The Cardiff-based NDCWales was founded in 1983 with the specific brief to create a repertory of new, challenging works. Under its new Artistic Director, Fearghus Ó Conchúir, it continues on that fruitful path.
Awakening consists of three pieces, all beautifully performed by this company of ten, the dancers making light work of each piece's demand for very different and specific skills.
First comes Tundra from the award-winning Spanish choreographer, Marcos Morau. Named after the frozen tree-less landscapes of northern Russian, Tundra is inspired by Russia’s history, folk tales and revolution.
Tundra starts with a prologue where eight dancers in Russian folk costumes with long conical skirts that cover their feet glide around the stage as if on wheels. For the majority of the piece, though, all eight are in identical multicoloured striped body suits (costume design Angharad Matthews), their faces absolutely expressionless, as they execute perfectly drilled robotic movements.
Morau seeks to evoke Russia’s harsh landscape and its millennial culture, as well as the Soviet period with its demand for absolute conformity. The work is powerful, at times hypnotic; but it goes on a tad too long, which dilutes its impact.
After the first interval comes Afterimage, from the Brazilian-born, Europe-based choreographer Fernando Melo. This offers a very clever play on the reality and illusion of our perceptions. It takes a little while for the audience to realise that what they’re seeing, when seemingly four people walk on stage in perfect unison, is not four people at all, but two people and their reflections on a dark mirror.
The dancers come on and sit at a table, their emotionless conversation signified by hand and arm gestures. To add a further dimension, there appears in the background another figure, and you can't quite tell whether is real life presence, or simply a hologram of a dancer.
The last piece in the programme is also the strongest: NCDWales Resident Choreographer Caroline Finn’s Revellers Mass, an exhilarating work inspired by a whole raft of religious and pagan imagery.
The set (Josef Fletcher) presents a long rectangular table, most immediately an altar where the candles are ceremoniously lit by a celebrant figure; but which later becomes a table for a fleeting recreation of Leonard Da Vinci’s Last Supper; an ablutions trough; or simply a plinth.
The dancers are clad in gorgeous sequinned tule and brocade evening wear (costume design Gabriella Slade). They dance to a collage of music that ranges from religious bells (Michael Stearns) through a Pergolesi Mass, and boisterous Italian folk songs, to end with Edith Piaf’s Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.
At first their gestures are sedate, courteous, hieratic; but gradually the ceremony degenerates into an ever more frenzied rite, a trance, where the naked store mannequins that dot the set are held aloft by the dancers in what seems a parody of religious saints processions.
NDCWales Awakening is a truly innovative and stimulating mixed bill, one that speaks loudly for this small company’s rightful place in the UK dance panorama. May they go from strength to strength.
As well as Awakenings, NDCWales present an educational programme for children and families, Discover Dance. A relaxed and interactive programme in two parts, firstly the audience get a chance to meet the dancers, go on stage with them and ask questions. In the second half they will watch a performance of Revellers’ Mass.
WHEN: Sunday, 10 March at 14:45
DUR.: 1 hour 30 minutes
TICKETS: £10 – £15
|What||NDCWales, Awakening Review|
|Where||Royal Opera House, Bow Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 9DD | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
08 Mar 19 – 09 Mar 19, 19:45 Dur.: 2 hours 15 mins inc two intervals
|Website||Click to book via the ROH|