Interview with Caldonia Walton, dance performer and choreographer

2020 was a year of loss, grief, and radical, uninvited change. Caldonia's new dance on screen, Holding Onto Ourselves, immortalises those emotions, and invites the audience to reflect on how they felt in April 2020 and what's changed a year later. 

Interview with Caldonia Walton, dance performer and choreographer

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?

Hello, my name is Caldonia Walton, and I'm a dance performer, teacher and choreographer. My company Caldonia Dances tells original stories through movement, music, spoken word and film. We take audiences on a journey, engaging emotions, making them laugh & sparking conversation. Works such as Weight/Wait(stage production) and Holding Onto Ourselves (film) are shared and presented across West Midlands and London. 

As a performer I've worked with dance companies such as Autin Dance Theatre, Cascade Dance Theatre, RANSACK DANCE, Mad Dogs Dance Theatre, Cirque Bijou & more. My choreography has been shown at The Royal Opera House Linbury Theatre, The Southbank Centre, The Place, LFW, Tristan Bates Theatre, Chl4 Random Acts & more. I teach my own online class The Movement Class and teach contemporary dance and fitness at studios across London. 

How did you first get into the creative industry?

From a young age, I was taken to art/dance/drama classes! Then continued to pursue creative subjects through GCSE, A Level, BTEC to Degree. 

Can you tell us about Holding Onto Ourselves? What inspired it, and what should an audience expect from it?

Holding Onto Ourselves is a work of its time. It was created in April 2020, at the beginning of that new, inside, unknown time of our lives. It's a reflection of emotions felt at the start of the pandemic, and the grief we were holding for the loss of our previous life. I would hope audiences can relate to the movement and emotion in each section, whilst also reflecting on how they felt then and now, one year on. 

This time last year you were planning on going into the DanceXchange studio to produce a piece of work, but Covid-19 forced you to change that. How different is Holding Onto Ourselves from what you initially hoped to create?

Very different! That work was going to be an outdoor, promenade performance for unusual spaces in Birmingham, and lots of audience members. 

And what was the process of pivoting to an entirely virtual creation process like? Have you ever worked like this before?

I actually relished the new opportunity to dig deeper into dance on screen. I'd wanted to make dance for camera again for a while but hadn't had an opportunity come up. Though none of us had worked like this before! I think it was challenging for the dancers to feel completely involved as they were in their houses, and not in a dance studio that felt separate from their home lives. However we were all really grateful for something to keep us focussed during that first month of lockdown. 

Were there any notable similarities or differences from in-person working?

Learning choreography was much harder and took a lot of brain power to figure out directions of the body, as you can only see each other on these small 2D screens! I also felt my back was slumped over the laptop much more, and after working would need to take considerable time out from the computer to rid a headache. I felt more burnt out after working in this way than I would have in a studio. 

And on the same thread, were there any surprising challenges or benefits to this style of working?

I was still able to research, explore and dig deeper into my personal dance style and creation methods, which was a joy. When the process went online, this was initially all I thought I'd be able to do. It was seeing the 'Zoom' layout of four boxes on screen that made me want to create the work into a film – this style of working directly influenced the style of the end product. I've also learnt how to effectively edit on DaVinci Resolve

How much collaboration occurred between yourself and the other dancers? Did they feed into the process, or was this fully driven by your vision?

They fed in a lot! I would lead long improvisations around certain emotions with different leading body parts or ideas, and then luckily, would have it all filmed, and could go back and pick all the moments I enjoyed to put together for a sequence or to ask a dancer to learn and remember. 

You worked with composer and musician Ping Lee to create a soundtrack for Holding Onto Ourselves. Where did that fit in the timeline of production? Was it happening alongside the choreography, or did you film the dancers and then create music for the footage?

The film was created in stages. The improvisation work led me to create five sections to the film that travel through the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance/hope. We filmed sequences and improvisations for each stage but it was only through the editing that the musicality, style & rhythm of each section arose. I would then give each section at a time to Ping and he would create music in line with my edit. It took a lot of back and forth and re-edits to fit to the music better or suggestions between the two of us on how to convey the message with more clarity for each moment. It's not only the music, but also all the extra body sounds – breath, movement of clothing, speech – that takes time!

How have you managed to stay creative during the numerous lockdown periods?

Editing this film kept me very creative & interested in dance on screen throughout the year! Then, I have set up my own class called The Movement Class Online, which uses dance, yoga, pilates and breath to open and release the body, and I've enjoyed continuing to research about different movement practices to inform this work. I've managed to read lots of books, watch lots of films and take a dance class most mornings with my housemates, whilst still teaching online and working on creative projects for RANSACK Dance. 

And is there anything that you’ve learned from lockdown that you’ll incorporate into your practice going forward?

To continue to make more time for reading, writing, exploring and learning to inform and deepen my dance teaching and choreography. 

What message would you send to 16-year-old Caldonia if you could?

Keep exploring, making and sharing your work. Follow your own path!

Where can people find more of your work?

Instagram @caldoniadances 

The Movement Class:

Holding Onto Ourselves is a new, 10-min  dance on screen created by Caldonia Dances. Created entirely on Zoom & filmed individually in each  dancer's houses, it moves through emotions felt at the start of the pandemic.

Creatives and cast 

Choreographed, directed & edited by Caldonia Walton  

Dancers: Katie Albon, Lisa-Sofia Ziemann, Robert Hemming, Caldonia Walton 

Music by Ping Lee 

Vocal Work by Lis Murphy and Cléa Thomasset.

Header Image Credit: Provided


Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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