Capturing Cardiff – how the dance scene is surviving budget cuts


The Cardiff dance scene is still battling to stay alive despite recent budget cuts, thanks to a handful of dance groups in the city.

After the announcement of the brutal curb on funding in all governmental departments, the end seemed nigh for the dance scene in Cardiff – which, in comparison to other major UK cities, is seemingly underdeveloped. However, all is not lost.

A small number of dance groups are keeping the ball rolling for dancers in Cardiff, both independent and council-funded. One of the groups flying the flag for Cardiff is student-run hip-hop group SLASH. For the past three years, the dance group which originally started out as a musical theatre society has made a concerted effort to spread their influence across Cardiff, offering as much as possible in attempt to develop the dance scene in Cardiff.

And now, courtesy of SLASH hip-hop group, Cardiff are able to jump on the growing hip-hop trend. SLASH provide open dances classes throughout the week on a casual basis, as well as putting on workshops with professional choreographers and performing in venues across the city. The group receive no funding from the council and pay for the costs of studio hire through admission fees for classes.

Kimberlee and Francesca (front) with members of SLASH

Kimberlee Steele, a 24-year-old Masters student at Cardiff University, is President of the society, accompanied by Vice President Francesca Parma, 21, who is also a student. Both of the girls started as beginners, attending classes on a weekly basis. Although they had previous experience in other genres of dance, both Kimberlee and Fran had never had any hip-hop experience.

“It’s funny how I started off as a complete beginner – I was awful – and now I’m teaching all over Cardiff,” said Kimberlee“. We (Francesca and Kimberlee) just got really into it, we met each other at a beginners class and made it our mission to nail this. We just loved the music and the moves.”

The SLASH committee put in their best efforts to try and get the most out of the society and its dancers. Kimberlee and Francesca make regular trips to London, taking classes at open studios – such as Pineapple Dance – to gain inspiration for choreography. Trips to London have also enabled the pair to build up an impressive contact network – which proved more than useful for the society’s most recent workshop, which took place in November.

The SLASH 2010 workshop played host to a range of choreographer elite, treating hip-hop enthusiasts to two jam-packed days of different styles of hip-hop dance, ranging from Nu Flow to House Dance.

Choreographer Azrul Aminudin performing a finished routine with SLASH workshop participants

“We like to think we are doing something for the community,” said Francesca. “We found as students that there were hardly any classes for dancers in Cardiff, we hope that we’re making a bit of a difference!”

Rubicon Dance is the council’s answer for establishing a dance culture in the community. The community development project provides dancing opportunities for people of all ages from Cardiff in Newport. Based in Adamsdown, the school not only runs open classes for the community but also provides training opportunities for those who wish to persue a career in dance, or simply use their dancing skills to volunteer within society.

The project receives funding from a number of sources, including the Arts Council, both Cardiff and Newport council, and additional funding support for the full time training course from the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA).

Bryony Harris is the Assistant Manager for the council Arts Active initiative, of which Rubicon Dance School is a part of. “Rubicon fulfils our bid to provide dancing opportunities for the community,” she said. “The work they do is outstanding and of a very high standard.”

Cardiff Council are also providing funding to export dancing talent out of Wales, by collaborating with a professional dance company to provide support for those who are thinking of taking up dance professionally. Future Dance Cardiff is a scheme set up and run by the National Dance Company of Wales (NDC Wales). The scheme provides workshops and advice for promising young dancers, as a leg-up into the profession which is notoriously difficult to get ahead in. The workshops are taught by professional members of the dance company.

Kate Montefiore, Participation Officer for the scheme, said the programme was unique because the company does not buy in dance teachers and choreographers from elsewhere. “Participants can chat to the dancers and talk about any problems they are having with their dance – anything from audition advice to how to deal with any aches and pains they may have.”

Future Dance Cardiff is a progressive scheme which supports their dancers right up until they gain success from auditions – three participants have recently been accepted to the prestigious Northern Ballet School. Promising dancers travel from far and wide to attend the Future Dance Scheme, which runs in association with the New Theatre, Cardiff.

new theatre

The New Theatre, Park Place, Cardiff

“It’s a chance to engage with the community, not just in Cardiff but from further afield,” said Ms Montefiore. “We would love to expand the project to West and North Wales, but it is entirely dependent on finding partnerships for funding. We are very lucky to be working with the Council here in Cardiff.”

Bryony Harris is proud of the rapport the council has with NDC Wales. “Dance is a very important part of the culture of a city and a key part of our work,” she said. “It’s about managing a healthy arts scene and in particular a healthy dance scene, and we could not do that without our relationship with NDC Wales.”

Ms Harris reassured budget cuts would not affect the work the Council were doing with NDC Wales. “At the moment our budget for this project has been cut back a small amount, but it is not yet clear where exactly the cuts will come from. As a rule it is not looking as if it will change how we deliver the project. We want to continue its development and the good work it does for the area, but the cuts need to be balanced across the project.”

Ms Harris disagreed with the statement that that dance scene is under-developed in Cardiff. “I agree, perhaps the dance culture isn’t as prominent in South Wales as it is in other parts of the UK,” she said. “I think this is down to geographical issues. There is a lot of work to be done, but I really think Cardiff is fulfilling its role as a capital city and providing opportunities in the arts for the people of South Wales, especially with the work we are doing with NDC Wales.”

About catrinshi

Trainee newspaper journalist at Cardiff University as part of the Journalism PGDip course. Graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2010 with a degree in German Studies. Interested in arts and culture, particularly dance - would love to review dance and musical productions for a publication in the future. If you would like to be reviewed for the blog, or have any dance-related info you would like to share, email me or tweet @catrinshi. Thanks! View all posts by catrinshi

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