DANCE THAT TAKES YOUR BREATH AWAY..

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.

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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.  

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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PREVIEW: NDCWALES EXCITE THE CAPITAL..

This month the awe-inspiring National Dance Company Wales (NDCW) will be returning to Sherman Cymru with a triple-bill of dynamic dance and classic Welsh talent.

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The award-winning contemporary dance company are taking their ever intelligent and inspiring work on a tour of Wales and England, with a one-day stint at Sherman on 10 February.  This season’s programme features the work of world-class choreographers and promises to be a mesmerizing and intoxicating series of dance.

The intriguing triple bill includes:

Stephen Petronio; Water Stories

In an exclusive premiere of his latest work for NDCW, Stephen Petronio teams up with Grammy-winning composer Atticus Ross (who created the score for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as well as the original visual design work of Matthew Brandt.  A delightful combination of sound, movement and sight, Water Stories portrays the magical and abundant waterscapes of Wales.

 Lee Johnston; Purlieus and They Seek To Find the Happiness They Seem

Working with the talented lighting designer Joe Fletcher, Lee Johnston presents two beautiful pieces of work.  Purlieus explores the intricate relationship between movement, light and animation in a bid to fully immerse both audience and performer in an overwhelming experience.  They Seek To Find The Happiness They Seem focuses on choreography, lighting and costume to evoke visions of dislocation and separation in relationships.

 Stephen Shropshire; Mythology

Stephen Shropshire’s captivating Mythology promises to capture and astound the audience.  Accompanied by Frederic Rzewski’s Coming Together, an avant-garde composition for piano, jazz ensemble and spoken word, this piece promises to attack the senses and absorb its audience.

Tickets are £15 – £22 with under 25s half price.  Book your tickets here.

THE BIG 2013 ROUND-UP..

After starting this little blog only five months ago, I’ve been invited to some fantastic shows and events.  I’ve had tickets to the ballet, Shakespeare, site-specific dance, political comedies and daringly realistic plays.  I could not be more grateful that these fantastic, exciting theatres and companies have wanted me to review their brilliant shows; the arts scene in Cardiff is superb, and something I am incredibly passionate about, so to be able to express my opinion on it is a wonderful feeling.

So in good New Year fashion I have decided to post my “top five” events of 2013.  Here’s to many more inspiring shows in 2014!

5) Cedar Lake

NECESSITY, AGAIN, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Baden Baden, Germany.

Contemporary ballet is my favourite form of dance, and Cedar Lake ticked every single box for me.  The New York dance company are known for their edgy, adventurous performances, daring to be different whilst providing exceptional talent through their awe-inspiring dancers.   This trio of performances was exciting, dynamic and captivating.  The time flew by, leaving me wanting more from this exciting company.  And more I certainly got, as a few weeks later I won a signed programme from the team – perfect!

 

4) Takeover Cardiff

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In October I followed the first Takeover Cardiff (put on by British Council Wales).  I interviewed three fantastic international artists and then attended the day long event before writing a review of the whole event.  The event was thought-provoking and touching; a showcase of young talent in South Wales, it took artists to the iconic cultural hubs of Cardiff.  These were kids that would normally not be given the platform to play out their talent.  British Council Wales gave them the chance to throw it into the public’s attention.  The day left me feeling like anything was possible if only you have the passion, confidence and drive to achieve it.  A stunning event which I will always remember.

 

3) The Selfish Giant

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Although not technically a performance, I can’t have a write up of 2013 without mentioning The Selfish Giant.  Clio Barnard’s modern adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s fairy tale classic affected me in a way that I’m not sure a film ever has before.  It was poignantly beautiful and utterly raw, leaving me quite literally breathless in the closing scenes.  It is a film that didn’t shy away from the uncomfortable truths encapsulating modern society, whilst reflecting the most delicate friendships and love in a superb way.

 

2) Clod Ensemble’s An Anatomy in Four Quarters

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Last month I was invited to a rather unusual show.  The advertising around it gave little away.  I had no idea what to expect… but always keen to see something new, I went into it with an open mind and intrigue.  What I experienced was something I could never have expected.  An Anatomy in Four Quarter’s was spellbinding, exquisitely intelligent and overwhelmingly consuming.  A mesmerizing combination of drama, music, dance and spoken word, the performance brought the audience into the performance and took us on a journey through the anatomy of the body and the theatre.  It really was an exceptional experience, and one of those performances that days later still left you questioning the deep messages behind every movement.

