Category Archives: Dance

Review of “Roots” by National Dance Company Wales at Dance House, Cardiff by Roger Barrington

 

 

(4.5 / 5)

I must begin by making a confession. Being a critic, you should be able to define what is good or bad abut a production from an informed position.

This is my inaugural dance review and I am not writing from an informed background. I used to watch occasional contemporary dance theatre in London, and in Montreal, but it must be nearly twenty years since I last saw something in this genre, and this is the first time in Wales.

Not wishing to make a song and dance about this, I tentatively submit the view that maybe in this particular art form, this isn’t too big a problem. This point, I shall return to when I review the third and final piece in this production.

The programme consists of three short pieces and collectively provide a European flavour.

The first dance, Omerta is choreographed by Italian Matteo Marfoglia.

 

Matteo acts a Rehearsal Director for “Roots” and is very passionate about the subject matter of “Omerta”. When he talks about it, he does so in an engaging manner. I happen to know this, because, by chance, ( well I think it was by chance), Matteo happened to be seated next to me, so I was in the ideal position to bombard him with questions. Despite my naivety, he answered these questions with great patience and humour and the insight he provided gave me a clearer idea of how this piece was devised.

“Omerta” concerns the role that women in Italian society, located in areas still largely under the influence of the Mafioso, combat the oppressive nature of their existence. Dressed entirely in black, and beginning with veiled faces, the four female dancers are strewn across the space, each with pails carrying water.

 

 

The background music starts with a metronomic beat and also ends in the same way. I interpreted this to mean to mark the endless passage of time that the conditions the Mafia has imposed on Italian society, and women in particular, within that void,  and assisted by the nature of its masculine domination. The spotlights highlighting individual dancers fleetingly, and the four dancers collectively, heighten the tension and focus your attention as the dancers repeat their actions of carrying and cleansing themselves with the water they are carrying.

I put it to Matteo that could the black veiled attire and the pseudo-religious music that followed, be interpreted that the four women were widows, victims of Mafioso vendettas and that the music represented the  powerful influence of the Roman Catholic Church in Italian society. Matteo answered in the negative, that the dress and music represent the region of Southern Italy that the piece represented.  Maybe I was thinking too much about Ford Coppola’s Godfather trilogy at this time.

With the removal of the veils the dancers sweep into a more expressive form that signify their impassioned attempt to break the shackles of this oppressive society of murder, extortion and fear.

I asked Matteo if he would like to present this piece in Italy and how it would be received there in contrast to Wales. His eyes immediately lit up and he answered that he would love to, but the nature of the piece would make it explosive to perform in certain parts of Southern Italy where the Mafia hold is still strong. He was inspired to create the piece after the murder of four judges in Sicily in the early 1990’s and the resultant protests by a group of women to these assassinations. Their courage in a very dangerous environment moved Matteo to create “Omerto”. I likened this to the Peace Movement instigated in Northern Ireland during The Troubles and he agreed.

Matteo Marfoglia is the recipient of a Creative Wales award from The Arts Council of Wales. He has also been awarded a research grant  which he is currently undertaking. He trained in Amsterdam and formerly was a dancer for the NDC Wales before branching out recently on his own and  becoming a freelance choreographer. He is recognised as a future leader in British dance and on the evidence on show in “Omerta”, it is easy to understand why.

The second piece “Bernadette” is a solo work choreographed by Caroline Finn and performed by Camille Giraudeau.

 

Caroline Finn

 

Caroline is NDC Wales’s Resident Choreographer and she also acted as Lighting and Costume Designer for this piece.

The highly effective background music is provided by French band Nouvelle Vague, “In a manner of speaking”. The lyrics of which have a real connection to this piece.

in a manner of speaking
Semantics won’t do
In this life that we live
We only make do
And the way that we feel
Might have to be sacrificed

The dreamlike quality of the sound also enhance the dance.

The piece which I found to be amusing at times begins and ends with a taped male cooking guru giving cooking tips that are received by the dancer in, almost a robotic, catatonic state.

As she starts applying these technqiues in her cooking preparation, she suddenly and totally unexpectedly throws herself across the kitchen table, projecting an egg that explodes in front of  front seat audience members forcing them to involuntarily  take evasive action.

 

 

This is repeated, not only with eggs but with flour, so by the time the performance has finished the space had resembled being hit by a bomb.

When dancer Camille breaks free from her catatonic existence she snatches off her wig and dances with great abandonment before resuming her original “Stepford Wife” existence as the guru’s voice re-emerges over the background soundtrack.

I felt that this piece, in a way, is a companion to “Omerta”. I recently read that a mother’s life bringing up up a young family is the equivalent of working  2.5 jobs. The feminist slant to this work, shows the unnoticed work that many women have to endure in the household and their ambition to break free.

Caroline Finn has a growing reputation for her work and a previous NDC Wales composition, “Folk” and this one have received rave reviews.

