National Dance Company Wales continue their quest to find new audiences. I’ve been checking out Roots for the past few years, usually a varied quartet of short dance pieces with usually something to please all tastes.
This year, with the return of Cardiff Dance Festival a selection of work involved sport, community and love lives. Kicking off with Écrit, choreographed by Nikita Goile, we feasted on a dance inspired by the letters of Frida Kahlo to her lover Diego Rivera. Both dancers here are for the most part distant from one another, only to conclude with an impassioned symmetrical duet. Écrit captures the mood of falling in love with the wrong person and how this affects your life. A rendition of the well-known song ‘What a difference a day makes’, might have worked better in Spanish, Latin fever and all. I found the dance is best summed up by the haunting shadow-play of Diego (who was not an athletic man, let’s be fair) looming over Frida as she tries in vain to reunite with him.
Why Are People Clapping?! by Ed Myhill remained a caffeinated few minutes, brimming with energy and feel good vibes. Using the Clapping Music of Steve Reich as its foundation, we hear the piece performed live and also on the speakers. How fascinating to hear dancers play this piece for once instead of musicians, as you really feel they capture the rhythmic vitality of the music. Through the frantic tennis matches, renditions of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes and the night club like dancing, how could I resist? The movements were bustling with a manic charm, much gurning of faces and an all round sunny feel that stayed with you.
In Codi, Anthony Matsena masterfully captures the plight of the Welsh miner in an ever-increasing claustrophobic encounter. The real pull here is the common knowledge of what happened locally to these hard-working men, boys and animals who ventured into the bowels of the earth. The smoke that lingered beforehand this started made me feel I had Black Lung, as I tried to keep the cough within. The desperation within these figures held up as a stark reminder of our past. The use of torches strapped upon each dancers necks complement the dark, dank feel of a mine.
Our host for the night was NDCW artist director Fearghus Ó Conchúir, who ended with his own piece Rygbi: Annwyl/Dear. This piece was taken to Japan for Wales’ own big rugby adventure earlier this year and it seem to be a piece which Ó Conchúir is proud of. I must confess, rugby has never been my bag and I was not as taken here as I should have been. The familiar gestures and postures that you would see on the field are here and there is some striking sense of camaraderie, but I just couldn’t dig it. Some observations made on the night about how rugby is also choreography is an interesting insight, but I tend to keep sport and art separate. Perhaps it was the gaudy costumes, the trippy rugby gear that added to the uncertainty.
Roots continues at the Wales Millennium Centre till 14th November 2019.
Cardiff Dance Festival continues at various locations around the city till 24th November 2019.