The young dancers of National Youth Dance Wales brought a breath of fresh air to Cardiff in an innovative and amazing programme at the Sherman Theatre during one of the rare weeks when it was hot, hot, hot. Intensive training and dedication to their art has resulted in a company whose expertise is awe-inspiring on many counts, not least of these being their ability to perform acrobatic moves that would not have looked out-of-place in the recent Olympics.
That said, it is necessary to remember that these young people are not professionals, although it is certainly not unreasonable to expect that one day some of them will may aspire to this. It is easy to forget this at times but evident in lapses such as a near collision during the first quarter of an hour of Furi, with which the programme opens. Choreographed by Eleesha Drennan, who has worked alongside choreographers of International repute and herself won many awards for her artistry in dance, Furi is based on the concept of a tribe of creatures faced with a choice; to remain hidden, or to unfurl and revel themselves as – what? The dancers are enveloped in green anoraks, their faces and bodies concealed. It does not take a much to see the connotations with the hoodies of today’s society. It is not easy to exit such a garment gracefully, and even more so when intricate dance moves are involved. NYDW manage it with a deceptive ease and a litheness of body coupled with a fluidity of arms, hands and feet that is comparable to those seen in the dances of Bali and Thailand.
Sharing the two performance platforms in Wales this summer is the National Youth Dance Company of Scotland. This Company never fails to deliver dance of the highest calibre, and once again does not disappoint. Maelstrom, choreographed by the company’s artistic director Anne Kenrick and danced to the original score by David Paul Jones, is a complex work which examines the intricacies of the media driven, online obsessed world we live in and its resulting overload, posing the question: Is the end result growth or destruction? Kenrick’s choreography embraces several dace genres alongside the contemporary, with a mix that includes arabesques and pliés plus a great touch of musical theatre in the number I Love to Dance and touches of the comedic – ‘How many hearts has an octopus?’ (Three, in case you didn’t know!) Full credit must go to this ensemble for their ability to cope with this in addition to the change of mood required at various stages throughout.
The climax to this exciting programme of études into a fragmented world comes after the interval, with NYDW Artistic director Kerry Nicholls much-vaunted aM, danced to a cacophony of sound in the music of David Walters, culminating in the roar of a plane overhead. Derived from Ma, the Japanese word for pause or interval, this work explores the spatial territories within architecture, sound, emotion and conversation as the fourteen dancers move rapidly across the stage in seven divertissements which blend seamlessly into one another. Although it seems invidious with such a talented company, all of whom display extraordinary skill, to single out single dancers, Yueying Ho from Swansea is an expressive dancer who shows control in her every move, others to watch being (presumably brothers) Anthony and Amukelani Matsena, Cardiff’s Hattie Harding and Rachel Brent from the Vale of Glamorgan, all of whom are ones to watch in the future.