The National Dance Company Wales returned to Cardiff’s Millennium Centre earlier this week
along with some help from the Royal Welsh College Symphony Orchestra. I was there to see what the company dancers had to offer this year.
The first arrangement, named “Virtual Descent” by choreographer, Eleesha Drennan, was a thought-provoking piece of contemporary dance. The company dancers gracefully manipulating a large staircase that descended from the wings. Ultramodern looking cut out costumes added to the illusion of a futuristic setting but it was the use of isolations that really gave the sense of a future life.
Frantic arm isolations contrasted with fluid upper body ripples to present a juxtaposition of the robotic and the free. Similarly, moments where the dancers were in unison opposed the highly individual based arrangements. It seems, therefore, that Drennan’s choreography successfully captures the idea of modern technology in opposition to the need for traditional communication in an evolving dystopia at the bottom of the stairs.
So, if it is easy-going, carefree dance that you enjoy, then this arrangement will certainly not be your cup of tea. Overall, the technicality of the piece should be applauded- dancers were strong throughout, excluding moments when lateral extensions could have been cleaner. I admire this unique and deeply inspired arrangement but propose a warning to those who don’t fancy a hard hitting, philosophical twist on your standard contemporary routine.
Meanwhile, Angelin Prelijocaj’s “Noces” was entirely different again. The arrangement seemed enthused with Eastern European folk dance and influenced by the choreographer’s experience of Balkan tradition. The male-female partner work added to this with athletic lifts and real energy as the men fling their women into the air.
But as with the previous arrangement, Noces is far more thoughtful than a purely aesthetic inspired choreography. Prelijocaj uses a number of soft mannequins in the shape of lifeless brides to present a poignant and cynical perspective of the wedding day. The brides are tossed violently around the stage and the story the dancers tell appears more tragic than celebratory. One word that I will use to describe Noces is passionate. The dancers are full of passion throughout and the choreography manages to preserve a balance of being dynamic, entertaining and mentally stimulating all at once.
Finally, we came to what I suggest is the pinnacle of the tour- the emphatic highlight of the evening that was Stephen Petronio’s “Water Stories”. The piece is a collaboration of stunning dance sequence, breathtaking photography of Welsh landscape projected onto the backdrop and an incredible score by Atticus Ross- composer of the score for The Girl With Dragon Tattoo and The Social Network. The piece was cleverly amalgamated to incorporate all of these elements in a lyrical masterpiece. Dancers glided across the stage in a wave of assemblé en tournants, mimicking the waterways that appeared behind them.
My only criticism would be of the opening sequence. While the penchés were precisely elegant they seemed slightly unbalanced due to the dramatic difference in stature of the two solitary dancers. But this is me being intensely pedantic as my decidedly blank notepad proves. I was truly swept away by both the stunning choreography and the dynamic music that really did propel the choreography.
All in all, a hugely successful evening for NDC Wales and a tour that presents an eclectic trio of contemporary arrangements.