a really rich creative experience that I look forward to repeating in the December residency at the end of my Fellowship.
Ideas abound when I’m at Halsway. Currently, I’m musing on an idea to run historical dance events. Halsway and I are keen to find ways to get more people dancing. Considering the popularity of period dramas, novelty nights out and speed dating, I would love to set up a company putting on Playford Balls. The balls would be called like a ceilidh so that anyone can join in, with an emphasis on socialising and meeting new people. Held in a beautiful historic venue, with period costume, period food, a Master of Ceremonies and some playful rules of etiquette such as dance cards, I hope that the idea would have a wide appeal.
This idea came about when on a brilliant Playford dancing course at Halsway in March and I am looking forward to learning more on the Beyond Playford course next weekend.
With this Fellowship, Halsway Manor and the BBC have given me a professional development opportunity that continues to offer far more than I ever expected. Since this is to be the final year of the BBC Performing Arts Fund, I am struck again by just how fortunate I am to be enjoying this wonderful fellowship and I’m excited to see where else it takes me. Right now I’m going to take a book of stories out of the library and sit under the beautifully bedecked maypole in the sun…