 

1) Dirty Protest’s Parallel Lines

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There is no doubt for me that the highlight of 2013 was Parallel Lines by Dirty Protest theatre company.  The powerful play depicted the gritty and forbidden relationship between a seemingly perfect teacher and an under privileged student, set on the simple set of two parallel kitchens.  Everything about this play was superb; the acting, the script, the direction… it all fell together in a fantastic presentation of class, truth and relationships.  The deeply disturbing subject matter was portrayed with maturity, authenticity and skill; Katherine Chandler truly has a talent for the written word.  I cannot do this play justice; but what I can say is I cannot wait to throw myself into more of Dirty Protest in 2014.

 

I hope you all have a beautiful New Year!  Let me know of any shows that have made your 2013 special… and remember, email me if you would like me to review any of your shows in 2014! Peace!

ANATOMY GETS A SPELLBINDING TWIST WITH CLOD ENSEMBLE..

Clod Ensemble are a company renowned for breaking the barriers of traditional drama.  They challenge, they experiment and they throw themselves into the public’s attention.  Unafraid to take risks, they take their work into new territories, forcing the audience to re-think their expectations and perception of theatre.

An Anatomie in Four Quarters was of course no exception to this.  Despite knowing about the enchanting work of Clod, I really did not know what to expect.  The press and marketing around the performance gave little away; a bold (but wise) decision in my opinion.

Before the performance, the audience were led to the top floor of the Wales Millennium Centre.  Looking at my ticket, I realised that we hadn’t been assigned seats.  Everyone around looked the same as I felt: a bit confused, uncertain of what to expect and excited.  We were led into the upper circle where we were told to fill the middle four rows.  A hush fell across the auditorium.  And with that, the most exciting and thought-provoking piece of theatre I have ever seen begun with an almighty bang.

An Anatomie in Four Quarters was “a celebration of the physical structure of the bodies we inhabit and the ways we attempt to see, define, contain, name and value them.”  It took the way we perceive the body and broke it into a million pieces, threw it around a bit and then pulled it back together.  The way Clod played with choreography, audience viewpoint and music was exceptional.  Each movement was a mesmerizing dissection of the body, taking hold of your senses and pulling you into the performance.

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Presented in “four quarters”, each section of the performance literally took the audience on a journey across the beautiful space that is the Donald Gordan Theatre.  Travelling from the Upper Circle, to the Raised Stalls, down to the Lower Stalls and then eventually up onto the stage, the audience was provided with the tools to view the performance from a variety of compelling positions.  The dancers themselves used the theatre to its full advantage, crossing between the main stage, the seating area and even positioning themselves across the ceiling (with only their feet visible to the audience).  It was an experience I have never had before.  Not only was it captivating to perceive the same piece of dance from different perspectives, but also to be introduced to different areas of the theatre was a beautiful experience.

Clod Ensemble, An Anatomie in Four Quarters.

The music across the four sections also played a huge part in the evening.  Slipping between live strings, percussion, bagpipes and a powerful guitar and drum score, the audience was again forced to reconsider the way they saw the dance.  My personal favourite composition was the partnership between the enthralling contemporary movements and the heavy rock accompaniment.  It took my breath away.  Two seemingly parallel forms of art were presented in a way that was natural, dynamic and explosive.  I literally found myself leaning forward in my seat, jaw-dropped, as I was pulled further and further into the performance.

The final section had to be the highlight.  Invited onto the stage, the audience were encouraged to take their time as they weaved in and out of the performers.  Standing so close to these exceptionally-talented dancers was incredible.  You could see every single bit of muscle definition, the sheer strength of their movements and the fluidity of their bodies.  Unfazed the dancers performed just as beautifully as when you were sat right at the back of the theatre.  Staring at you straight in the eyes you were drawn even more deeply into the performance.

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As the audience took to the seats at the back of the stage, the show continued. Seeing it from this position, and seeing the empty theatre in all its glory was the most exhilarating feeling.  You were a part of the performance.  You were a part of the dissection.

Closing in a spectacular way (a way that I don’t want to give away!) the audience erupted.  Together we had been taken on the most fascinating journey, and the ending drew it to a close in the most spellbinding fashion.

An Anatomie in Four Quarters was the perfect blend of video and spoken art, live music, site specific choreography and audience interaction.  It was adventurous, intelligent and hypnotic; it called into question everything you might have considered classic art.

You cannot put into words the feeling it left you with.  It really is something that has to be seen to be believed.

