The Patrick Centre

Birmingham Hippodrome


IN A roaring introduction to this year’s Dance Exchange Season in Birmingham, celebrations started with the National Dance Company Wales’ production of FOLK

The programme was a trilogy of distinct pieces from dynamic choreographers from across the globe which aimed to explore human relationships.

In the first piece, we saw a company of six dancers perform Tuplet, by the choreographer Alexander Ekman. National Dance Company Wales are the first European Company to perform his work. Ekman has previously imprinted his choreographic ideas with worldwide companies including The Boston Ballet and Nederlands Dans Theater, who recently performed in Birmingham at the International Dance Festival in May this year.

Ekman is interested in working with different disciplines and designs. With a collaboration that blends dance, lighting and the natural movement of the body, Tuplet explores the daily rhythms and habits that we make subconsciously. As a dancer, rhythm is perhaps the most fundamental part of one’s work. Ekman reaches out and explores rhythm of everyday life through artistic movement in a thought provoking and striking manner with the rhythm of dance at its forefront.

The lighting design from Amith A. Chandrashaker gloriously aids the production with its fast-paced style and brings a separate rhythm to the production. In an interesting sequence that shows how we present ourselves, dancers use square spotlights to embody actions and movements which become increasingly faster and vibrant.

The overarching atmosphere of Ekman’s vision shows the hustle and bustle of everyday life. He gives each dancer a stand out integrity. Through this freedom, the audience can see strong elements of their own daily habits and rhythms.

Each element of the production is thorough and has an important place in the exploration of movement. Music by Mikeal Karlson allows the audience to think about the ways in which we go about our day-to-day lives. Movement, lighting and sound are separate entities within Ekman’s production but come together to create a beautiful performance of enticing thought and brilliant talent.

The second work of the programme is called They Seek To Find The Happiness They Seem by Lee Johnson. It is her second piece for National Dance Company Wales. In this ethereal and touching work, two dancers embody Johnson’s ideas in a duet that explores relationships. It delves deeper into what makes up a couple’s life and seeks to show the secrets behind closed doors.

The piece starts with touching movements from the male and female dancer, giving a sense of tranquillity and a fruitful relationship. Their movements are one together with beautiful sequencfolk pices and constant focus. Johnson’s vision is then suddenly discovered with a distinct change of tone through the dancer’s essence. A conflict that is embodied through movement is a fantastic statement that shows the trials and inner tensions within a relationship. Joe Fletcher’s lighting design also amplifies the fantastic heartbeat of the story and brings out an emotional allurement to how their journey will end.

Folk from Caroline Finn, the National Dance Company Wales’ Artistic Director. Picture: Rhys Cozens

Johnson gives the audience a delectable cliff-hanger ending. The dancers do well to bring the high-octane passion to a close to which the audience are left with the final image of them facing each other, uncertain of what will happen next. As the lights draw to blackout, is easy for the audience to want more out of this unnerving story.

The final piece of the trilogy and from which the programme takes is title is seen in Caroline Finn’s Folk. Finn is the National Dance Company Wales’ Artistic Director. Her work, which includes an impressive set and lighting design by Joe Fletcher, is an exploration into the way in which people will act in various scenarios.

The setting has a fairy-tale feel, with an uprooted grey tree suspended in the air and fallen leaves on the ground. The company of nine dancers embody nymph-like characters to create a fictional world that gives way to the meaning of social etiquette. The setting truly blurs the line between reality and fantasy. Whilst we see the imaginative setting, we are also able to understand the real connections between groups of people and the consequences of not complying with a group’s social norms.

The choral movement of the company are delightfully visceral. The audience can see and individual talent for every dancer and as they come together, the theme of adhering to social normality is twisted and presents the question of what is normal and what isn’t.

The company of dancers are impressive moving as one to create a unique story through performance art. The company command the stage with time and shapes in order to make a wonderful story of striking characters and thumping sequences of movement. Captivating characters are enhanced by Gabriella Slade’s costume design.

Within the trilogy of FOLK, we saw the overall theme of people and their habits. Each choreographer fascinated the audience with a keen understanding to the heart and essence of how people work together to create community and relationships. We could distinctly see the influence from each artist and the visions that they achieved. The programme created a fascinating night of visually striking art as well as shedding a light into the thoughtfulness of seeing how our own social world is made. To 23-09-16

Elizabeth Halpin



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