The name Alternative Routes for this choreographic try out scheme for dancers was set up by Ann Sholem and Roy Campbell-Moore when their company was called Diversions, continuing the road and traffic metaphor.
I cannot remember why but when I rebranded the company after the 25th anniversary to NDCWales in the dance organisation’s glory days with Ann Sholem as Artistic Director the name Alternative Routes remained as does the basis of the scheme. It gives the company’s dancers the chance to experience being choreographers, giving direction rather than receiving it, and creating dance on their colleagues. Such an undertaking is bound to have mixed results. It always has.
There have been several remarkable pieces that I can remember but sadly the ones that most stick in my mind from the last, say, half a dozen years, were from dancers who I don’t think stayed in the industry. It may be that as the company even now relies on dancers from abroad (come on guys, Wales’ national dance company?) one or two might be plying their trade in foreign climes.
The current group of five offerings are similar to the photograph on the front of the programme (oh for the days of Roy Campbell-Moore’s exquisite photography – which can be seen at Wales Dance Platform at The Riverfront on Sunday), is, shall we say, different, at times a bit of a mixed bag but with some really worthwhile elements of inspiration and interest mixed with what feels at times like an end of term college performance. Yes, the scheme is also the chance for young people from the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama to get involved in costume and set etc design and that perhaps adds to the student try-out feel of the programme. Apparently Cardiff Met was involved with graphic design for publicity.
This student feel was also reflected in the composition of the opening night audience which was very young which is a really good thing and although clearly not a sell-out was well attended, no doubt with lots of mates and RWCMD and Cardiff Met fellow students. The second night was just the usual arts council and other invited types for the normal PR exercise, this time with the company’s new artistic director to introduce, so I am hoping “real people” turned up and bought tickets on Friday night and do so tonight.
Oh for some co-ordinated programming in Cardiff! What doesn’t help is the fact that the main event in town this weekend, of course, is Wales Dance Platform with 42 independent dance artists one or two former NDCWales dancers, presenting their ideas, completed work and try outs, at WMC, Chapter today (Sat) and The Riverfront on Sunday. It is appropriate that this remarkable venture’s creative producers are Ann and Roy, having created the national dance company they are now working with Creu Cymru and others in developing this unique opportunity for vast numbers of Wales’ dance artists. This is all the more important as artistic programmers and dance industry leaders from around the UK are in the audience this weekend. This achievement cannot be over emphasised and hats off to them and Creu Cymru.
Back to the NDCWales try-outs. The Alternative Routes programme started with Late Night Routine, a narrative dance from Elena Thomas which was the boy meets girl in a bar, gets pissed, they get a bit frisky, she objects, he clears off and she ends up asleep behind the bar. The couple was danced by the choreographer and Matteo Marfoglia. The fun element was provided by the skilful synchronised movements of the two waiters, Declan Whitaker and Joe Perou, miming pouring drinks, mixing cocktails and interacting with invisible customers. The second element is the drunk dancing with the sober bar man. It was niftily performed and more than a little unsettling. As a piece of dance theatre this was all fine and well executed. It is a bit worrying though that my favourite bit was Declan bopping around to a Whitney song (The Bodyguard musical was on next door) while sweeping the floor before drunken Elena resurfaces from behind the bar.
Next came Mathieu Geffre’s sophisticated duet What Songs May Do to an extract from Ne Me Quitte Pas and Feelings, a recording and projection of Nina Simone from Montreux Jazz Festival in 1978. This was a carefully constructed intimate piece of dance movement for Joseba Yerro Izaguirre and Angela Boix Duran beginning with them physically in the Dance House audience as if at the Montreux concert and then stepping into the space to dance/act out the story of their relationship, coming together, intimacy, friction, separation and ultimately, well who knows? Joe Price’s Av design with projection at first on a screen then the dance floor gripped our attention although at times I did forget I was supposed to be watching the dancers.
The third work was a film called Desensitised from Matteo Marfoglia which explored the concept of sensory deprivation with several dancers with cling film over certain of their sensory organs (and for a beach scene their entire bodies). So a tree hugging girl had her eyes covered, a chocolate fondling boy had his mouth sealed and so forth. An interesting concept set to music The city of lights buy Jorge Mendez and danced by Angela Boix Duran, Camille Giraudeau, Joe Perou, and Joseba Yerro Izaguirre. They are all liberated at the end and go into sensory overdrive.
After the interval Joseba Yerro Izaguirre presented We Listen, We Love, We Make danced by Angela Boix Duran which proved a sweeping work with varying styles and pace that showed off as much the dancer’s skill, technique (and stamina) as the choreographer’s ideas. My very well-informed companion found this work most satisfying which balanced my slight feeling of the dance vocabulary becoming something of a free for all in the latter stages compared with a clear narrative and development in initial stages.
The surprise for me was when mop bopper Declan presented a mini feat of dances called six which gave dancers Camille Giraudeau, Elena Thomas, Josie Sinnadurai, Josef Perou and Mathieu Geffre a wonderfully imaginative, choreographically colourful and musically fun vehicle to perform. The zany costumes from Rebecca Rom added to the jollity of the work which slightly oddly from the company’s new apprentice captured the soul of NDCWales and what has become its skill and raison d’etre under the Campbell-Moore and Sholem nurturing, presenting exciting and new largely ensemble work that enables the individuality of not only choreographer but also dancer to shine.
Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff
Further performance tonight (SAT) Dance House, Wales Millennium centre www.ndcwales.co.uk
Wales Dance Platform all day today Chapter (SAT) and The Riverfront, Newport, tomorrow (SUN) www.walesdanceplatform.co.uk