dance, Things To Do

Dance Days with NDCWales

Wowzers. We started our Easter holidays as we meant to go on: having an awesome time. More specifically, dancing. My kids and their mate had a whale of a time with National Dance Company Wales at Dance Days.

I drove us over to Cardiff Bay, parked in the Red Dragon Centre (because I’d rather buy a coffee and ice creams in Cadwalader’s to validate my parking than just throw pound coins away in a car park machine) and trotted over to the Dance House, the home of NDCWales in Wales Millennium Centre.

Guy, the organiser of Dance Days, greeted us with a smile at the door. Guy is calm, warm and helpful so put the three boys at ease and made them feel really welcome. Going along to courses and workshops like this in the holidays isn’t only about the facilitator, it’s also about all the other people you meet and talk to along the way.

Dance Days are our national dance company’s way of introducing contemporary dance to children and young people, using the choreographic ideas that their professional touring company perform around the world. For context, my boys don’t go to regular dance classes but their friend goes to street dance on the weekly and all three of them were buzzing when they came out. Experience level didn’t matter. There’s no specialist kit to wear, they take part in bare feet and comfy clothes so no one feels like the odd one out or a newbie in the wrong gear.

The outside of the Dance House with large printed words saying Ty Dawns and a massive Discover Dance poster showing a male dancer and a boy in school uniform copying his one legged, arms out pose.

The children don’t stay for the whole day. It’s split into two sessions of 3 hours for 7-11 year olds in the morning and 12-16 year olds in the afternoon. My dancing trio were 7, 7 and 10 and it was perfectly pitched at them and the other children in the group.

The date and timing worked out well for me (selfish!) as I had a work meeting in the Bay that morning but from all the little scooters that accompanied younger siblings at pick up time I think most families made the most of the location and school holiday by zooming across the Barrage during Dance Days. We also had a crack at the free crafting in the Wales Millennium Centre foyer on our walk back to the car.

You could opt to do one day at £15 or two days at £25 per child. I worked through the holidays and couldn’t get the logistics to work out for two days. It would have been more convenient for me to have them both in one place for a full day but I appreciate for the younger dancers that it might be a bit much and it’s not designed for babysitting or childcare (but that is a Brucey Bonus of taking kids to this sort of thing). If money’s a barrier, NDCWales also offer some Dance Days tickets at £5.

At the end of the hour session, the grown-ups and siblings were invited to watch a “quick sharing of what they’ve been up to”. The amount of work that they showed back to us was bonkers.

a group of 9 children in leggings, joggers and t shirts balance and freeze as a group with arms, legs and feet stretching out. They're in a dance studio.

I particularly loved the general positive vibe in the room. There were no show offs, they were all happy and silly but behaving respectfully, working together and listening to the dance ambassador who led the session. A diverse bunch of children of difference abilities and ages all worked together and shared something really special.

They didn’t just spend the three hours learning routines. They had creative tasks using Caroline Finn’s choreographic ideas that the company use in Revellers’ Mass, one of their 2019 touring productions. In this case, they were greeting partners as they met from opposite sides of the stage; what might start with a handshake or a high five becomes a back roll, jump or cartwheel. They also learnt a to dance part of the show, quite a gestural section that the children performed with real earnestness.

I’ve gone into so much detail about the “quick sharing” because I also ended up taking my sons to see National Dance Company Wales perform Awakening, their spring tour at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff. I’d been regretful about my possibly optimistic plan to take them to a night of three contemporary dance works. On the train. For the evening show. They were being boisterous but I’d paid my money so we’d give it a go. I’m so glad we did.

The piece that informed the Dance Days session was the longest of the night, it didn’t have the same visual trickery of the first two (which they loved but I’ll have to write that up separately so this doesn’t become a novella), it was later in the evening, past bedtime and I only had the dregs of the sweeties left. I needn’t have fretted. They were gripped. They gasped a little in delighted surprise and whispered “it’s the same music, we know this!” and subtly echoed the moves on stage that they’d remembered from Dance Days. That connection between physically putting their own bodies into learning moves, exploring the choreographer’s ideas, creatively problem solving then seeing actual real life dancers perform to the same music sparked something in them. Respect for the craft? A connection with the performance? Feeling involved in something exquisite and different? Maybe all of that, maybe none of it but it’s an experience that’s stayed with them.

a blackboard pillar has been written on with chalk with dates and times for Dance Days. A Dance Days flyer is stuck to the pillar with a magnet.
New dates are on the NDCWales website

Dance Days aren’t just for keeno dancing kids. The sessions for ages 7-11 are especially great for kids who are just happy to give something a bit different a go. Head over to the NDCWales website for details of future Dance Days: ndcwales.co.uk (CLUE: there are some coming up at the end of July)

*We were very kindly invited to take part in this event in return for a review. I bought our own tickets for the show at the Sherman. Dance Days are well worth the price and they do offer some bursaries if money is a barrier for you.

