Run away to the Circus..

You never forget your first time with NoFit State circus.  Mine was January 2013 seeing the sensational Bianco (literally) on stage at Wales Millennium Centre.  It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.  Never before had I seen such death-defying stunts, such strength and such raw excitement from a company.

So when I saw that this world-class show had returned to Cardiff, this time taking place in the big top, I knew I had to see it again.  After a pretty vanilla few weeks, I needed that NoFit State injection of madness.  I needed to be transported to another world.

Stepping inside the big top, you knew something incredible was going to happen.  This expectation and intrigue in the air was palpable.  As the performers started “setting the stage”, limbering up and yelling instructions to one another, as the live band (an epic addition to the performance) started to play, the big top was totally absorbed.  And that says a lot seeing as it was a matinee performance; it must be the first time I have been to a performance at this time when a room full of children were silent the whole time.  It really does say a lot about the power of the production.

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Property of NoFit State website

And once it kicked off, it really kicked off.  Aerial stunts that left me totally speechless, my heart threatening to explode out of my chest… how could these stunts be physically possible?  How could the human body move in such a magical way?  What was truly spectacular however, was the way NoFit State told a story purely through the power of movement.  From start to finish a mesmerizing story unfolded before our eyes.  In my opinion, no other touring company quite manages to tell a story like they do.  It was intoxicating.  They managed to perfectly balance the raucous hysteria one might associate with the circus in big group numbers with intimate, sensual solo and duets; of course accompanied with absolute perfection by the band.

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bianco

Property of NoFit State website

Every performer was flawless, with a total disregard for gravity.  This team did things that humans should not be able to do.  They challenged the boundaries of physics and gave world-renowned gymnasts a run for their money.  Each one was fully engulfed in their character, making the performance all the more believable.

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Property of NoFit State website

After an extravagant two hours of explosive stunts, Bianco closed in a simple, beautiful and artistic manner.  The perfect close to the party, it drew this awe-inspiring show to a subtle and sophisticated finale.

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Property of NoFit State website

NoFit State are masters of the profession.  Forget clowns and slap-stick humour, forget the wackiness for the sake of it of Cirque du Soleil.  What NoFit State manage to do is present a magical world in a contemporary and classy way.  They take the audience on a journey, leaving them dazzled and delirious.  For anyone who ever dreamed of running away to the circus, this is the show for you.  For anyone who didn’t, you’ll leave ready to pack your bags.

Bianco is showing in the Big Top until June 7.  For £15, this spectacle is worth every penny.  Find out more here. 

 

 

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SHAKESPEARE AS YOU’VE NEVER SEEN IT..

Tequila, pizza and gold spangled pants – no, it’s not a scene from your Uncle’s stag do, but rather a euphoric chunk from Filter Theatre‘s (in association with RSC‘s) production of Twelfth Night.  A 90 minute explosion of hysteria, live music and playfulness, this contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic was not for the faint-hearted.

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Held at Sherman Cymru, the play opened up with the foolishly lovable Orsino (played by Shakespeare veteran, Jonathan Broadbent) uttering those famous words: “If music be the food of love, play on!”.  And play on they did.   From start to finish, the show was mayhem – in the best sense of the word.  Well known for their bold and boundary pushing work, Filter Theatre has taken this churned out classic and spun it on its head making it more accessible – and more bizarre – than ever before.  The cast were comically en pointe, interweaving the much loved words of Shakespeare and the fresh, imaginative mind of director Sean Holmes.  With plentiful opportunities for audience interaction (including a theatre wide conga line!), the play had the room gripped from the word go.

And what was so incredibly refreshing to see was the hugely diverse audience.  People of all ages spanned across the theatre; it truly paid homage to the work of Filter, and the excitingly expansive audience their joyous adaptations called out to.

Really it’s difficult to sum up the experience the show gave me.  Part of me left bouncing off the walls, and the other half left not knowing what the hell had just happened.  Whatever it was, it was infectious.  Was it Shakespeare for me?  Probably not, but then who’s to say that’s a bad thing?  What Filter did was take what has become a rather tired piece of work and dazzled it into a heady concoction of carnival like splendour.  If you’re looking for a night to just let go and have some real laughs in the process, then this is a must see.  Although please be warned – you may never look at yellow socks the same way again.

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!

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!