Choreographers: Andrea Costanzo Martini, Anthony Matsena and Caroline Finn
For two nights only, ten young dancers and three choreographers from the National Dance Company, Wales, bring Law Yn Llaw (One Another) to the Place, a programme of three dance pieces. The pieces are quite short on elegance and grace, but very long indeed on power, on expression, on interest.
First up, choreographer Andrea Costanzo Martini brings Wild Thoughts. The ten dancers pose and stomp on a white stage, throw extravagantly angled shapes, mirror each others’ moves, until they come together for an exploration of their bodies, faces, voices. It’s very playful, very funny (their relish for the word ‘thigh’ chanted in a dozen different ways is laugh out loud comedy) and very demanding. The dancers’ ability to hold position and gurn simultaneously is truly impressive. The piece celebrates The Body, and the dancers celebrate with their bodies, there’s a lot of joy, a swirl of motion, and some excellent images of shapes against a white backdrop.
Anthony Matsena’s Codi is a tribute to the Welsh industrial history. Against a backlit hellscape of red and orange footlights dancers swing shovels and picks in a fever-dream of industrial effort. The lighting evokes the torrents of red-hot coke that used to pour from the steelworks in the Merthyr valley: if anyone still remembers Merthyr’s history of coal and steel. The dancers wear orange overalls and miner’s lamps, hew coal, experience industrial disaster, and organise behind a red flag. The lighting is brutal, the movements are grounded and powerful, the narrative is clear and pertinent. In an evening of strong expression, Codi is the clearest and profoundest statement, very strongly political and very evidently Welsh.
Caroline Finn’s Ludo completes the evening with a half-hour reflection on play and playfulness. Play is sometimes quite aggressive, and there’s competition for a jam-jar, battles with big stretchy clothes, lots of weird Hieronymus Bosch images. Furniture with wheels is scooted round the stage, an old fashioned gramophone with a copper horn becomes a hat, an umbrella, a basket. There is a furious chase scene with formations of park benches belting round the floor. For the finale the dancers shuck off their jumpers and dance in their underwear, not even remotely erotic – but playful, ludic.
The prevailing style in all three pieces is strong, and grounded. No-one spends much time in graceful extension, and most of the dancers are on their own, carving out their own space, or sparring with a partner. This makes the occasions when they dance in unison particularly telling. It’s a light-hearted evening, full of fun and jokes and dancers pulling faces, but it has a clear agenda, a celebration of movement, a joy in play. Dancing for fun, it makes for an excellent evening’s entertainment.
Runs until 21 April 2022