Finding my body beautiful.

By Hildy Harland

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I have struggled my whole life with how I look. I have always had issues with my weight, my face, size of my head, how much body hair I sprout, having an uneven upper lip, having skin tags, dark skin pigmentation and so much more. I have spent years letting these imperfections and insecurities keep me down, but recently I have become more aware that in not embracing what I am naturally, I am holding myself back. This is MY body and I am responsible for it and the way I feel about it, so I made the conscious decision to stop hating it and decided to try and love it instead. I’m not saying I always feel great about myself because I definitely don’t but allowing myself to accept my imperfections and embrace them as a part of who I am, has honestly changed my life.

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I feel like I have been on this quest for so long, I tried to change myself so many times to  fit in with what the world sees as general beauty. As a performer and in particular a dancer, society tells me I should be thin and traditionally good looking, often tanned skin and definitely make up clad and I shouldn’t have body hair (or much of it at least). With these standards set for us how are we ever supposed to just enjoy what we are and be who we are? It’s difficult to override the standards and expectations that have been imposed on us by society and start to enjoy and appreciate our bodies for what they are. There is always a bit of a backlash to people being “proud” of certain aspects of their body, so let me be clear that I am not talking of pride in appearance but more of an acceptance, love and above all care. I have found in being an overweight person almost my whole life that hating myself and what I look like has got me nowhere and in fact has made my situation worse. In dark times of self hatred I have began to not care about myself and that is where things deteriorated both mentally and physically.

What I propose is that as a collective (in particular women but men are not excluded) we begin acceptance and re-focus our efforts on how we make ourselves feel and how we treat our bodies, trying to align with ourselves and our natural strengths rather than focussing on how weak, bad and wrong we think we might be. Positivity if shared can be an amazing travelling gift which I am hoping to pass on to you today in writing this blog

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My journey to finding myself beautiful has meant changes but not the changes I always thought they would be such as weight loss, hair removal, permanent make-up or keeping the perfect beauty regime. It has been a change within me to accept what I am and decide to care for it and love it, stop telling it that it looks wrong, stop thinking it is bad and stop using it as an excuse not to enjoy my life to it’s absolute fullest.

 I wanted to write this particular blog to emphasis the strength of accepting your body and yourself as they are, because as I have witnessed first hand within myself, it is only after that acceptance that you can start to move on to truly be our best self. So if there is anything other than a spot of self indulgence you can take from this b post, please let it be this, don’t waste time hating your body and how you look, it’s not worth it, don’t let it stand in the way of anything you want to do, it might be hard and scary but you can honestly make a difference not only to yourself and your own life but those around you.

Let’s be brave together and please do feel free to use this post to start conversations with myself an others!

Review: The Lovely Bones at Northern Stage

By Hildy Harland.

I do very few theatre reviews which don’t involve dance  in some way, shape or form however, when I was invited to review The Lovely Bones at Northern Stage I could not resist. There has been a great deal of hype on the scene about the arrival of this collaborative play at Northern stage which has joined forces with  Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Royal & Derngate, Northampton co-production and Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse to bring this disturbing, funny, heart wrenching and heart warming show to the stage.

Unlike many of the other audience members I had never read the book or even seen the film which is surprising as the film stars Saoirse Ronan one of my favourite actors of the past few years. I have been trying my hardest not to encounter any spoilers. I love to see new theatre as new rather than tainted by things I have seen, heard or read in the past. Usually a very hard thing to do most of the time but this was one of the rare occasions I succeeded almost completely. So needless to say I was really excited to see the show and experience it exactly for what it was.

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Credit : Sheila Burnett

 I will try to give away as few spoilers as possible but I would like to warn fellow theatre goers of the startling opening to the performance as I did very nearly shower my theatre neighbours with pepsi max when a loud blast of audio and flash of light caused me to jump out of my skin! The play begins with us meeting our main character Susie Salmon played by Charlotte Beaumont. She has been murdered, throughout the play we journey with her as she tries to evade heaven and remain with her living friends and family. There is also the matter of her unsolved murder and how she can get justice for her death.

The main thing I took from the show was how uniquely it looked on such a savage and horrific death of a teenager. The news in the world is constantly filled with the rape and murder of young people, in particular  young women abused and murdered by older men. This play brings us the side of the murdered and abused young woman who is so much more than what befell her. She is strong, capable, funny, loveable and even hopeful that things can still some how work out well in some way.

