Artistic Director: Caroline Finn
Reviewer: Barbara Michaels
A world premiere choreographed by the company’s young and talented recently appointed Artistic Director, Caroline Finn, kick-starts – if you will excuse the pun – the National Dance Company Wales’ spring tour. Folk is a series of dance variations exploring life and people in scenes that are sometimes familiar and sometimes not; social observations set to a mix of the music of Offenbach and Giraud’s Barcarola, Adam Hurst’s Midnight Waltz and Goldmund’s Threnody.
Opening with a Babes in the Wood scenario, there are allusions to fairy tales that Finn explores, digging beneath the surface and reflected in the dance patterns by a young and talented ensemble company which already hosts emerging dance stars of the future. Worthy of special mention are Camille Giraudeau and Elena Thomas for their fluidity and expressiveness coupled with sheer bravery at times. There is more than a nod to classical ballet here and full marks to Finn for not fighting shy of incorporating this in the contemporary dance style for which this company is already making its name.
Mention must also be made of the set. Dominating the stage a life-sized wide-branched tree, stark and leafless, is hung with a number of strange objects – such as a pair of stepladders – hanging from its branches, reminiscent – for those old enough to remember – of the Faraway tree in the Enid Blyton books. Used here to symbolise initiation, renewal and majesty, the tree is both a centrepiece and a symbol of the community.
Set and lighting designer Joe Fletcher, who worked closely with Finn, is to be congratulated. The atmosphere is timeless and surreal and Finn’s spatial awareness cannot be faulted but her choreography occasionally loses clarity. Nevertheless, with so much going on, the spread is such that the set never looks overcrowded.
In terms of contemporary dance Finn, is definitely on the right track. We will surely be seeing more of her work.
A strong supporting duo of contemporary dance items with an interval between each to allow the team of dancers time to recover is the programme forerunner to Folk. Comedy is well to the fore in Johan Inger’s Walking Mad, which opens the programme with a fluid and graceful series of moves set to Ravel’s Bolero. Memories of Torville and Dean here. Bowler hats and dunce’s caps (or were they Pierrot costumes?} are worn for some pacey and acrobatic dance numbers, with a touch of burlesque that sits well. The dancers perform against the background set of a high wooden fence or wall with doors which enable the dancers to go in and out as well as over the top, with a breath-stopping moment as it collapses, by design, to lie flat. Joining the dancers for the night is Chris Scott, currently performing in Boris Godunov at the Royal Opera House in London.
Second on the bill is Alexander Ekman’s Tuplet. Highly energetic from start to finish, the opening to the tune of Fly Me to the Moon is promising. Backdrops of black and white film clips depicting jazz musicians appear at times to be at odds with what is happening on stage, despite the emphasis on rhythm which is a characteristic of Ekman’s work
Runs until 19 February 2016 then touring | Image: Contributed