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.

Thinking Out Loud

5 Reasons to Love Half Term (even if you’re working)

I’ve managed to wangle a few afternoons off but no full on day trips for us this week. For all the research and “ooo I like the sound of that” that went into the February Half Term post, I won’t be able to do many, if any of them with my children. Cue working parent guilt. The guilt will be slightly quelled by Facebook posts from SAHMs pulling their dry shampooed hair out (thank you and commiserations in advance). It’s not all bad. I’ve plucked five silver linings from a burst of rare optimism.

No Lunch Boxes

Sunday night I did a gleeful jig when I remembered that I needn’t do an inventory of bread, ham, cereal bars and frubes. No evening trek to the corner shop for lunch box supplies for me. Straight on the PG Tips. Oh yeah. Smug AF. I am a terrible quartermaster and we never have all of the lunch box things. We do always have fruit but that’s mainly because the same clementine accompanies each child every day until it’s “on the turn”. I’ve tried a variety of fruits and lovingly chopped vegetable batons but they all come home again. The satsuma, clementine and other orange-type things are by far the hardiest travellers so they’re frequent flyers.

No School Uniforms

The boys’ school is pretty relaxed uniform wise but I’ve had a gutsful of polo t-shirts and black joggers. Half term means I don’t have to do a wash every day. It’s best to avoid a mountainous backlog but it doesn’t matter. They finally get to wear the clothes I actually like and have bought for them. I was wistfully flipping through photos of my youngest as a two year old (because my sister has his old gear and my nephew’s just bursting into the 2-3 bag of cousin hand-me-downs) and he had some awesome outfits. Now he’s 4 nearly 5 and favours “comfie trousers”, joggers to you or I. The 8 year old poo-pooed my suggestions this morning (he also refused to get out of bed, get dressed, brush his teeth etc.) and left the house looking like he’d had to don something from the lost property box. But hey, no school uniform washing, ironing and folding at least. *whistles Always Look on the Bright Side of Life*

Most Clubs and Hobbies Take a Break

The 8 year old’s sport doesn’t do half term breaks (sigh) but everything else does (yay). Fewer chauffeur duties, cub uniform, rugby boots and musical instruments to find/clean/remind child about. Tea time can be more leisurely. Less downing of dinners and struggling to find food that can be made in under 10 minutes. (30 minutes Jamie Oliver?! That’s a luxury!)

The B Team Present on the Radio

I have the radio on constantly. It gives my solo working from home days some element of routine.

10:30am Popmaster is time to make a cup of tea and practice my 3 times table

12 noon Jeremy Vine reminds me that it’s nearly lunch time

2pm Steve Wright makes me panic that all the things I should have done haven’t been done yet

5pm Simon Mayo helps me realise I still need to work for another half an hour but (depending on the day of the week) I need to make dinner for everyone and taxi kids to their hobbies within the next hour.

At half term and holidays, the regular Radio 2 presenters disappear and we get the reserves. Like those days a supply teacher had your class at school and there is a whiff of anarchy about the place. Sadly, this half term we’re on a different week to most of England so this reason should fall off the list. It should but “4 Reasons…” sounded a bit lame.

It’s a Quieter Week at Work

It would seem that most other people are more forward thinking than me and actually think to take annual leave over half term. I get fewer phone calls, meetings and replies to emails. A great chance to get a few more things ticked off that work-to-do list. If I had one. It’s all up here *taps head with biro*. *Regrets tapping head with biro upon realising it was the inky end*.

Do you also have a love/hate relationship with half term? Don’t worry, once it’s over there are only six weeks until the Easter holidays!