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Credit : Sheila Burnett

Her character is brought to life from the confines of her own personal “heaven” which at times is not as heavenly as you might think. The story is set in the early 1970’s through to 80’s so you can expect some great music to accompany this drama with a twist of deep meaning, philosophy and a touch of humour. I really feel like the feeling of youth shone through in this production not only through the way the material was created but through the performances of the younger actors, it really brought a fresh tone to this kind of drama.  There were lot’s of very strong performances particularly Susie, her father Jack Salmon played by Jack Sandle and MR Harvey Susie’s murderer played by Keith Dunphy, I also enjoyed Ayoola Smart as Lindsey Salmon (Susie’s Sister). Not to say that the rest of the cast weren’t great too although I did get a couple of little accent cringes now and again but I think when a British cast are doing an American play that is always bound to happen.

The piece is really creative with it’s doubling up on characters use of puppetry and even actors playing animals at some points. I really think this story of such a sensitive nature was told to perfection with some really strong thought put into how they could do such a story justice and inject humour and that feeling of youth without being dis-respectful to the sensitive themes explored within the storyline.  The whole cast and creative team truly have succeeded with “The Lovely Bones” and I would recommend you go and see it! It’s running from 9th-20th October at Northern Stage then moves on to Birmingham Repertory Theatre and New Wolsey Theatre.

Hildy’s Health Adventure: Psychotherapy, exploring my mental health.

with The Good Nature Company

I know I have been slightly quiet for a while, but it is mainly because I have really had to delve inside myself over the past few weeks and that can take it’s toll mentally which hasn’t left much time for blogging at the same time which I really never expected to happen. I felt like I needed some time to come to terms with what at the moment feels like a rather large job ahead!

There are a few issues which I just need to put my whole heart and mind into solving, which I will tell you all about later.

But for now here is an introduction to the lovely Julie from The Good Nature Company who will be giving me some Psychotherapy sessions we will be looking at the reasons I have emotional eating patterns and how I can take control of that.

Here is a little video from our first session and an introduction to what we will be exploring over the coming weeks.

 

Hildys Health Adventure: Post 3rd Hypnosis Session

Well I have had a fantastic week since my final hypnosis session. The bodily reaction will probably be slower than you all might like but to me this really is a good thing. It means that this is a life change that is very much do-able. It’s not a quick fix I am after, I don’t just want to lose a few pounds to fit into a dress I like. I really want to change my life! I want to look after my body and mind to the best of my ability and have the control and strength to that. I have not denied myself this week, I have simply tried to make better decisions and I very much believe the hypnotherapy sessions I have been receiving from Hummingbird Mind Therapy have been an integral part of me being able to gain that self control I have so long needed.

Here is a little vlog on how I have been feeling and how the final session (for now) went. 

Reveiw: Hedda Gabler at Theatre Royal Newcastle.

Amazingly enough I had never heard of Hedda Gabler  before I had seen it advertised a few times recently both up north and in London. I then found out it had been around since 1891 and was a little embarrassed I hadn’t come across it before now.

A few hours before the performance I did ask a fellow actor chum of mine if he had seen this classic completely unknown to me and it turns out he hadn’t seen it either so that comforted me a little.

I definitely get the feeling that this play was something quite unique at the time it was created, although I’m not too sure how well I think the story translates to the present day. Our main protagonist Hedda Gabler has just been married and arrived back from her honeymoon with her husband who we can see deeply adores her. (For a full synopsis of the story go click here)

Here is what I thought of the show!

 

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At the beginning of this month like most people I was contemplating the year ahead and what I wanted to achieve. I’ve set some very vague goals and targets for myself and for my career. Most of them involve self growth through  building on my practices and growing stronger as a performer.

As well building performance skills a huge part of my growth into making a living from what I do, is generating some physical evidence of my choreography skills. I have always been passionate about creation of movement and it really always has been something I really enjoyed and been told I am quite good at. Although I love being on stage I have had a few jobs recently where I have had fun directing and choreographing too.

Over Christmas I was cast in a play called Dark Christmas by emerging play-write Julian Kilburn. I not only got the chance to perform but actually fell into the role of doing a little bit of light hearted choreography for one of the final scenes.

Here is a little snippet from the night.

It was wonderful to work with actors and give them some movement built from the characters they have created and their stories. Everyone worked so hard learning the movement and giving it their own stamp, particularly as we ended up with such a small amount of time to work on things.

I am now looking to connect with more Theatre makers  and directors to work with in incorporating movement into their art as a choreographer. It would be wonderful to hear from anyone interested in working with me. Drop a comment below if you are interested or pop over to my Contact Hildy page.

Alphabetti: an amazing night of experimental theatre

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This really isn’t a review as such but I just wanted to mention how excited I was to finally hit this venue last night to see some new work by North East Artists.

