National Dance Company Wales

National Dance Company Wales - Autumn Tour Review

-By Kayleigh Prescott

When embarking on my move to London 3 years ago to undertake a degree in Dance studies, I knew that I would be relocating to what is known as the dance capital of the UK. It is only since my recent return back to my Welsh homeland that I fully realise how much dance was pretty much available on my front door step. With the luxury of being able to watch live dance performance pretty much any day of the week, whether it was at Sadlers Wells, The Place, Roehampton’s Dance diary performances or even the streets of London (the list is endless) I was pretty much surrounded by dance whenever I chose to do so. Now however, in depths of Powys, Llandrindod Wells to be exact (or ‘Llandod’ as I have come to know the local lingo!) I no longer have such privileges. It is now a little bit more of a mission to find live work that doesn’t involve travelling for hours on end. So of course when I seen that one of my favourite repertoire companies, National Dance Company Wales (no biased opinion there, honest), was to perform their autumn tour in the nearest theatre, I wasted no time in booking my ticket and going to indulge in some top class dancing.

My first time to visit theatre Hafren in Newtown and I was curious as to see what kind of audience this highly acclaimed dance company would attract here in Powys. To my surprise, almost a full house. A widely varied audience of both young and old filled the auditorium. That will teach me for being so dubious about the dance enthusiasts that reside in Powys!

The evening was split into three sections, the first piece, ‘Virtual Descent’ choreographed by in-house choreographer and company dancer, Eleesha Drennan. Drennan transported us into her rather futuristic vision of the hope and faith that she holds within humanity. The added element of an on-stage staircase gave for fascinating visuals as the dancers ascend and descend into darkness. With a dramatic score written by resident composer Mark Bowden and recorded by BBC national orchestra of Wales, the dancers, robotic yet fluid, quirky but technical shift the viewers through the light and shade of the complications between the modern day and the future.

Onto the second piece and ‘Noces’ choreographed by Angelin Preljocaj saw a complete contrast in energy to that of ‘Virtual Descent’. A series of multiple shifting male/female duets saw the dancers throwing, chucking and plummeting themselves and each other across the space. The females, sharing the same malleable qualities as the bridal rag dolls used for props, are forcefully manipulated and moulded by their male counterparts. ‘Les Noces’ Stravinsky’s powerful and demanding score truly complimented the dancer’s immaculate precision and attention to detail providing for action packed and intense viewing.

The third and final performance of the evening was ‘Water Stories’ by Stephen Petronio. Being no stranger to choreographing for the company, this time around Petronio’s inspiration for the piece stemmed from the magical waterscapes and countryside that is so vivid to the Welsh heritage. The piece opened with a seamless duet by two physically contrasting female dancers. The difference in stature however, was juxtaposed with the identical intention and essence that the two shared within the space, which could have lasted for days! After two previous pieces that, in comparison to ‘Water Stories’, were somewhat bound and regimented, it was a relief to see both the audience and the dancers take more of a sedative approach to the performance. As the piece unfolded the lack of exactness and clarity that the dancers maintained as a collective only added to the effect of the intention of the piece, giving it an overall mesmerizing and absorbing feel.

The evening as a whole proved to be what I had expected from such a company who are now celebrating 30 years in the industry as an internationally acclaimed dance company. A definite 'worth a watch' triple bill. Exciting and raw are two of the many words that spring to my mind, I wonder what the people of Powys thought?

Dis-COURSE Dance and Disablility

Iain, Rosie and Heidi went to the Dis-Course event, held on 19 September at the Riverfront in Newport.  It was presented by the wonderful special guest and dynamic ‘provocateur’, Caroline Bowditch, along with Darius James of Ballet Cymru and Helen Crocker of GDance. The event included two presentations to get us thinking about our current practice and future possibilities in dance and disability.  Darius challenged us to re-think our perceptions of ballet from an inaccessible, elite art form to ‘just another dance style’.  As such – why shouldn’t it be accessible?  Ballet Cymru traces its heritage from the heady days of the Ballets Russes which celebrated collaboration and individuality.  Surely dance and disability is about individuality and a person-centred approach to creativity in dance.  Darius has always sought to work with ballet dancers who express individuality as opposed to conforming to a particular mould.

Helen Crocker of GDance (Gloucestershire Dance) has partnered up with Ballet Cymru to produce Stuck in the Mud.  This is a site specific dance journey with a ‘stunning company of disabled and non-disabled professional dancers, musicians, and local community performers who bring historic surroundings to life’.  It has been performed at Hidcote Manor Gardens and Blackfriars in Gloucestershire and is due to come to Newport Victorian Market in November (12th and 13th).  GDance acting as a producer developed the concept and model and played the roles of liaising, recruiting and organising.  We were treated to a brief film giving a snapshot of the performance demonstrating just what can be achieved.

Caroline Bowditch then challenged us to come up with and then consider key questions in relation to dance and disability.  These centred around: progression routes for disabled dancers i.e. access to training and a professional career in dance;  the place for inclusive and discreet groups; joint responsibility for the progression of this work on local and national levels; addressing gaps in provision; developing partnerships, and what next for disability dance in Wales ….

The hope is that Stuck in the Mud can tour around Wales, hosted by different community dance organisations and sites as it travels the country.  From this day Powys Dance have started to develop ideas on how we can bring some of our diverse groups together to dance and possibly perform e.g. Powys Youth Dance Company could work with members of Me Myself Us, Friday Dancing could work with Dancercise.

We met lots of people from other organisations and were able to catch up with old friends and put names to faces.  A range of delegates included representation from Hijinx, Dance Blast, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Rubicon Dance, Sherman Theatre, Disability Arts Cymru, National Dance Company Wales and Bombastic.  Watch this space as Ballet Cymru may be resident in Powys at some point over the next three years partnering with us to offer you some exciting new possibilities.  A good day out and an opportunity to build new partnerships and think about new ideas.