Making music on the fly

18 January 2018

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As his name suggests, Harlem’s Dandy Wellington cuts a dapper figure on stage as bandleader in “Club Swizzle”. But his role in this highly-anticipated cabaret/circus fusion (from the creators of the hugely popular “La Soiree”) is about much more than fashion. Seesaw was thrilled to have the chance to catch up with the charismatic Dandy to find out about his life as a musician.

“The most important thing when creating any piece is to live in the moment when performing it.” – Dandy Wellington. Photo: Julia Bahlsen.

Seesaw: When did you first know that you wanted to be an artist?
Dandy Wellington: Well, I grew up performing in school plays and acting groups. I always loved singing and dancing but I never thought “I want to become an artist”. I think that would have been too insightful for a five years old kid. I did, however, get a strong sense that it was something I really enjoyed around middle school, and fully pursued it in high school, college and beyond.

S: Did you do formal training, learn on-the-job, or a bit of both? 
DW: I went to New York University’s Tisch School of the Art where, after four years, I received a BFA in Acting but as for my education in nightlife and event producing, much of that took place outside of school. As a bandleader and producer in New York I spend most of my day dealing with the logistics of the event all of which I learned through trial and error.

S: Describe your artistic practice
DW: As a bandleader much of what I do on the bandstand is improvised. I’m arranging on the fly, based on the vibe and tempo of the song and instrumentation of the band. It’s about listening to the musicians and creating from there; making artistic decisions and being able to expound upon or abandon them depending on how the performance is going at that moment.

When I build acts as a dancer, I take a similar approach but in the rehearsal space, finally arriving on what the act will be after a period of development. However the most important thing when creating any piece is to live in the moment when performing it. Only then can you allow the act the develop organically around its beats.

S: Career highlight so far?
DW: My top three career highlights thus far have been: Performing at the Sydney Opera House, being in the 2016 Spring/Summer Barney’s campaign and recording my most recent album with my band.

S: Career lowlight?
DW: I believe a career lowlight is just a highlight that hasn’t happened yet. Most situations in performing can be used a learning tools.

S: What do you love most about what you do?
DW: I love connecting the audience with the history of what I do and honouring the legacy of those who inspire me; generations of song and dance men who paved the way for me, people of colour who have broken down barriers so that I may step over the threshold and pursue my own artistic dreams. I love having the opportunity to honour them.

S: Aside from performing in Club Swizzle, what are you looking forward to seeing/doing at Fringe?
DW: I’m looking forward to taking the culture of FRINGE WORLD. What happens when artists from around the world converge on one place to display their talents? I’ll soon find out.

Club Swizzle previews 25 January, season runs 27 January to 25 February at the Ice Cream Factory.

Pictured top is Dandy Wellington performing in Club Swizzle at the Sydney Opera House. Photo: Prudence Upton.

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