NDC WALES: ROOTS 2019
Dance House, Cardiff, Tues 12 Nov
With Roots, National Dance Company Wales delivers four very different dance routines, each by different choreographers, and each exploring very diverse ideas of what dance can be in terms of movement and modality.
Nikita Goile’s Écrit took a letter from Frida Kahlo to Diego Rivera as inspiration. Power dynamics lay at the heart of this piece, informing its movements – sometimes swift and stark, at other times easeful and flowing – with the couple coming together only towards the end of the piece in some semblance of harmony (but still, even at this point, not touching, as if to reflect the long-distance of letter writing). At the beginning of the dance, Frida flowed up from the floor, her hands shifting into flowers and heart-like shapes; later, Diego’s form, seen only as a silhouette on a piece of sheet, grew, Jekyll-and-Hyde-like, to monstrous, almost demonic proportions, muscles bulging as Frida fell to the floor. The dynamics of that turbulent, but essentially loving relationship were beautifully and cleverly expressed.
Next up, Why Are People Clapping? by Ed Myhill saw five characters – dressed like something from Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five – dance to the sound of, as the title would suggest, clapping. This fun, frivolous, and sometimes very funny piece had me enthralled, and was my personal favourite of the showcase. Some saucy, seaside postcard moments, combined with concepts from childhood games and the playground, united to bring us a delightful, daring, and utterly captivating performance.
Codi by Anthony Matsena sought to express the solidarity of Welsh communities in times of strife, particularly during periods of depression and isolation. Dressed in orange boiler suits and adorned with headlamps, the dancers in this piece seemed part-coal miner (the scenery also suggested an underground setting) and part-prisoner, trapped in a nightmarish realm. Smoke hung heavy in the air and the music, too, was jarring at first and, later, choir-like. The use of long wooden sticks symbolised, to me, the Welsh bardic tradition, and the dancers, like poets, struck the floor as they came together in circle. The narrative journey, here, progressed from its characters being literally trapped within the earth, to finding connection with it. The piece’s message – of the importance of our connection to each other and to the earth – was extremely powerful.
Finally, Rygbi: Annwyl / Dear took our national game as its inspiration and impetus. Six dancers in colourful kit and sports socks showed us the ‘dance’ of this game, taking it to places at once familiar and imaginative. The hope, passion, and glory of the sport – of fighting to win, of combative play – was gorgeously explored, here. Choreographed by National Dance Company’s Artistic Director, Fearghus Ó Conchúir, this was an extremely accomplished piece.
Talks before and between the dances – from Fearghus, and with each other – helped the audience to connect with the work on show. However, irrespective of this, it was clear that these performances were of the highest possible calibre, and their ‘language’ – visible, tangible, yet speaking so much through their symbolism and associative power – was sublime. A stunning collection of pieces, that I would thoroughly recommend to a dedicated dance lover or dance-curious person alike.
words MAB JONES
Roots 2019 is touring venues across Wales. More info and tickets here.