I have been a very busy bee of late, starting up my new blog Dance Culture North East and am really making a big push to get to know lots of venues and people on the theatre scene in Newcastle Upon Tyne/Gateshead where I live and the rest of the North East.

I have been hearing great things since this small new theatre popped up in the basement of an old building just off Blackett Street in Central Newcastle and I thought “oow I must go there”. However through my own busy-ness/laziness I never did manage to make it to the original Alphabetti Theatre Venue, Unfortunately/Fortunately I don’t know which they would prefer me to say, the building within which they were housed was marked for demolition and knocked down along with the tearing down of the old Odeon (don’t get me started I still feel very sad about that). With much hard work and determination I’m sure, Alphabetti picked itself up, brushed itself off and found an amazing venue on ST James Boulevard close to a few other cool venues (Tyne Opera Theatre, Boulevards and Dance City) Is this area set to be our new place for a community of theatre venues in Newcastle? Maybe it could be?

Anyway I had heard about the new venue and had been watching the progress with bated breath on Facebook and Instagram, until finally this Autumn the doors opened and I attended my very first performance of ‘Write Faster’ which was definitely worth the wait.

 

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(Above: The georgous Rex resident pooch at Alphabetti helping out)

Write Faster is a concept devised by Alphabetti Theatre’s Founder Ali Pritchard and Richard Stockwell. It involves 3 writers, 3 actors, a typewriter, pens, paper a laptop and a whole lot of hilarity in this particular case. The writers basically have to write a play on the night of the play, As I walked in the three writers were already heavily in the swing of writing the first act and you could sit and watch them writing on the laptop screen which was projected onto the wall. Once the first act was written the performers came in and performed it (script in hand and amazingly well under the circumstances) and as they performed the second and third act were written, after what I think was the third act there was a short interval and the ends were tied up with a monologue for each character/performer. The performances were superb and the writing was completely engaging too somehow even though nobody really knew what was going on until it was happening it gelled together well and gave the audience a fantastic night of giggles mystery and crime!

So a huge thumbs up to Alphabetti Theatre and no doubt as they make superb vegan sweet treats and the café/bar is open during the day too, I shall be back for theatre and probably cake and coffee as well.

Hildy x

Diversity, where are you?

Recently I have had a bit of a rocky thought process, things business-wise have been going well and have really started to pick up, however, I think as soon as that happens and I can no longer find fault within myself, I start to find fault with the world, and jeez, we have a lot to find fault with in the world we are currently living in. But lot’s to celebrate too.

This week I have been thinking a lot about  the absolute lack of diversity in performing. If you aren’t a certain size, identify as a certain skin colour/race, are not conventionally pretty, or do not have any of the other perfect attributes you apparently need to play a leading human on stage or screen, then life is made very difficult.

I constantly receive casting calls which will not accept applicants (for very well-known period crime dramas in particular) over a womens uk size 12, because of ‘period costume’. Well I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy that! I should know, I buy a lot of what they call ‘Period costume’ and there is stuff out there! You can also buy amazingly authentic reproduction stuff too. I still however receive these emails every week or so, which has in part, lead to this blog post, turned rant.

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And this casting call in particular is only for extras work and small parts. There are tonnes of casting calls which define both men and women, just by what they look like before they even get to an audition! Is this me? Or is this completely wrong? Any other industry would be very hugely reprimanded for such goings on. I do understand that certain characters need certain attributes, and directors/writers have certain visions of what their characters should embody physically. However I am getting sick of seeing the fat girl as the best friend and many other cliché’s, which I’m sure you can think of!

I want to see the fat girl get the boy/girl and not even have her weight mentioned (not the girl getting the boy despite her being fat). I want to see a line of dancers, with all different skin tones, body shapes and heights. I want to see a more diverse world on my screen and in the theatre in general.

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The key to this is not making the person in a wheel chair the main character because they are in a wheel chair, but putting them in there because they have a talent and deserve to play the lead.  I am using the ‘person in a wheel chair’ and ‘the fat girl’ as examples but there are so many other people who are not represented enough on the screen and stage, because of their disability, skin colour, race, hair colour, dress size, height, sexual orientation, lack of ‘conventional prettiness’, accent, gender and probably so much more.

Now some people may argue, that there are simply not as many (let’s use again, women over a size uk 14 as an example), going to auditions, therefore they are less likely to be cast.  I do know first hand that before you can get to audition stage, even when sending a self-taped audition, a casting director will look at your headshot and judge you on your look, size, eye-colour, hair colour etc, which you have to include on every casting site and on your CV. Often in a casting call, all you have to do is read it to find out that if you are not blond-haired, or a UK size 8-12 and white, as a women, you are not ‘in demand’. I do believe that men get away with more as there are generally more main roles for men within theatre and TV which is simply a fact. However I am sure there are a lot of men who face the same judgement.

