Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

“The wonderful National Dance Company Wales...Caroline Finn...will surely go great places”

Folk/ Profundis

National Dance Company Wales , Zoo Southside , August-24-17
Folk/ Profundis by National Dance Company Wales Another Fringe is over and at 3200 productions 2017 has been bigger than ever. Three companies of Wales featured in the British Council Showcase in the last week. The others were Volcano and Ladd-Emberton. The crowds in Edinburgh thin out and so do the reviewers. Of the seasonal publications only Broadway Baby got to see National Dance's iconoclastic offerings. The greatest novelty, Roy Assaf's choice of the music of Om Kalthoum, went unmentioned.

Scotsman on “Folk”

We don’t know what’s funny, we’re outside the joke and it breaks the spell. So when a dancer did just that in the middle of Folk, my heart sank. But if we push that moment aside, this piece from the wonderful National Dance Company Wales has plenty to offer – even before it starts. Joe Fletcher’s set is a genuine sight to behold, and presumably a nightmare to tour. An enormous tree hangs upside down from the ceiling, branches spiralling out, a large pile of discarded leaves lying beneath. It serves as a beautiful hook to hang things on, both literally and metaphorically.

Choreographer and company head, Caroline Finn was inspired by everyday people living everyday lives for the piece, and we see idiosyncratic characters emerge throughout, bookended by family photo-style tableaux. Towards the end, Finn’s choreography, the dancers’ dynamism and Fletcher’s atmospheric lighting design (is there nothing that man can’t do?) all come together in a powerful sequence that is both slick and earthy at the same time.

Folk is Caroline Finn’s first piece for the Cardiff-based National Dance Company Wales since becoming its Artistic Director two years ago. It is a hugely exciting, surreal if somewhat incoherent show but that is probably the point since it aims to explore social dynamics which, in this show, appear to be largely dysfunctional. Caroline Finn is definitely one to watch and I urge you to see a talented choreographer in the making who will surely go great places.

The reviewer from Broadway Baby did not see Profundis in quite the way that I did at Aberystwyth in March.

...Profundis choreographed by Israeli-born Roy Assaf, is amusingly and slickly performed by the National Dance Company Wales but is more of a ‘five-finger exercise’ for dance students; a mind-game with much mime and posing with very little dance. Has an uneven quality, the wit unsuccessfully balanced by the more enigmatic sections.

The central part of the show purports to answer a voice-over’s question: ‘What do you think music is all about?’ and by extension dance or any art form. The dancers call out suggestions from a variety of concrete things to abstractions: e.g. ‘a penguin’, ‘waves’, ‘a knife’, ‘pain’, ‘yearning’, ‘retreating from a strange point of view’ or what it is not: e.g. ‘it is not about my country’ and, in each case, the dancers mime what they have said in a pose or action. It is charming and amusing but no more so than a child’s game.

Before this playful word game begins, a girl in yellow ruched bathing suit lies, spotlit front of stage, seductively turning like a model in a photo-shoot, her hand at one point between her thighs. Is the choreographer intending us to interpret this girl’s movements as sexual? Five men in black Victorian bathing suits enter and at one point give Nazi salutes. There is no doubt what these gestures mean but how the two sections are relevant to the word-game which follows is impossible to guess at this stage.

Later, two men wrestle to beautifully intimate choreography which ends in violence. The same moves are repeated but end in a kiss, raising the question of how we interpret actions. This section has a depth and emotion that is profound in a way that the rest of the show is not and though different in mood and approach, complements the Q and A word-play.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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