Once Upon A Time In The Dark, Dark Wood – Interview with Artistic Director Caroline Lamb

The first week of rehearsals for Once Upon A Time In The Dark, Dark Wood is over. In this candid interview, Artistic Director, choreographer, and dancer Caroline Lamb reflects upon this unusual combination of older dancers working with younger choreographers, and the challenges this has posed.

It’s the end of the first week of rehearsals for Once Upon A Time In The Dark, Dark Wood. How have you and the older professionals found working with the younger choreographers and their approach to choreographing?

It is very interesting, seeing the younger choreographer’s different approach to working. They work a lot with improvisation, and with ways in which we naturally move. Jessie [Brett] did an exercise about ‘muscles, skin, and bones’, encouraging us to look at how each of these individual components contribute to the way in which we move. They are working in a very ‘organic’ way, where we as the dancers come up with our own responses.

It is different to the way I work. When I choreograph, it’s much more about bringing things to the dancer. I say ‘here are some moves, this is the situation’…


As an older dancer, how have you responded to this different approach?

It’s re-awakening. These young choreographers are re-awakening awareness in us. We’re going back and discovering things in new ways. In some ways it’s actually quite exposing…


In what respect?

You’ve learnt over the years to cover up the things you think you don’t do very well as a dancer. Now you’re having to find ways of doing them again. You’re exposing yourself, not just your strengths, but your flaws too. Jo [Young] has given us some very interesting tasks to do creating detailed movement from pictures. I’ve loved doing it but I am aware that my muscle memory is a bit rusty!


Are there any particular elements that you’ve struggled with?

The younger choreographers use laptops and cameras, which of course is different to how I work. They record us dancing and then watch the material of the dancers improvising. When they see something they like, they show us, and we attempt to re-create it. For me, that is a tough thing to do – trying to work it out bit by bit is very hard. I feel more comfortable improvising and then setting the piece.

The younger choreographers approach involves the dancers opening up and giving a lot. It’s been quite emotional. I’ve found I’ve been holding a lot of tension in my chest. Initially, I was resisting ideas, I was struggling. As we went on, I let go more. It was very re-assuring. You are releasing and letting go. A lot of the time my work is about ‘holding on’, about how tough life is and the choice of either collapsing and giving up, or holding in there. You learn that as you get older, you need to somehow deal with things, despite painful or tough situations.


Have you found the work physically challenging?

Yes, we are all complaining of lower back pain! We’re all older and our bodies are not as strong. It can leave you feeling a bit vulnerable.

It is challenging, physically and emotionally, but this is what the production is about. We’re all pushing ourselves, and it is exciting. It’s been joyous seeing how much everyone can still do despite their age, and how vibrant the mature dancers still look.

New Dance Classes and Performance Opportunity: Spring 2013

We are thrilled to be working on an exciting new performance project for Spring 2013.  Entitled Once Upon A Time In The Dark, Dark, Wood, Striking Attitudes’ Artistic Director, Caroline Lamb will be leading three young choreographers to create three distinct yet connected dance pieces with additional sections choreographed by Caroline drawing them together. The result will be a complete and emotive new work based on the idea of ‘time’ and rooted in the tradition of fairy stories – where all is not as it seems.

This will be a unique opportunity for some of the professional dancers from the Striking Attitudes group to work alongside the fresh ideas of some of Wales’ newest, exciting young choreographers; blending the more mature body with youthful, cutting-edge choreography. The project will involve a tour including three performances in Cardiff, Swansea and Ceredigion. Local community dance groups will make a small but significant appearance. And this is where you can be involved!

Striking Attitudes community dance classes will begin on February 13th to work towards the Cardiff performances and we would love you to be a part of this. Classes will take place from 6.45pm-8.45pm every Wednesday  in the Venue Common Room at Chapter Arts Centre in Canton, Cardiff from Wednesday February 13th until April 17th.  The cost for the entire 10 week term is £80 (just £8 per 2 hour class).

If you would like to be involved or for more information on the classes, please contact Anne Keeling at 02920 712265 or Janet Fieldsend at 02920 482413.

Once Upon a Time in the Dark, Dark, Wood – NEW PROJECT



“Deep down in the dark, dark wood and further beyond, in the sinister, brooding forest, secrets and stories lie, waiting to be revealed.

In a dreamlike realm beyond reality, strangers travel through an eerie forest landscape, with only the fear of the unknown to keep them company, as they hunt for what was, what is and what might be.

With few paths to guide them through the tangled undergrowth of long forgotten things, as they search an unexpected magic unfolds, that takes them into strange new worlds.

But tread carefully, beware, take care – as the shadows shift and creak, who is watching and who is waiting?”  –  Caroline Lamb, Artistic Director and Choreographer, Striking Attitudes

Once Upon A Time In The Dark, Dark, Wood will be a unique evening of dance and theatre from Striking Attitudes that brings two generations of dancers together and asks what it means to be a dancer?

Three young choreographers; Jessie Brett, Catherine Young and Jo Young with choreographer and Artistic Director of Striking Attitudes, Caroline Lamb, assisted by Janet Fieldsend, create a work set within the dark forests of fairy tales and legends where anything can happen and all is not as it seems. Using professional dancers who act and actors who dance, and joined by a group of local older dancers from the community, this is a work that sets out to celebrate the particular skills of the more mature dancer. With a rich mix of dance, text and music commissioned from the young composers of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, supervised by John Hardy and with lighting from Dave Roxborough, this is a new and exciting venture in the landscape of dance from Wales.

