Theatre in Wales

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National Dance on Very Terra Firma

The Best of Touring Theatre

Terra Firma- National Dance Company Wales , Aberystwyth Arts Centre , March 14, 2018
The Best of Touring Theatre by Terra Firma- National Dance Company Wales National Dance Company Wales is doing a lot of dance this season. The performances in Wales precede Germany and Austria where some venues are already sold out. The appetite for the company's work is high, as in Aberystwyth where the audience gives the trio of work a rousing cheer.

The last piece of a meaty evening, three works of thirty minutes each, is Marcus Marou’s “Tundra”. Its eight dancers feel that they are less on terra firma than from an extraterrestrial plane. They commence with eerily smooth gliding movements- the dancers, women and men, are dressed in floor-length skirts of a Minoan shape. The programme borrows a quotation from a critic at “the Times.” But “ingeniously mechanical” underplays the effect. Marou turns the sixteen arms of his troupe into a hypnotic aquatic flow. As in all the pieces the impact is augmented with the master hand of lighting designer, Joe Fletcher, at work.

“Atala˙”, choreographed by Mario Bermudez Gill, does not have the sheer originality of “Tundra” nor the reputation of “Folk.” It is heavy in the cultural influence of Andalusia- the title is Arabic for “watchtower” with music of the Eastern Mediterranean. At its best points its four dancers are propelled by the ferocious rhythms put out by Asian Dub Foundation.

To “Folk.” It comes first in the trio and has the effect of throwing a shadow over the pieces that follow. It has the effect simply because it is bigger, not longer, but because it contains more. Another critic earlier in the tour has read it in a particular light: “a dazzling slice of layered commentary on the building of relationships, the evolution of communities, and the isolationism of the modern experience. It is a modernist fable. Finn has created, in microcosm, a townspeople who splinter and realign in a perpetual loop, who present at us like renaissance paintings, who question at their own peril the environment in which they find themselves.”

That is a particular interpretation as to the meaning of content. “Folk” takes off because it fuses sensual and cognitive response within the viewer. That is the manner of all great performance. The use of space, of individual versus group dancing, is one dimension. But underneath is the apposition of values in tension.

In movement it is grace versus disjunction. The spirit of Dionysus bursts over into madness. In sound “Folk” begins with Offenbach and proceeds to the high contrast of musical composition from Greece to the Carpathians. The visual impact is underpinned by Joe Fletcher's design. A giant tree hangs over the left side of the stage. It is all at the same time rooted and uprooted. Its metaphorical suggestion for a community in a place of unique historical drift is considerable.

National Dance Company Wales: a company that lives by its name.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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