Today we have the greatest honour to introduce you to the wild at heart, blissed out and brilliant dancer- Bronwyn Craddock! This girl is the epitome of someone daring enough to follow their north star and life to max- no regrets. Not only is she talented on her feet- but she has a whole list of accolades from a photographer, surfer, skater and advocate against GBV.
1)How long have you been dancing and what inspired you to do it seriously?
Ballet has been a part of my life from the age of four – I was one of the many young girls who were placed in dance class by their parents. It has now accumulated to 17 years of ballet, about 10 years of modern, contemporary and jazz, and about 4 years of Latin and ballroom. The first moment that made me consider a career in ballet was at a competition where I performed a neo-classical dance piece. It brought out a side of me that I hadn’t yet explored. I specifically remember that the adjudicator’s feedback touched on how freely both my emotions and my technique came across on stage. As a 12-year-old girl, I didn’t even know what emotions truly were. Once I received that report card, I knew, then, that provoking a poignant and artistic experience for each audience member was more important to me than any solid technique. It is the creatively expressive movement which I wanted to focus on and pursue.
2) I am so (for lack of a better word) inspired by dancers. Because our factory started as a ballet and dancewear manufacturing facility, I came across dancers from all walks of life when I first moved to South Africa. I was always so moved by the grit, despite how competitive and how taxing dance can be on your body, that dancers have. At a high level there is a great amount of resilience to pain and fear of rejection. How do you cope? What keeps you going?
I sometimes think that dancers have too much of a threshold against pain… In all honesty, I’m someone who thrives off of it. If I am not stiff the day after training, or haven’t been battered with bruises, I ask myself “Did I even work hard enough?”. So, I suppose it’s a mental shift whereby the muscle pain only proves to you that you’re progressing and strengthening your body. BUT. There is a line. And for most of us dancers, we don’t know where that line is. Unfortunately, in our industry, rejection is a commonality. I have to remind myself constantly that life is an ocean with waves of opportunity and that there will always be another swell. Being rejected is always going to play a part in our industry. You won’t always fit the mold, or fit the role, so you have to accept it. Every rejection humbles you and humility is another quality that defines a dancer of grit. It is important to not let that rejection define your dancing ability. It’s a consistent practice which I still, very much, need to get used to.
3)Speaking of pain, you are currently wearing a boot! And yet, you’re still killing it and taking these phenomenal dance photos- and missing dance already! Where does your grit and determination / passion come from?
I haven’t really thought about this before actually… I’m quite an energetic bunny so it’s difficult for me to sit still and ‘recover’. I’m quite injury prone and every injury that I have sustained, I have coped with each in different ways. So from all this I have learnt that, personally, I heal faster if my mind is happy. I think that distracting oneself to focus on multiple other facets of life that don’t include dance – whether that be socially or physically or academically – is one of the most important ways to keep one’s mind stimulated and determined. Ballet is not life. For example, I’ve made sure to keep myself busy with my photography and videography – which is my usual part-time profession. However, with the current injury I have, I’ve noticed that instead of distracting myself, I’ve tried to escape from the reality of my injury… So there’s a very fine line between living life in a boot and over-doing life in a boot
4) Why are the arts / dance so important (maybe now more than ever?) Why should society care and support the arts?
I think everyone has noticed, over the past couple months of COVID, that the arts are more important to them than they realise. When one goes to watch a play, or a dance performance, or attends music festivals etc, they are able to escape from their current reality. For a brief moment, they can focus on a separate, entertaining narrative - rather than the current status of their own life. I also think that theatre gives society an opportunity to voice and provoke conversations that are quite controversial – conversations that wouldn’t usually happen if it weren’t for the instigation of a theatrical performance. Throughout this year I think every country can agree that there’s been huge political and governmental controversy, and control, and people aren’t feeling heard or respected. People haven’t been voicing their opinions through theatre, and perhaps are voicing them in a more violent or aggressive way.
5) Do you feel society as a whole is supportive of the arts or that there is a disconnect due to the changing times?
I think the level of support for the arts varies in different countries and throughout South Africa. I believe that there’s still quite a strong stigma attached to the arts to which the younger generation still clings. However, I do think that, gradually, this mindset will change – by adapting performance narratives for the modern audience. Of course, there’s always room for traditional ballets but with the rapidly changing world, I think the dance world needs, and is currently, adapting. And this goes for people’s perception of theatre as well.