Once Upon A Time In The Dark, Dark, Wood is a brave encounter between seasoned older dancers – skilled and experienced in their craft, but with their physicality threatened and changed by time – and the vigorous enthusiasm and fresh approaches of the younger choreographers. How will the young choreographers harness the depth of physical knowledge and unearth the hidden abilities of the older dancers and how will the older dancers deal with the physical demands of the young choreographers? Daring, risky and creative challenges lie ahead for all.

Once Upon A Time In The Dark, Dark, Wood will tour in Cardiff, Swansea and Ceredigion April and May 2013.

Striking Attitudes is thrilled to have been awarded an Arts Council of Wales grant for this new project.

FOOTFALLS Showing at Wales Dance Symposium

From July 2012

We were thrilled to have been invited by Andy Eagle, Chapter Art Centre’s new director, to show FOOTFALLS before the Wim Wenders film PINA, about the great German choreographer Pina Bausch, at Chapter Arts Centre on Sunday July 1st.

The two films marked the end of the Wales Dance Symposium which took place at the Sherman Theatre and Chapter Arts Centre between June 29th and July 1st. We are very grateful to Andy Eagle and Chapter for their support.

Collaboration with Manic Street Preachers

Click here to watch the ‘Repeat’ video

From June 2012

Patrick Jones (poet, playwright and film-maker) invited Striking Attitudes’ professional dancers to collaborate with him on a music video for Manic Street Preachers who are re-releasing an album from 20 years ago.

Patrick’s brother is Nicky Wire, the bass player from the Manics. The album will come with a free DVD of music videos from the past and some new extras, of which Striking Attitudes will be one. The track Striking Attitudes is dancing to is called ‘Repeat’ and the dance was interpreted as an anti-jubilee rant!

Filming took place in Beaupre Castle near St. Hilary in the Vale of Glamorgan. Patrick Jones directed and filmed, and Caroline Lamb choreographed. The Striking Attitudes performers were Brendan Chaleson, June Campbell Davies, Dylan Davies, Janet Fieldsend, Stuart Hulse, Miranda Knight, Caroline Lamb and Belinda Neave.

Patrick’s poem Mountains of Man was used in Striking Attitudes’ FOOTFALLS film and it was a pleasure for us to have the chance to collaborate creatively with Patrick once again.


FOOTFALLS at ‘Hay on Film’ weekend

From May 2012

Striking Attitudes was invited to the ‘Hay on Film’ weekend at Hay-on-Wye; the inaugural event of the Hay Film School, to show our latest dance film, FOOTFALLS.

‘Hay on Film’, which is supported by the Film Agency for Wales, is the brainchild of Cinematographer Alan Trow, British Society of Cinematographers and digital and post-production expert, Miguel Ferros MBKS.

FOOTFALLS was the first film to be shown in the new Richard Booth Cinema, which is part of the famous second-hand bookshop, and was followed by a Q and A session with Caroline Lamb. It was clear that the film made a very positive impression on all who attended.

Creative Movement Community Classes

From April/May 2012

A series of ten creative movement community classes were run at Chapter Arts Centre this Spring. We started to work on some material for a piece that will be developed into a performance in Autumn 2012. We plan to start classes again at Chapter Arts Centre on September 20th 2012. Contact Anne Keeling on 02920 712265 or Janet Fieldsend on 02920 482413 for further information.


From 13th September, 2011

Thank you to everyone who joined us on Sunday 13th November for the first screening of our new film Footfalls. We had a wonderful turn-out including our professional dancers and many of the community dancers who took part in the film and who travelled from all over Wales to join us for the event – thank you to all of you for making such an effort to be with us.We received some wonderful comments from people who joined us at the screening. Here are just a few of them:

“It’s really an impressive film; what a great achievement” – Ajay at Portland Green Cultural Projects
“I thought the film was very beautiful” – Siri Wigdel, Arts Council Wales
“Moving, powerful piece. Wonderful” – Jane Jones
“Fantastically well done! Wow! Venice Biennale next stop!” – Gerry and Judith Foy
“Great” – Alicia Richards
“Beautiful” – Diana Sagar
“Class, from start to finish. Well done everyone who was involved” – Dan Green
“Seamlessly poetic, moving and powerful” – Lia Moutselou
“Very moving and powerful” – Eira Dyer
“Moved to tears! Extraordinary, the whole film. Moving. Beautiful. Thank you for involving us. Congratulations” – Julie Evans, Cofio
“A very moving film. Wonderful” – Pam, Cofio
“A wonderful performance” – Nell, Cofio
“Outstanding performance. Privilege to be here.” – JB Sakola
“Fascinating film and quite different” – Hawys James
“Enjoyed very much” – Elaine O’Brian
“Amazing film and gorgeous dancers. Just like your blurb says; it’s so good to see dancers with so much to give” – Judi Hughes
“Fantastic film, really moving, exceptional” – Bobbie Jacobs
“Brilliant film – hypnotic” – Colin Jacobs
“Astonishing achievement. Stunningly beautiful. Connotative, beguiling, mythic and totally satisfying.” – Wyndham Price