The Full Story
Clwyd Dance Project / North East Wales Community Dance / New Dance /Eleni
In the late 60s and early 70s the Welsh Arts Council had become interested in Dance. The success of the Rubicon Centre in Cardiff had prompted ACW to appoint a Dance Officer, Faith Wilson. One of her first tasks was to establish another Dance organisation in North Wales.
Theatr Clwyd, which opened in 1975, was the obvious venue to be explored. The Drama Advisor, Derek Hollins, had a team of teachers based at the theatre. Margaret
Evans was part of the team. She had been given the role of ‘looking after dance’ following the retirement of the female PE Adviser, Sheila Crosby.
Faith Wilson had meetings with the Theatre and with the Education Department, both were in agreement with this new venture. Margaret Evans was given the task of exploring the possibility of setting up Community Dance classes across Clwyd.
There was no shortage of venues to hold classes, but it soon became apparent that there were no suitable teachers capable of running Community Dance Classes. There were, however, a number of teachers in schools, with some a dance background and enthusiasm.
Faith Wilson arranged for Geoff Powell to visit Clwyd and to discuss the situation. Geoff had previously been an Artistic Director of a Contemporary Dance Company. Due to a foot injury he had retired from full time dance and had moved to Caernarfon where he taught Yoga. Geoff agreed to run a series of Weekend Courses with a group of teachers to provide them with the skills to run community classes.
The courses worked very well and it was possible to set up a number of classes across the county. From time to time Geoff continued to support the teachers with additional courses weekend courses. There were a variety of venues including school halls, village halls and Youth Clubs. Many of the classes were set up on a trail basis for a term. One of the venues was the Clwyd Room at Theatr Clwyd. This proved to be a very popular class.
Clwyd Dance Project
Theatr Clwyd became the administrative base for dance. A Board was set up to manage the project. Margaret Evans acted as the project leader and administrative support. A wide variety of classes for adults and children, were set up though out the county and the theatre provided advertising etc.. ACW provided a small grant to give financial stability to the operation. The Board agreed that the operation should be called Clwyd Dance.
Theatr Clwyd held the finances in a separate account which was administered by the Assistant Administrator. He reported to the Board. The Arts Council kept in close contact with the project in the early days and attended to Board Meetings.
In those early days the focus was on Contemporary Dance. Local people who got
involved began to suggest other activities. The Theatre had already established First Tuesday Folk Night. Third Tuesday Folk Dance became a regular favourite. A variety of local Folk Dance groups took up the opportunity to lead monthly sessions. These included Welsh, English, Scottish and Irish Dance evenings of dance. The folk group in charge, would run a community session and everyone joined in. During the evening that group would then demonstrate and show case more complicated dances to the rest of the audience.
These sessions proved very popular and weekends using a mixture of the different Folk dances also became very popular and a regular activity. Dancers from the different groups enjoyed comparing the different steps, which were repeated in the different dance forms.
Professional Dance at Theatr Clwyd
Dance was becoming more popular with the theatre and a number of Dance Companies were invited to perform. The package would often provide workshops for schools and local participants. School groups were also brought to see the shows.
Some of the Community Dance teachers were secondary teachers. Dance became popular as a GCSE subject. There was a real an increase in dance activity in schools.
Teachers workshops were well supported.
The arrival of Coleen Wynne and Sue Philips into the school scene became an obvious way of establishing a Youth Dance Company. This had been suggested by the Arts Council as a way forward. Workshops and regular weekend classes run by Coleen and Sue proved very popular. These often linked to the already established Clwyd Youth Theatre. Performances were seen as an important part of the process.
With the increased popularity of the weekly dance classes, there was a desire for more in depth work. This was provided by a range of weekend courses which looked at different areas, especially creating dances. The regular weekly Contemporary Class at Theatre Clwyd then began to be followed with a Creative Dance class.
Appointment of the First Dance Animator
With the ever increasing wide range of activities now provided by Clwyd Dance, ACW in discussion with Theatr Clwyd and The Dance Board agreed that the time was right to appoint a Full time Lead Dance Officer. Following a rigorous appointment procedure which involved practical workshops and interviews, Duncan Holt was appointed as the first Dance Animateur. Duncan was based at Theatr Clwyd. Classes continued throughout the county continued but Duncan brought in part time Dancer/ teacher practitioners to run the classes. Youth Dance also continued at this time.
