Creatives in the Community – Natalie Morgan-Dew
Tell us a little bit about yourself…
My name is Natalie Morgan-Dew, I’m 33 years old and a mother of one.
I run Mizz Twisted Cherry studios in Ross-on-Wye which is an Aerial and Alternative dance studio. I teach junior classes in aerial hoop and trapeze and adult classes in pole fitness, trapeze, aerial sling, aerial hoop, burlesque, adult gymnastics and contortion and everything in between! Classes are catered for all ages and abilities.
I am a big believer that these kinds of disciplines are for EVERYONE regardless of your shape, size, gender and previous fitness ability.
Mental health is also a big part of these classes creating a safe space for people who can be honest about their mental and emotional wellness as well as their physical health; we are a fully immersive experience.
I started off my career with a 2:1 Hons degree in Theatre Design; I was a costume designer for around 5 years and designed for theatres around the UK (including assisting Claire Milinczuk on one of The Courtyard’s pantos). I also designed for films including horror films starring actors such as Peter O’Toole, Michael Madsen and Bai Ling.
In that time I had taken up burlesque (self-taught) and was going to pole fitness classes at a studio. At this time I was also suffering anorexia and as this became more debilitating to my health and ability to get out of the house, my career was on hold and the only joy and freedom I felt was going to my pole fitness class once a week. As time went on I started instructing and have been teaching for 10 years. At the height of my illness (after a battle of twelve years with it) I had stopped going out, it had created other issues for me with agoraphobia and various anxiety disorders.
I had really come to a very serious make or break point in my life. That is when my husband and I planned to have our daughter who in a nutshell saved my life! When she was around 18 months old I started teaching a couple of pole lessons a week at a gym and I realised there was a demand for it in my town and a year later created my own aerial and alternative dance studio. I have been running the studio for about three years now. My main aim was to help people physically and mentally through the classes which is exactly what the studio has done and continues to do in a very successful manner.
The studio has won various national awards including National Happiness Award, National Family Network Award, Pole Excellence Award and Forest Business Award. Everyone who comes is so diverse and unique and everyone welcomes everyone, we are a family of cherry blossoms!
Personally, the past two years have also been extremely successful for my burlesque career. I have won two national titles and very recently was crowned the reigning queen of the World Burlesque Games Alternative Crown 2019. I feel that this, especially in a small town has really diminished the stigmas around burlesque. Burlesque is a piece of theatre and originally started in the 1800’s as a satire performance inspired from ballets, opera’s and serious plays of that time. It was theatrical comedy which is something I base my own modern performances on so to be able to hold these national and world titles coming from a tiny town in Herefordshire is a privilege and I feel I’m an ambassador for showing society what burlesque really is.
Why do you think the arts are important?
I think the arts are extremely important. The therapeutic aspect many people get from the arts is sometimes overlooked but with a lot of involvement with the mental health sector, the arts is an outlet for our minds, our emotions and freedom from any restrictions we feel in our own mind and bodies as well as the restrictions we feel society places on us with our daily grind.
To be part of or to watch a production, to create a piece of art, to take a beautiful picture is or own personal piece of self-love, our own personal therapy and own personal out let from all that plays on our minds and effects our lives. The arts are food and nourishment for the soul.
What are your thoughts about arts provision and participation in Herefordshire?
I feel the county is very creative. Full to the brim of artists, theatre, youth groups, photographers and dance companies.
I do feel that, although there is a vast community out there, there is no networking for those involved in the arts. No way for us all to connect or to collaborate. The opportunities to showcase our groups, companies, and businesses as a whole in the Herefordshire community, I feel, would be a great asset. Something to unite all the creatives within Herefordshire and give them the opportunity to shine within the community I feel would be a great service.
Awareness is key as a business and in the community so without being able to showcase what we have to offer then the public don’t even know we exist. I really love the H art event where artists sign up to be part of the event and then the public are given a map of artists involved all around Herefordshire to look at their work and to potentially buy it. I’ve attended this myself and found some fascinating and talented artists I never knew we had in the county. Something like this, not only for artists, but theatre companies, youth groups, dance companies, live theatre would be amazing.
How do you feel about arts provision in education?
