National Dance Company Wales (NDCW) are well renowned for their intricate, slick and dynamic work. An award-winning company, their pioneering work is challenging and thought provoking; exactly how contemporary dance should be.
Today their Spring Tour visited Sherman Cymru, and I was lucky enough to be able to experience their beautiful work. For me, contemporary dance is up there as a favourite form of art. I love the way it challenges expectations, using the body in a divine way that seems utterly impossible.
Of course, the production did all this and more. Kicking off with Mythology, the dancers performed as a community, delicately bringing their separate movements and motifs together as one to create a unity. The dance gradually built up in a frenzy of movement; you almost didn’t quite know where to look.
But then as the dancers drew together, and the individual movements bounced off one another, they created something truly amazing. In a split second you could see exactly what Shropshire was aiming to do with his choreography; creating something all-together greater through the sum of its individual parts.
He likens this to the culmination of the company over four years, together creating a vision and a philosophy of movement. A true testament to the power of the company and the journey it has taken to become an internationally recognised dance group.
Mythology was powerful and consuming; accompanied by a Frederic Rzewski’s Coming Together, an avant-garde composition for piano, jazz ensemble and spoken word, it was clever, expressive and deeply reflective.
The Seek To Find The Happiness They Seem was totally different.
Whilst Mythology was an ensemble of manic yet controlled group work, this piece was a simple and moving duet between two exquisite dancers.
An effortless portrayal of the inner world between couples and individuals, the dance told a classic story of dislocation and separation within a relationship. With a single spotlight on the dancers, it begins reflecting an apparent closeness, with intimate movements and a breathtaking closeness of bodies. Despite the beautiful accompaniment, it was as if the room was completely silent; eerie almost. You felt you could have heard a single pin drop… as if had you made a noise, the movements would have stopped.
It was as if you were peeking through a key-hole at this unraveling relationship, watching an initial intimacy turn to loneliness. Both dancers were superb; their movements were smoke-like, floating across the stage and into your sub-conscious. It was mesmerizing.
Closing with my highlight of the evening, Water Stories was sure to be the crowd pleaser. This piece focused on the magical waterscapes of Wales, creating a poetic and spine-tingling world of movement on stage.
The costumes perfectly complemented the allusion of lakes, waterfalls, reservoirs… the gentle yet powerful fluidity of water. This, alongside the dancers effortlessly flowing movements, made the piece incredibly believable. Even for a non-contemporary mind, the subject matter was shouting out.
Every dancer had the opportunity to shine. Whereas I can normally focus on one performer and (secretly) pick my favourite, the choice was far too rich here. Each individual was exceptional, taking dance to whole new levels. The flexibility and strength of everyone on stage was jaw-dropping. Throwing one another across the stage as if made of feathers, sinking in and out of the most stunning holds and stretches, whilst remaining in an ethereal state made this piece hypnotic to watch.
During the dance projections of enchanting Welsh waterscapes were presented to the audience, allowing a literal representation of the very abstract movements. It was a delightful touch, and a charming way to draw the topic, movements, music and costume in harmony with one another.
I found myself wishing this piece would never end. It was sublime, with some of the most exciting and natural lift work I have seen in a dance production. I loved the attention it paid to every performer, and the variety of pace, power and emotion it reflected.
This was the first time I had seen NDCW. After tonight, I will absolutely be following their journey and their performances, and cannot wait for their next visit to the city.
If you find yourself on their touring remit, I urge you to introduce yourself to their spell-binding work. You will not be disappointed!