Places To Go, Things To Do

February Half Term 2019 – Out and About

Sorry for jinxing the weather by optimistically writing this when the sun was still shining. It’s trying its best to come out again so let’s make the most of the tail end of half term with some fresh Welsh air.

We’re so lucky to have so many lush parks, beaches and countryside for walking and exploring. Over half term, there are a few special events and activities dotted around so, whatever the weather, get out and about.

St Fagan’s National Museum of History

On St David’s Day, this half term staple has family friendly craft activities themed for Wales’s special day. Perfect day to grab a slice of bara brith from their bakery. Free entry as usual but it’s about a fiver for the car park.

Amelia Trust Farm

A lovely little farm for a tootle around, Amelia Trust Farm have a February Half Term Farm Funday on 1st March with both morning and afternoon sessions. Full details on their website http://www.ameliatrust.org.uk £8.50 for bouncy castles, soft play, ball pit and more.

You can also do Bertie the Birdman’s Bird Trail. Each child is given their own card binoculars , bird booklet and a pencil to keep. £2.50 per child. 

Don’t forget that Five Mile Lane is blocked for road works at the Barry end on the way there but you can take the scenic route through rural Vale or a detour via Culver House.

Beach Academy Wales at Ogmore Beach

Celebrate World Wildlife Day on Sunday 3rd March 11am – 12.30pm by searching, handling and spotting Beach Creatures with Beach Academy Wales on beautiful Ogmore Beach. £5 per child, free for their adult, aimed at age 6+ but younger siblings welcome. Text 07966 572293 or email beachacademywales@gmail.com to book.

Places To Go, Things To Do

Mwah Ha Halloween Half Term

October half term is here and no doubt there’ll be a glut of Halloween related activities on offer. I’m not a massive Halloween fan. There, I’ve said it. Why can’t we just carve a pumpkin, dunk some apples and wear a sheet to be a ghost? What’s all this decorating the house faff about?

What’s jumping out at me so far:

Memo Arts Centre, Barry

One Man Shoe Monday 29th October (2pm) £7 / £24 for 4

A family show with puppetry, slapstick and magic. My youngest currently wants to be a ventriloquist when he grows up so it sounds right up his street.

The Little Mix Experience Thursday 1st November (6.30pm) £13.50

This Little Mix tribute act were incredibly popular last time they were in town.

Dyffryn Gardens

Lots of activities on offer here and it is a lovely day out.

Autumn Apprentice Trail Saturday 27th October – 4th November (10am-3pm) entrance fee but event is free

Whack on your wellies and join in with five tasks like raking up piles of autumn leaves.

Pumpkin Carving Saturday 27th October – 31st October (11am-3pm) £4 per pumpkin plus the entrance fee

If you don’t fancy tackling this in your own kitchen, make the most of the stencils, carving sets and helpers at this event.

Make It Mondays Monday 29th October (12-3pm) entrance fee but event is free

Craft activities.

Cook on a Campfire Friday 2nd November (12-3pm) £2 plus entrance fee

As the name suggests, you get to cook on a campfire.

Amelia Trust Farm

Pumpkin Patch Trail Saturday 27th October – Sunday 4th November

Kids Crazy Headwear Monday 29th & Tuesday 30th October £5.50 per child, pre book on website

Mini Beasts & Pond Dipping at the Farm Saturday 3rd November £5.50 per child, pre book on website

Penarth Pier Pavilion

Snowcat Cinema: The Curse of the Wererabbit – scratch ‘n’ sniff experience. Wednesday 31st October (2pm-3.30pm) £7.50 / £6 concessions (50p extra if you buy on the door)

Watch this family film from the makers of Wallace and Gromit with a special scratch ‘n’ sniff card. Fancy dress is encouraged. No adverts so arrive for a 2pm start.

Mountain View Ranch

Halloween Daily Events Saturday 27th October – Sunday 4th November (11am & 1pm)

Room on the Broom read by the Ranch Witch (11am & 1pm)

Marshmallow Toasting at Creepy Creak (2pm-3.30pm)

Spooky Pumpkin Trail (all day)

All activities are included in the entrance fee of £23 for a family of 4 and £28 for a family of 5. Wrap up warm, take a flask and a picnic and have a lovely time. Dressing up is optional. Last time we went we bought delicious pizzas and hot chocolates in their café which I’d thoroughly recommend.

St Fagans National Museum of History

Halloween Nights Monday 29th – Wednesday 31st October (6pm-9pm) £15 adults, £8 children, under 2s free but recommended for ages 4+

I really want to go to his. Expect Halloween special effects display across the outdoor Museum, Creepy Craft workshops, wand making, ghost stories for children and adults, Halloween character walkabouts, live music, lantern parade (no naked flames), Burning of the Wickerman (!) and a Scare Zone for bigger frights with a 12+ age advisory! The timing makes this perfect for those of us working over half term with older kids.

 

Sadly, they’re not running their usual Halloween event at Hendrewennol Fruit Garden this year. No pumpkin picking for us.

Let me know what you think of any of these goings on if you get a chance to try them out.