6) How can we support the arts and take part of the conversation of how valuable it is in your opinion?
The easiest way to support the arts would be to support the online platforms, productions, experiences of the performing artists and the companies. Other ways can simply be to provide donations to artists, dancers, entertainers, and performers; share their resources with your friends; and lastly, participate in their online zoom classes – do it because you’ve always wanted to and now is the time you can switch your camera off and avoid embarrassment ;)... Unlike the corporately inclined businesses, the tricky thing is that we can’t just ‘work from home’. Our job requires the interaction of people, the space of the dance floor, the brainstorming of a circle of dancers, the touching, feeling and breathing of the human body. Society still has a lot to see and discover about the human body. Furthermore, there is a continuous flow of topics that still need to be explored, questioned and conversations that need to be provoked. Now more than ever actually. The arts provide the platform to be creative within a community – to unite cultures, express values, strengthen each other socially and economically and lastly, to creatively connect various philosophies.
7) How can dance heal the world? Why is it essential to the world?
As mentioned in the previous question, the arts provide many things emotionally and physically – to both dancers and non-dancers. It is a platform of controversial conversation. It is a way to express views, morals and principles - in a non-violent visual depiction. It gives opportunity to those in need of physical rehabilitation; it drives creative marketing and thus, is essential for the development of any business. I could go on and on, about the necessity of the arts but I think everyone can agree that they’ve felt the consequences of the absence of it.
8) What does dance feel like to you? What does it mean to you?
As mentioned previously, quite frankly, dance is a way to get rid of a lot of the excess energy that I tend to have. It means that I can channel the irrational emotions in my life into rational reactions through means of dance. It means that, during a solid three, four, hours of training, I don’t get distracted by my phone, or bothered by what to make for dinner that evening, or emotionally conflicted from personal problems. As cliché as it is to say that it is my escape, it is. It’s a moment of focus on a single, traditional and structured art form.
9) Aside from dance, I can tell you live life to the fullest. You’re on a surfboard, you’re a photographer, you’re often seen out with friends, dabbling in other arts etc – you seem really stoked on life overall. Tell us more about that.
I’ve always found that having other passions and hobbies is the most important thing for a ballet dancer. The dance and artist life can be very toxic both on the mind and on the body. It’s important to cross-train – to find other forms of exercise that gives you both a mental break from the studio, but also provides benefit for your training. I also think that, nowadays, it’s important to network with people in other areas of life. Both for your own sanity and for the exposure to the world of theatre. Ballet has very much been targeted to a certain audience for an extended time. I think it’s beneficial for both the companies and the dancers to expose and advertise their art form to different communities – people who wouldn’t usually come to watch the ballet.
10) What are your greatest ambitions in life? What do you spend your time daydreaming about?
For most dancers it’s to travel abroad, dance around the world, perform in global theatres... As a South African, it has always been a dream of mine to travel to France, Netherlands, Berlin etc. to dance in the world-renowned companies. However, in the current times, with travel being quite restricted, I’ve focused more of my ‘ambitions’ to short term goals of mine. One of those has always been to expose the exceptional and diverse talent we have in South Africa. So, at the moment, I aim to provide a different avenue and unique perspective of the artists of South Africa by developing and instigating an appreciation of dance in the local community – and furthermore to communities who wouldn’t have appreciated the art form before.
11) What are words you live by:
Listen to your body, it knows more than you think.
12) Our slogan being, ‘Shoes For The Liberated’ we always ask: ‘What does liberation / freedom mean to you?’
Liberation, with regards to the artistic world, is a state of mind. Creative freedom is one of the most important aspects of life that can change the way society thinks and acts. Liberation, to me, is an understanding that this creative freedom can branch from different activities outside of dance – and that the traditional, structured theatre is progressing to new possibilities. Liberation means a mindset that isn’t quick to judge or place prejudice. Liberation means to have empathy as well as a progressive, adaptive mindset.
13) How can we support you, your company / dancers in South Africa?
Donations to both companies and dancers are always appreciated. Support local companies – their online classes, online or live performances, share to your friends and family etc. Have a general curiosity to the world of theatre, ballet and experimental art forms. You never know what value they can provide you.
14) Where can we find you online and support you on an individual level!
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