Creatives in the Community – Ryan Walters-Vallely
We’re delighted to be able to put the spotlight on some of the fantastic creatives in our community.
We spoke to Ryan Walters-Vallely about the work he does and his views on the arts in Herefordshire.
Tell us a little bit about yourself…
My name’s Ryan, I run Dynamic Dance in Hereford, I’m part of a touring vocal trio Remixed Remastered, and I also run the Enchanted Kingdom which is an interactive theatre experience. We set it up in November 2018 and every half term we do different events specifically for kids in a small, intimate venue. So far we’ve done Frozen, Despicable Me and The Greatest Showman. It’s geared specifically towards younger children who might not sit through a normal hour and a half show. We do ours in half hour performances followed by an opportunity to meet the cast and have photos taken with them. I also deliver dance sessions in schools in Herefordshire including Ewyas Harold and St Martins. I teach all years at St Martins and Key Stage 2 at Ewyas Harold.
I trained in Contemporary Music at South East Essex College, which was predominately band orientated with studio engineering. After that, I started working professionally on holiday parks and then moved onto working abroad and cruise ships, as a vocalist/dancer in production shows. After 4 years away, I came back to settle down in the UK and that’s when I created Remixed Remastered, which has gone on to perform in a number of theatre tours around the country, backed by a full production of backing dancers and band. During this process, I rediscovered the love of choreographing and have gone on to choreograph production shows for some of Europe’s leading entertainment providers.
It was crazy going from working abroad to starting my own business. It’s nice being able to be your own boss and put your own creative input into the work. When you’re in productions you’re just told what to do but when it’s your own, everything’s riding on you, even the pressure of making it sell! But I like that whole experience, the business side as well as the creative side all merged into one, it’s amazing.
Why do you think the arts are important?
I think it’s about freedom of expression. I know that sounds quite cliché and cheesy but it is. No matter what background you’re from, no matter how talented you are it links everyone together. If you take dance for example, I think it brings people together and, with music as well you can be from a completely different background, not having met before you’re joined as one having a shared experience.
What are your thoughts about arts provision and participation in Herefordshire?
I feel like with Herefordshire, there’s so much potential and talent here but it’s missing the required platform to showcase this. I feel like the younger generation could be more catered for in terms of opportunities to see the arts, to entice them to take part and inspire them to get involved. Lastly, I feel there isn’t much for the older generation, in terms of dance, unless it’s jazz, tap, jive or line dancing and that’s why I created Dynamic Dance, as there was a gap in the market and I felt it was something that Hereford was missing. This is why I do what I do and The Courtyard does what it does.
How do you feel about arts provision in education?
I think it’s overlooked. It doesn’t get the opportunity to be given to the majority of people and a lot of other subjects take priority. Academics and sport take priority over the arts and I feel like the education system places heavy judgement on academic ability over artistic in terms of whether you’re good or whether you’re successful. Myself, I struggled in school, I was a kinesthetic learner, I have a great physical memory and I think people can excel in the arts where they may not excel in the more ‘academic’ subjects.
Tell us about a recent or memorable piece of art you have seen/experienced and what made it ‘stand out’?
I’ve got two, they’re completely different! The first one is the new musical SIX. The thing that I liked is it’s a cast of six people and a band backing them who are out on show, not in the pit. The show is so simplistic but so effective. The show is a retelling of King Henry VIII and his wives and usually period stories are done as dramas but this is something so original.
The other is Rihanna’s fashion show, Fenti. She makes the fashion, music and dance world collide into one show. All the models are from different ethnic backgrounds, different shapes and sizes and its very liberating to see someone you can connect with or relate to on TV in that sort of context. The choreographer, Paris Goebel is amazing too!
Tell us about a stand out piece of work that you have created and what you feel makes/made it special.
I’d say Dynamic Dance as a whole. I wanted to create a class that was fun and energetic and something completely different. I wanted people to feel that they could escape their everyday lives and just have fun and learn something they wouldn’t normally do. Also, I wanted to create a supportive environment and get people to meet other people they wouldn’t normal meet in everyday life.
I set a challenge for myself and also for the groups that I teach, to put on a dance showcase for the public to come and watch, backed by professional singers. We had six months to learn 2 hours worth of material and with just 21 people participating, I did set the bar high. The showcase was incredible. Everyone pulled it out of bag and pushed themselves 100%. It was such an enjoyable experience and to be able work with people, watch them grow as performer and improve, is priceless. I’m so proud and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for Dynamic Dance.
How would you like to see the arts community develop in Herefordshire?
I’d like to see it grow and see people use opportunities better. There’s a Performers in Herefordshire Facebook page and it would be great to see it used to promote jobs and auditions as opposed to just being used as an advertising platform for events.
I feel like artists in Hereford could support each other more, like if you see someone doing something great, tell them and help people find what they want. I do it quite often, if I get a message looking for a genre of dance, say contemporary for example, I can say “I don’t offer that but try this company”. At the end of the day, it’s all about spreading the love of it and if someone wants to try something, encourage them and if you can’t offer it yourself then give them the opportunity to go somewhere else where they’ll be able to get the experience they want. I don’t think a lot of people do that, just being supportive of one another and if someone’s doing something good, tell them!
Finally, who would you nominate to be our next ‘Creative in the Community’ highlight?
I’d say Natalie Morgan Drew, who runs Mizz Twisted Cherry Studios in Ross. It’s a pole/trapeze/burlesque studio. I recently attended their annual showcase. It was so refreshing to see a vast array of different skill sets and performance in one show. The thing I love about her studio is that she is so supportive of her “cherry blossoms” and is offering something completely different to her competitors.