As everything currently, it is underfunded, it is seen as a less important part of education and more a pass time and luxury which I feel needs to be addressed. Some children are academic, some are sporty and some are creative. All children need the opportunity to explore all aspects of life including the arts. I remember when I was at school and I wanted to be a costume designer, the careers advisor basically couldn’t help, didn’t even give me an idea to look for dramas schools or get started going to theatres and getting work experience.
We need to be able to pass knowledge onto the younger generation they potentially could be then next Banksy, the next Tim Burton, the next Georgia O’Keefe.
We need to let children have freedom and therapy from creativeness because life is really hard and education and school need to give them an insight on how they can release pressure, embrace their emotions and be honest about their mental health from a young age.
We have time in class for maths and for sports but as parents you have to pay for extracurricular art clubs or for additional lessons to learn an instrument. This should be just as important and as part of the syllabus as everything else.
My twin sister was dyslexic and she didn’t receive any help until she was in her last year of university. She fell under the radar because she was intelligent so no one worried even if she was struggling, she was getting the grades and keeping their statistics up but she excelled in dance lessons, she needed practical lessons, she needed to express herself through movement and this is where the arts are so unique and individual and the education system needs to incorporate this more. There are many more children like my twin that are intelligent and creative but don’t fit in the government’s structure, and the education system is failing them.
Tell us about a recent or memorable piece of art you have seen/experienced and what made it ‘stand out’?
The Youth Theatre at The Courtyard did a production of The Wizard Of Oz.
I took my daughter to watch it, the reason why it stood out was not only the production but the whole experience, my daughter has been to the theatre a number of times so already expected to get her snacks and her drink from the bar to have which is part of her enjoying her experience, followed by the fact the theatre has booster seats so she could see better, the tickets we booked were too far in the front for her to see so the box office lady without any qualms relocated us. To me, I remember those things because your experience at a theatre can easily be ruined by those kind of moments. The production itself was a lot more than I expected, the set, the costumes and the acting ability of all the kids blew me out the water. The fact that it’s not just about those who were of the highest standard of acting but the little pre-schoolers were part of the production, as a mother and someone who owns a business based on inclusivity was encouraging and made me very happy.
Tell us about a stand out piece of work that you have created and what you feel makes/made it special.
There are two.
Personally my current burlesque performance, Cherry Mercury, which is inspired by Freddy Mercury’s I want to break free video. Not only does is cross the boundaries of gender, it is true burlesque with tease and peels, using that satire from the 1800’s and includes signature stocking peels, chair acrobatics and is just me in a nutshell! I think being you as a performer in such a situation is the most important. I am big on originality and not emulating others and this is always my work ethic.
Secondly, I organise a showcase every year for my students the past two years it has been held at the Savoy Theatre in Monmouth, this gives everyone the opportunity to perform no matter their age, gender or how long they have been coming. This is a really big deal for many of these ‘Cherry Blossoms’, many come to the studio for confidence building so performing on stage in front of over 100 people can be one of the biggest moments of their lives and they all find the courage to do it, and the pride I feel watching every single one knowing their emotional motivation and backstory just makes me so emotional and incredibly proud, they are all super heroes. We also fundraise for a charity each year so this makes it even more special to be able to send a cheque to that charity after all the hard work of our studio family.
How would you like to see the arts community develop in Herefordshire?
As I’ve said previously, a network to be part of showcasing all that is on offer would be amazing. As a business not just a passion this is – to many of us – the way we pay our rent or feed our children so in an ideal world there would be no competitive feeling towards similar businesses. We are all just people with emotions and worries and a passion for the arts and this is something that could be utilised for us all to make this county bountiful with creative awareness of the talent it holds.
Finally, who would you nominate to be our next ‘Creative in the Community’ highlight?
Tom Roberts Illustration, I have been lucky enough to know him as a friend for many years. The images he produces are beyond anything I think humanly possible, I have a few of his prints and they are just amazing, his images give me goose pimples and are other worldly, I think he may have visited a parallel universe in another life. He has drawn murals in Hereford children’s ward and has worked with a variety of creatives; he really is an extremely extremely talented artist.
Image credit: Image Cella and Eyesolar