Matteo Marfoglia is an Italian dance artist, choreographer and performer based in Cardiff. He is an Associate Artist with National Dance Company of Wales and a Creative Wales award recipient. Matteo will be showing his piece Omerta as part of NDC’s Roots in Cardiff on Monday 5 and Tuesday 6 November.

Can you tell us what you do?

I am a choreographer and dance artist, based in Cardiff. I’ve been freelancing for over a year and a half. I like to work a lot with people and for people – I am a collaborative maker. I like to give people I’m working with input from their creative minds. I also work a lot to create a piece which is relevant to the people or the space in which it will be shown. I like to research the history of a place and how the community are in a space, their stories of how they see that place and interact with it. I like to also work on projects that aren’t dance focused, I work in theatre too – bringing my knowledge of movement in the role of director.

Why have you chosen to work in Cardiff?

I’ve been here six and a half years. I think Cardiff chose me more than I chose Cardiff! Before that I was working in London as a dancer and I was looking for work when I saw there was an audition for the National Dance Company of Wales – I thought: ‘Oh, I’m just two hours away from London so I can try.’ And then I got the job, moved here and decided to stay. I’ve created a life here and I feel like I have great connections with people and to the city which makes it not logical or urgent for me to move somewhere else. Cardiff as a place really fitted my ethos as an artist.

What inspires you about being here?

I think a lot is the people – I really like the Welsh people, the history of Wales and Wales as a country is really rich. Everyone is really proud of Wales but are not arrogant about it. They are really welcoming and friendly. The people of Cardiff, and Wales, are my inspiration.

Have you found any challenges working in Cardiff?

Not really. It is not challenging to work here – Cardiff is really supportive and the artist community is collaborative. But that stays within the city. I think it is hard to bring work out of Cardiff or bring people to Cardiff. I’ve found it easier to bring the work from Cardiff internationally than from Cardiff to England or Scotland. People will travel to London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester but not as many people will come to Cardiff. There is a perception of Wales as being really far.

Sometimes the community can be quite insular. I think especially for contemporary dance, Wales is less developed – it is only in the last decades that you’re hearing about Wales for dance. Wales has got great theatre and music, for centuries, but dance is a bit weaker.

Wales is the only country in the UK which doesn’t have a dance conservatoire, I know a lot of young Welsh dancers who go to London or Europe to train and never come back. 

How successful do you think Cardiff has been in making itself a creative capital, particularly in your area of work?

I think it is in the process of getting successful, contemporary dance in Cardiff. When I talk to people outside of Wales about Wales, they say ‘oh, it is such a collaborative community’ so I think that what is known for in dance especially. I think dance artists have found themselves to be successful by trying to bring dance as a medium into other art forms. Let’s introduce dance to another art form and see how it can fit within that. That is what I want to do – more interdisciplinary work, which has got movement as a base but how can it be supported by other artists?

We only have one fully funded dance company – National Dance Company – and they have to fly the flag for the whole of Wales, which is quite a big task.

In your opinion, what do you think needs to happen to make Cardiff a more creative city?

I know there are already some, but I think Cardiff needs a big hub for creative people. There needs to be a big space for artists not only to be able to cowork, but studio spaces for rehearsals and where designers can make sets and costumes, a place where they can use projection. There are a lot of little pockets but because they’re little, they are quite specific. I think if we could bring all of them together, more people into a bigger space there will be more momentum. You can share knowledge much more quickly if it all happens in the same building. Some of these exist but sometimes they can be intimidating for artists to walk in because they’re run by big organisations which, if an artist hasn’t got a connection to them, they may feel like they can’t go in there.

What do you think Creative Cardiff should try to achieve?

I find Creative Cardiff great for opening up nice opportunities to share their knowledge and get knowledge from experts on subjects artists are interested in but might not have a background in. I haven’t heard of that anywhere else in the UK, this open sharing. Is there a way Creative Cardiff could bring more artists and academics together – we can run a workshop about architecture and city planning but can we also put a call out to artists to come in and be a part of it. Or if an artist has a sharing, they could invite academics in. It is also our responsibility as artists to keep building that bridge.

Describe your favourite creative place to work in Cardiff.

It depends on what I’m working on. I don’t like to work from home, because I get nothing done. I like to be surrounded by people and meet other people while I’m working. Sometimes I go National Dance Company Wales or National Theatre Wales to see if they have a desk free to work from as well as the usual Chapter Arts Centre. I don’t like to work from the same place, I like to change space so it might change my perspective. In the winter, I go to Little Man Coffee.

Can you pick one creative person in Cardiff who we should go and find out more about?

Jo Fong – she is a dance artist. What I admire about her, and I agree with her on, is the need for humanity in movement. We are human beings and we can move together, not just bodies. And the other one is the female-run collective called Groundwork Pro, all dance makers. They have created something really unique to Cardiff which it was missing. Cardiff never had daily professional classes if you were a dance artist or dancer, there was never that opportunity to stay in touch with your body. They provide workshops and classes in different venues throughout the month and bring in dance practitioners from across Wales and beyond to run them. People travel from Bristol or London for these workshops and I know a lot of dancers who are moving back to Wales, because they hear there is something happening. Something moving.

What’s next for you? What projects are on the horizon? What new ideas are you working on?

Omerta is about the role of women in Italian Mafia families, it’s dark and liberating with powerful music and beautiful black lace costumes which will feature in Roots by National Dance Company. Roots is a guided tour though contemporary dance; paired with a discussion at the end to help you get to the heart of the stories. You can ask anything you like or just sit back and enjoy. Find out more and book.

Image by Nicole Guarino

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