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I could go on forever and have so much to say on this subject, but I feel if I carry on any further I may never stop. So here is some food for thought to casting directors, agencies, choreographers, directors and anyone who has a hand in putting performers on stage or screen. We live in such a dynamic and diverse world, you may think your audience will expect your leading lady or gent, to look a certain way. You may imagine them in this way, and feel they ‘need’ to have a certain look in order for them to take on a certain character or persona. However that is not the case, this is probably in fact leading a lot of your audience to feel mis-represented or completely un-represented, alienating  them from your work. I do not look to irradiate the ‘conventional’, I merely hope to equalize and diversify casts and judge performers on their talent rather on the way they look.

Performance, be it on stage or screen is a social art, we need to make sure as creators that we are socializing with society as a whole, with an inclusive platform for our performers. This and only this will ensure that we can engage to our full potential with our audience and will strengthen and grow our art as never before.

Please feel free to leave your comments, this is such a huge subject to me and I believe really has a huge effect on a lot of things.

Hildy x

Fat girl vs Film-my adventure into public nudity for the sake of body positivity (part 2)

I did it!!!! ( I got completely naked for the camera! Sorry to keep you all in suspense but we were filming until 2am on Wednesday evening so I  had to catch up with sleep and what not yesterday. (If you don’t know what I’m babbling on about catch up by reading Fat girl vs Film-my adventure into public nudity for the sake of body positivity (part 1))

 Here is a little Vlog from on set.

 

But here I am, I took all of my clothes off and I stood in front of a group of people who filmed me naked. I do feel liberated but not to the point I thought I would, however I do feel more inspired and understanding of my body and mind and how they connect now. I think in me there is such a connection between body and mind that sometimes the length at which I over think things holds me back. Being instinctual and trying to quieten my mind in order to let my subconscious shine through is something I need to try and do more within my work and my general life.

As a performer I have learned that I need to listen to my instincts more and turn off my brain and let the subconscious do the work as when this happens I do work better and it often leads to some really great performances and creation.

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I have a lot to take from this experience, I can’t say I loved doing it and I can’t say I hated doing it, I certainly felt compelled to do it and am glad I did. I have always enjoyed pushing my limits and in the past few years I have done this a lot which has brought me to the current amazing situation I am in now in, making and being a part of living, moving art which is my passion. This passion has lead me all over in years gone by and now it leads me back to myself and a little phrase ‘do what you know’ comes to mind. What do I know better than my own body and mind right? nobody else knows them better than me. I want to couple that need for self exploration with the problems we have within our society regarding our outward form and the effect this can have on our minds, and I know that this experience has really helped me get an incite into how being told your body has to be a certain way to be displayed has a huge impact even when you think it hasn’t.

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My next step now is to have another good bloody natter! So I am going to try and organise another meet up via my Facebook page somewhere local to Newcastle upon tyne, so if your in the area and interested in chatting about your relationship with your body and many other things please do keep your eyes peeled for the event. However if you are from further afield please feel free to comment on the this post or on Facebook and share your stories and incites.

Hildy xx

Fat girl vs Film-my adventure into public nudity for the sake of body positivity (part 1)

Hi guys and dolls,

So as per my last post ‘Girl meets cake’ I have very much sunk myself into this project and only gone and got myself a job getting naked in a short film! The film takes a look into body positivity and is called ‘Made of Glass’, brought about by a lovely group of people who go under the name of ‘Abnormal Exit’ its part of a triology of short films looking at some issues faced by women.

So my body was picked from thousands of candidates or maybe that’s just what my lovely director Abbey Scargill told me.😉

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My first day on location was yesterday and we had an amazing day frolicking in the forest (fully clothed) I met the whole crew and had some giggles trying to win everyone over before I showed them my worst enemy (my naked form)! I felt really good yesterday focussing on my performance and the technicalities of filming, however as the day went on I was increasingly aware these people I barely know and am not planning on sleeping with will be seeing me in all my glory the next day and focusing on that for the majority of an evening/afternoon which made me increasingly nervous and anxious. I felt and still can’t help but think that I will be dissapointing, or too entertaining (as in laughed at rather than laughed with), there is also an element of potential disgust going round in my brain, I am basically thinking of every bad reaction scenario that the people who see me may have, this is also bizarrely quite comforting as it is me kind of preparing for the worst.

This morning I have made a little video after making every inch of my being ready for the trauma it was about to go through.

So here it is………..

I am currently in waiting to be called to set so until my next post I will simply say………..to be continued……….