Welsh clogs meet boys from Brazil

A choreographer who danced for the Queen is championing an unlikely combination of Welsh clog dancing and Brazilian martial arts.

Angharad Harrop, 26, from Trelogan, in Flintshire, and her troupe will unveil the fusion of the two cultures in a stunning performance at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod.

She has already introduced the sultry and sensual movers in Rio de Janeiro to the delights of Welsh clog dancing.

Angharad, who danced for the Queen at the start of her Diamond Jubilee tour, has secured support from the Arts Council of Wales, De Montfort University – where she gained her Masters – and Senzala UK to collaborate on a project that looks at heritage and culture from Wales and Brazil.

“The project explores communication and how we can share our culture with others. How we identify where we belong through our culture and how can we use this to show others who we are and where we come from,” said Angharad, who is a lecturer in dance at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk.

Her collaborators from Brazil, experts in capoeira, a Brazilian martial art developed by African slaves in the 16th Century, combining dance and music, will join her team on the S4C stage at 6pm as one of the Eisteddfod’s daily World Music @6 performances on July 12.

Angharad’s parents, Peter, an optician in Caernarfon and Jane, are still keen folk dancers. Born in Rhos-on-Sea, Angharad went to Eirias High and then De Montfort University in Leicestershire where her fascination in capoeira was kindled.

“I wrote my thesis about it and went to Brazil in 2009 where I met my collaborators. I was there about a month and a half,” she said. It was there she met Brazilian musician and teacher Ruan de Vargas, who is coming over for the Llangollen performance.

“At first he spoke no English and I spoke no Portuguese, it was very interesting,” said Angharad.

With backing from Wales Arts International she returned to Brazil in 2011 to work on Perguntas and Atebion (Brazilian for question and Welsh for answer) with Ruan, who also visited north Wales in 2012 and did some music classes at local schools.

“At first we were not looking at culture but at music and movement, but we realised that our cultural backgrounds came into it and there was no way we could avoid it.

“The connections may not seem obvious but at their roots there is a freedom of expression. Capoeira is about freedom and slaves finding a way to express themselves.

“Welsh folk dancing was something not encouraged by the English or the church because some of it was seen as associated with paganism.

“The music is different but they both use a lot of drum beat. Capoeira is really fluid and rhythmic in movement while Welsh folk dance is strict but the Welsh melodies really float.”

Dancing in clogs belongs to a country which is wet and where feet need to be kept dry – in Brazil there was no need for shoes.

Angharad inherited her mother’s dancing clogs – hand-made by legendary Welsh clog maker Trefor Owen of Criccieth, Britain’s last remaining bespoke clog-maker. She has several pairs and will be taking them to Brazil after her Llangollen performance.

She dances at Llangollen on  Friday and on the Monday she will be flying to Rio de Janeiro for a two week residency at a major centre for choreography where she will give workshops in Welsh folk dancing and clogging before a performance on July 27.

Also joining Angharad at Llangollen will be capoeiristas Pedro Reis and Will Thorburn, Welsh dancer and harpist Ceri Rimmer and Anglesey based musician Henry Horrell and a Brazilian exchange student At Edge Hill, Deborah Lago.

With record advance ticket sales, organisers say the stage is set for one of the most successful festivals ever.

Hundreds of competitors and thousands of visitors flock to the field every year to soak up the sights and sounds of the world as singers, musicians and dancers from New Zealand and Russia, China, India and South America mingle.

Impromptu performances break out, Zulu choirs sing, Indian musicians pluck sitars and accents from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas mingle.

The traditional opening parade sets the template for the six days of the Eisteddfod, from Tuesday July 9, to Sunday, July 14, with a fabulous spectacle of colour and sound as locals and visitors from the UK and across the world join together.

Competitors dance, sing and play musical instruments as the procession moves from the Eisteddfod field through the streets of Llangollen, and back again, led by the event Patron, Terry Waite MBE.

That sets the scene for the week with the Eisteddfod field alive and buzzing with international performances on the new and improved undercover Outside Stages.

Visitors can enjoy live music at the 200-seat S4C Stage, join in with a dance workshop on the Amphitheatre Wrexham Lager Stage or listen to live storytelling on the Lawn Stage.

And in the early evenings the S4C Stage will be transformed into an amazing window on world music for The World @ 6 programme of song and performance from Persia, the Indian subcontinent, Africa and more.

Throughout the week world-class competitors perform in a spectacular celebration of cultures with stunning choral music and lively traditional dance, especially on Folk Friday when the outdoor stages will feature world-class music and dance.

The Eisteddfod is a complete international experience and that goes for the food too. Home-cooked Welsh produce is on the menu but so are the cuisines of Europe, China, India and the rest of the world and there’s excellent local Llangollen ale.

There are gifts and clothes from South America, jewellery, wooden toys and Welsh-made products at more than 40 stalls, including exhibitions of festival supporters, Extreme Animals and Owl Rescue Display, charity groups and more including jugglers, escape artists and magic tricks.

Among the stars at the International Eisteddfod this year, are top American tenor Noah Stewar, Jools Holland’s Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, English soprano Claire Rutter, Kiwi bass Jonathan Lemalu and the choir Only Men Aloud who shot to fame on the hit TV show, Last Choir Standing.

To book tickets and for more details on this year’s event go to the website at www.international-eisteddfod.co.uk and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/llangollen and to check out Angharad’s work go to  www.angharadharrop.com.

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