Awakening reflects the long-standing ethos, some have said necessity, of being (and I paraphrase wildly) host to international choreographers rather than having a definitive style. The results are mixed and always have been with some unforgettable choreography, such as some Stephen Petronio and Itzik Galili works, to some I am too polite to mention. Many fall in the middle. It also means audiences never quite know what to expect. At this stage in the small and ambitious company’s development it seems to be going through a phase of presenting to audiences conceptual pieces balanced with, shall we say, more aesthetically-pleasing dance.
This programme contains the instantly accessible Tundra which on its first outing won Wales Theatre Awards acclaim for Spanish choreographer Marcos Morau, with its pattern creating mesmerising intricacy. At first the dancers wear floor length skirts to trick the eye to think they are gliding around. These removed, they are in multicoloured knitted leggings with their bodies flicking and twitching, positioning hands and feet to create patterns – think of the illusion of one body in movement created by a Mexican wave. For the first time viewer it is enchanting and beguiling. There are several Tundra reviews of this site.
Eye trickery or brain manipulation (think Pepper’s Ghost, of course) is taken up by Fernando Melo in Afterimage, a work that uses the conceit of mirrors, altering reality through images creating altered states and interactions. With Melo such a master of stagecraft, wildly imaginative and boundary pushing, I was looking forward to something that packed a massive creative punch, but found this a little, well, sleepy rather more conceptual than captivating. Yes, clever and moody in a sort of film noire, dance film sort of way. Indeed, lighting design and set design (here Peter Lundin and Yoko Seyama) are vital elements in dance performance but there is always the risk they subsume rather than enhance or even replace the choreography. Melo has created such wonderful dance theatre that I would have preferred to have seen one of his other pieces performed by these glorious dancers.
Elena Sgarbi and Julia Rieder,
You can always expect a bit of fun from Caroline Finn and Revellers’ Mass is no exception as she flirts with grand themes and even grander characterisation, centred on Ed Myhill as a quasi grand priest of an increasingly out of control, hysterical, contorted, mystical experience/ dinner party. Exquisitely robed dancers cavort with one another, crucifixion-like carry aloft and then dance with dismembered mannequins, perform on and around a ceremonial table, even becoming whirling dervishes, all to choral music. Our master of ceremonies decides the frolics should wind down and. with Non, je ne regrette rien and the detritus is gathered up. Perhaps not all. This is the most satisfying dance of the evening and rich in Finn’s characterisations, allowing her artists to speak, to articulate through movement and, yes, to dance.
Marine Tournet, Matthew Prichard, Elena Sgarbi, Julia Rieder, Cyril Durand-Gasselin
Awakening is indeed a choreographic mixed bag, ambitious with a huge focus on being innovative and performance that, while stimulating, challenging and interesting, left me yearning for more, shall we say, dance. The audience in the bubble that is Cardiff was appreciative and I do not doubt so too will be the safer havens on the touring circuit and overseas festivals. I do see that more populist plans are in the pipeline.
Main image Afterimage. Images Rhys Cozens