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  • Writer's pictureMara Cabral

Dancing in the woods, celebrating the solstice

Site-specific dance is a dance performance that has been created to exist in a specific non traditional stage location. It's a dance piece that exists specifically for that location in particular. As a dancer, a photographer and a nature lover, I always wanted to be able to join photography and dance in the beautiful outdoor locations of South Wales. The variety of stunning locations we have around us is quite impressive and I don't have to travel far (if at all!) from the town of Llanelli, where I am based, to find some breathtaking places. Step by step, I'm doing it more and more!

When I found this stunning piece of woodland on one of our family walks, I knew straight away I had to both dance and photograph in there. At the moment dance/performance and photography are strongly associated for me, they both feed each other and they are both perfect vehicles through which I can express my creativity. I decided to get to know the place better by doing a site specific dance amongst these amazing bendy trees and that this piece of dance improvisation would at the same time be a photoshoot. To be my photographer on this very special shoot, who else but my friend and business partner (in a soon upcoming business) John Minopoli. We have been working creatively together for over a year and it's safe to say I totally trust him when I have a creative idea I can't photograph myself.

It's no small thing to be able to work with somebody in a creative collaboration, more so if both people belong to the same artistic area. There has to be mutual trust, a middle point where both artistic visions meet each other and a totally genuine wish to see the other person grow technically and artistically. To top it up both people have to let go of the urge to claim something as ''their'' idea, as the result of a collaboration is a work that belongs to all involved. For some reason, we seem to do this pretty effortlessly when we work together and for that I am really thankful.

The plan was simple, I wanted to somehow be part of the landscape, I wanted my dance to be inspired by the shape of the trees, by the magic of that place in particular, by the sounds and sensations that surrounded me. Being a photographer probably more than I am a dancer at the moment, the photographer in me was ever present. At the same time that I tried to connect with my surroundings through dance and movement, I was fully aware of where the camera was, what sort of light we had and how we could explore it.

I didn't give John an awful lot of information about what I wanted for these photos, I pretty much just asked him to explore as he went along, so after we both discussed focal length and aperture, we just got on with it. At some points, there were specific things we both wanted to explore, but all in all, the process just sort of happened.

I absolutely love the photos he got, and more so when I think he had no idea what was about to happen (as neither did I, there was no time to proper prepare the dance improvisation, it was a there and then sort of thing)

And I loved doing it. Feel the bare feet on the earth, stretch my body once again. It took me a while to pass from ''photography model'' mode and to get into true dance mode, but it arrived eventually. And when it did, I slowly became more aware of everything. The shape of the trees. The feel of the trees. The sound of the birds The light of the sun when it hit my face. The smells. This is being in nature for me, and I feel that with so much I have going on, I sometimes forget about it. I forget to stop and be. I forget to enjoy it to its full extent, to make being in nature a way of uniting myself with something bigger. As art is as well.

I particularly love this time of the year, when daytime stretches itself until late, when the temperatures are milder and nature becomes somehow fuller, more present. Everything is more fragrant, the colours are stronger, the vegetation has grown to a peak. It's a time of abundance this that leads to the summer solstice and it's intensity is something I want to find better ways to live more consciously. By being out there, by listening, by feeling, by taking my art and connecting it to nature, by living it with my family, by living it with friends. And these shoot, these photos, were another way of celebrating the nature around us.

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