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CEDAR LAKE BRING THE PARTY TO WALES..

Last night I had the pleasure of visiting the Wales Millennium Centre for the opening night of Cedar Lake – a contemporary ballet group from New York.

The show comes as part of the company’s first UK tour, and was a group I hadn’t heard a great deal about in the past.  At the fresh age of only 10 years old, the advertising around the show portrayed a fun, edgy take on contemporary ballet.  Needless to say, I was excited to see what they had to offer.

The performance was broken down into three separate performances.  Their subject matter remained entirely different, promising a dynamic and varied evening.

Kicking off with Indigo Rose, a piece choreographed by Jirí Kylián, I was immediately blown away by the sheer talent and poise of the dancers gracing the stage.  An explosion of movement catapulted across the floor, with male dancers crossing the stage in pairs.  The strength and timing of their movements was second to none, and grabbed your attention from the opening step.  The strength was combined with a playful nature all the dancers seemed to have – expressive faces and cheeky movements kept the whole thing fresh and entertaining.

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Photography by Jane Hobson

The duets then turned to male and female performers – an absolute favourite for me when it comes to dance.  There is nothing more romantic than a male and female dancer moving in time, elegantly using one another’s bodies to create sublime movements.  The two duets on stage here were brilliant – the only problem was knowing which one to watch!  The dancers appeared to float across the stage with ease, almost like feathers spiraling through the air.

The highlight of the performance came as a sail-like sheet was brought across the stage, taking over the space.  In a festival like frenzy of dance, the performers created shadows across the sheet, creating a range of different perspectives.  They ducked in and out of the sheet, evoking an exciting and fast paced atmosphere.

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Photography by Jane Hobson

The manic pace was brought to an abrupt halt in this section’s final scene, in which an eerie feel swept over the theatre.  Dancers halted on stage in active stillness, whilst poignant projections were magnified in the background.  A hush went over the audience, and the lights went out on the stage.

This exciting opening showcased the exceptional talent of the dancers, and the intricate imagination that went into the work.  The sudden change of atmosphere was intriguing, and left me wondering where the company would take the next dance.

The second performance Ten Duets on a theme of Rescue, choreographed by Christine Pite, was a peice that leant more on the contemporary side.  The dance didn’t rely on fancy costumes or exceptional sets; it was a simple dance delicately portraying a potent theme.  As suggested in the title, it included ten powerful duets, all telling a different tale of rescue – a word that portrays so much.  Pite’s focus here was to evoke these same meanings through the movement of the body, scattering fragments of the theme across the stage.  And she certainly did this well – the dance was touching, and portrayed a deep longing and need for help from the dancers.  It was simple but effective.

Although this piece didn’t quite grab me the way Indigo Rose did, that’s not to say I didn’t appreciate it as a beautiful piece of dance.  Due to my own tastes, I prefer the more up-tempo, adventurous side to dance – however, the underlying story of Ten Duets was moving and incredible to watch.

Cedar Lake closed the show with the fantastic Necessity, again, choreographed by Jo Strømgren.  This show-stopper was bursting with energy.  It played homage to the space between words, and the idea that there is a dull necessity to formulate everything we do into words.  Letting go of the controlled and methodical notion of the word, it expressed pure emotion and a disregard to rationality.  This translated on stage into an exciting finale, where a set of letters pegged to a washing line formed a chaotic creation – the dancers performed beneath falling showers of letters, portraying a total indifference to the words displayed on them.

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NECESSITY, AGAIN, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, Baden Baden, Germany.

Photography by Jane Hobson

The total lack of inhibition of the dancers was expressed through a series of group, solo and duet performances, with incredible lifts to leave the audience on the edge of their seats.  The only real way to describe it was that it was like the best party on earth displayed to you on stage.  I desperately wanted to jump on stage with the performers – they evoked unadulterated joy and the ability to totally let go.

The finale was performed to the infectious sound of Charles Aznavour, adding a french and – at times – sensual aroma to the whole show.  Fast paced, thrilling and out of control – it was mesmerizing.

Cedar Lake’s first trip to Cardiff ended to an ear-splitting reception from the crowd.  The dancers seemed humbled and genuinely happy to see such an incredible reception.

I would hugely recommend any dance fans to visit the WMC tonight for the second showing.  The talent on the stage last night was out of this world – it took my breath away.  I left the Centre feeling overwhelmed, happy as larry and overall… incredibly jealous!   Without a doubt I will be keeping my eye on this company from now on – going by last night, they are set to create phenomenal things!