The current pandemic and resulting lockdown have had a dramatic impact on the performing arts in Wales. Spotlight… seeks to highlight the companies, organisations and creatives working and producing throughout the pandemic and explore the ways Welsh creatives have sought to retain a platform and continue to project their voices and reach their audiences. We asked Impelo about how they maintained their creativity throughout lockdown.
Who are Impelo?
Impelo originally began as a department in the Arts Service of Powys County Council. It wasn’t until 2015 that they became an independent charity, then known as Powys Dance. It was in 2019 that the company chose to rebrand as “Impelo”, a word derived from the Latin “Impello” meaning “urge on” or “drive forward”. Their motto is “Everybody dancing – for themselves, each other and a better life”. Throughout lockdown, as people were confined to their homes, many turned to creativity, art and physical activity to pass the time and keep their minds and bodies healthy throughout such uncertain times. As a dance company, the work of Impelo combines all of these pursuits and commits to the intentions of their ambitious motto. Impelo has produced touring productions and regularly hosts classes for all age groups, programmes for schools and classes for differently abled adults as well as supporting a professional dancers network. Impelo’s mission statement is to “share the transformational power of dance as far and wide as possible, connecting people of all ages and walks of life in joyful expression”, something greatly needed in these strange and socially distanced times.
What has been Impelo’s Lockdown Life?
Like most organisations, lockdown forced Impelo to choose between stopping their work outright or adapting to a newer and safer digital platform. At the beginning of lockdown, Impelo received confirmation that their application to the Foyle Foundation to support residencies for Powys based dancers had been successful. Impelo were able to use this funding for the work of freelancers who were most in need of support during lockdown. Unable to host their usual Y Nyth residencies which would have involved regular workshops, classes and CPD, Impelo instead chose to host freelancers in digital residencies. The freelancers who were accepted onto the residencies focused on a variety of projects. Beth Smith is developing her practice which works with cancer patients and their families. Clara Rust and Bethan Cooper have worked together through their residencies to explore how life has transformed and what it means to be a dancer during lockdown, unable to perform and rehearse in their usual spaces. Jake Nwogu utilised the residency as a way to support the research and development of his dance film about mental health. Already a subject gaining much needed attention before the pandemic, mental health and mental illness have been major subjects of discussion as cases of depression and anxiety have increased due to lockdown. Also focusing on mental health, Fany Felix has been exploring the use of breath in dance and how it can improve movement quality and creativity, as well as wellbeing. Teacher Miriam Garnett chose to use the residency to explore how play can be used as a foundation for her work, as well as its potential positive impacts on her own wellbeing.
By creating residencies in a new digital environment, Impelo have not only been able to support freelancers who would otherwise have faced a significant loss of income, but also provided them with the resources necessary to develop their work, all of which seeks to creatively help others. Once the residencies finish in September, all learning will be shared with Impelo’s professional dancers’ network so that all can benefit from the work of the resident dancers.
Also focusing on the connection between dance and physical and mental wellbeing, Artistic Director Amanda Griffkin participated in Y Lab’s Harp Covid Sprint challenge. Y Lab, a foundation created through a collaboration between Cardiff University and Nesta, provides support to public services across Wales to produce innovative projects and research. Through joining the work of Y Lab, Griffkin spent almost three months working alongside a team of artists and art and health professionals to develop ideas in response to the question, “How do we improve pathways and access to arts interventions that support different groups during this time and beyond?” Provided with weekly webinars, coaching, and funding support from Y Lab, Griffkin was partnered with a choir leader and visual artist to test their ideas. The team delivered online individual sessions with families who were physically separated from one another due to the pandemic and facilitated connection and communication through singing, dancing and creating visual art together. The sessions acted as a channel through which families could meet, connect and be creative through the often unnatural and awkward medium of video calls.
What of the New Normal?
As the research conducted through Y Myth residencies has been greatly based on health and wellbeing, the future work of Impelo will follow in the same vein. Impelo believes that movement is crucial to wellbeing and plans to reconvene at the end of the residencies to share ideas and research and further develop the inclusion of mindful movement into their practice.
In keeping with social distancing guidelines and still unsure of what restrictions the Government will be lifting in the near future, Impelo are staying in their digital space and continuing to provide online classes, using YouTube as their new digital dance studio.
Follow @ImpeloCymru on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep up to date with Impelo’s work.
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