Dance in Education
With the excellent work being undertaken at Powis with its Dance in Education Team, Duncan was keen to follow these trends. He established a very exciting Company which began touring local schools.
It was around this time that Cher Mather joined the Board. Her speciality was working with the less able students. She began a new inclusive dance group called ‘FUSE’.
Demise of Clwyd
It was decided in Wales that the way forward for local government was to divide large counties into smaller units. In March 1996 Clwyd was split into the counties of Flintshire, Wrexham, Denbighshire and part of Conwy. There were problems of ownership with many of projects which had been set up across former Clwyd. Clwyd Youth Theatre and Clwyd Dance were among these organisations. Discussions with the ACW, and Dance Officer, Mal Pate, continued for many months. At one point it was suggested that Clwyd Dance such join with the dance project in Anglesey. The Board of Clwyd Dance firmly rejected this suggestion. It was agreed that the area covered would be too large to make it work. In the end Denbighshire County Council agreed to continue running Clwyd Dance. David Phoenix, Arts Development Officer for Denbighshire agreed to be the Lead Officer.
North East Wales Dance
Since Clwyd no longer existed it was inappropriate to continue with the name Clwyd Dance. The Board agreed with the Arts Council that the new name should be North East Wales Dance. A new Dance Animator was appointed, and Karen Moult took charge of the new organisation. The original Board continued and activities were organised very much on a county wide basis. Funding from ACW also continued to support Karen’s salary. During this time new Board members were recruited to ensure the needs of the three counties were covered.
Move to Yale College
The support in terms of contracts for staffing and the increase in administrative requirements, determined a different kind of support. It was agreed to move to Yale College. A former member of the HR team in Flintshire, Kevin Walker was already working at Yale. It was agreed that Kevin could assist with these administrative requirements. Sue Stanford, who was already on the Board of Yale College, agreed to take on the role of Chair of the North East Wales Dance. At this time another new dance appointment as made in, Jen Angharad.. Jen had established excellent work in Mid Wales. Jen, being a Welsh speaker, added a new dimension to the work.
Three County Involvement
In 1999 with funding from ACW the development of two Youth Dance Companies in each area was given a priority. This was very successful with workshops and performances in each county.
Appointment of Paul Davies
Jen Angharad was offered a post with Community Dance Wales. Another round of interviews took place and Paul Davies was appointed in 2001.At this time the first Adult Special Needs Group was set up in Greenfield.
Move to Pavilion in Llangollen
Being at Yale was proving difficult in many ways. The company needed its own office space. After a lengthy process the Royal Pavilion in Llangollen was chosen. Audrey Parrot was appointed as the new Administrator. The company also achieved Ltd Company Status. Paul was a dancer and it was at this time that a company was set up which toured schools with a Multi Cultural Dance performance.
A new Adult Dance Group was set up in Flintshire. The plan was to replicate this in all the counties.
A successful application for funding to ACW provided finance for a part time dancer to be based in each of the three counties. It proved very difficult to employ the right dancer for differing needs each county.
Until this time the three Local Authorities had each a member on the Board. The company made a decision that County representatives would only have Observer status. Each LA was also required to complete a Service Level Agreement.
Paul Davies decided that he wanted to spend time dancing. The post was again advertised. It was at this point that it became necessary to decide what proportion of the time of the should be allocated to practical / administrative activities. At this point it was agreed at 75% Admin to 25% practical/ teaching. Emma McFarlane was appointed. Trefor Hood, Chair of North East Wales Dance was appointed as her line manager. It was at this point that there was a change of name to NEW Dance.
Appointment of Angela Fessi as Youth & Community Dance practitioner, later becoming Lead Dance Practitioner.
Emma Mcfarlane left and Sam Wyse was appointed as the new Artistic Director
Sam Wyse retired as Artistic Director and Angela Fessi was appointed.
Move to Deeside Lesiure Centre and rebrand to Eleni and change in company vision.