The final piece, “Atalay” is choreographed by Spanish artiste Mario Bermudez Gil.

 

 

Mario is Artistic Director of Marcat Dance Company. “Marcat Dance connects to the human spirit and finds inspiration from world cultures, rituals, and landscapes” according to its website and all come to notice in this production.

Atalay is Spanish for Watchtower and reflects a personal experience that Mario and his wife have when walking to a viewpoint near their Southern Spanish home. At this place is a watchtower and Mario feels a close sense of existence to the elements at this place and the natural landscapes of the mountains and the undulating land. He thinks about the four walls of the watchtower that reach out to the four points of the extended compass and imagines the fusion of the different cultures, exemplified through their dance and music. He takes you on a journey using a wide range of culturally orientated music and invites you to connect emotionally through the movement of dance. It is a personal odyssey of spiritual emotions and Mario encourages the four dancers, two of each sex, to input their own feelings revealed through the unique form of dance.

I struggled to find meaning in this composition and voiced my confusion about what the individual segments of the piece, were telling you. I put this question to NDC Wales Artistic Director, Fearghus Ó Conchúir who was with the four dancers post performance. The question met with an initial hesitation from Fearghus and when I glanced at the performers they collectively seem to have that “don’t ask me, I’m only the dancer” look on their faces. However, a consensus was arrived at that basically reached the place that I found to be what Mario’s intentions were.

So maybe I was searching for a meaning that doesn’t exist. That it is the journey and the emotions that you feel through the expression of dance, that is the thing. If there is one lesson that I learnt in this experience is that there doesn’t have to be a precise definition to contemporary dance, then it has been worthwhile.

The piece itself did convey feelings of strong emotion and beauty, love and humour, and the strong costume design and lighting made it a fitting conclusion to a wonderfully diverse programme.

The dancing is excellent throughout. I feel that not only are the dancers putting body and soul into their dancing, they appear to be thoroughly enjoying it along the way.

One unusual feature that I particularly welcomed is how Artistic Director Fearghus Ó Conchúir  introduced each piece and immediately afterwards invited you to speak to your neighbour in the audience about it and to examine each others feelings that came out of it. In addition, at the end of the programme, the audience has the opportunity to put questions to the dancers.  Together, this is a great innovation and helped a contemporary dance ignoramus such as myself to engage more meaningfully in the experience they are experiencing.

I came out of the dance space questioning myself on why .  I had missed out on a generation of experiencing an artistic genre that is a medium for mixing dance expressionism and technique, music, costume and lighting in a collaborative way that is utterly cool.

Roger Barrington

 

Continue reading Review of “Roots” by National Dance Company Wales at Dance House, Cardiff by Roger Barrington

Review of “Wicked” at the WMC by Roger Barrington

 

(4 / 5)

 

 

I sometimes think that I am living my life in reverse. When I was young, I was a bookish lad – reading Tolstoy whilst still in primary school for instance. I was as far removed as being Wicked as you can imagine. I have been compensating for this ever since!

“The Untold story of the Witches of Oz” is how this musical is promoted. In case you ever wondered about this, then this story will reveal all.

I never cared much about “The Wizard of Oz” . I couldn’t see myself trundling along the Yellow Brick Road, with Dorothy, Scarecrow, Lion and Tin Man. One thing that as always puzzled me about this story. Obviously there is rain in the land of Oz (Somewhere over the Rainbow”), so wouldn’t the Tin Man resemble a character on TV from my teenage days from “The Magic Roundabout”?

So “Wicked” returns to Muchkinland and follows the adventures of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West.

When Elphaba leaves home to attend Shiz University, a kind of Munchkinland Hogwarts, she is very green. Not only in the meaning of life, but, literally, green. Her green skin means that she is ostracied by society and she fails to make friends. That is until she meets Galinda, who later becomes Glinda, and after an unpromising beginning, a close friendship develops between them. A friendship that is tried and tested along the way. Eventually they make their way to The Emerald City where  Elphaba meets and confronts the Wizard of Oz. The nefarious wizard is behind a pogromist type plot against the animals of the land. In defending them, Elphaba suffers a fall from grace and is hunted herself.

The story does have serious themes. The devotion to fitting in and being attractive, that is hugely important to American young girls in particular and is personified within the  character of Glinda. “Beauty is only skin deep” as exemplified between Elphaba and her love interest Fiyero. The pogrom against the animals, in this case shown by the expulsion of Dr. Dillamond, a goat Professor at Shiz University, reminds us of 20th-century historic events in Armenia, Nazi German, Russia and China.

The show premiered on Broadway on 30 October 2003 after a trial run in San Francisco and is still showing at the Gershwin Theatre. It’s success reversed the trend of recent musical smash hits that originated in Britain, and has provided the impetus for an American resurgence in the genre that it started.

Music and lyrics are by Stephen Schwartz who announced himself to the world of musicals with his 1971 smash hit, “Godspell”.  I can remember that a criticism of this show at that time, was that it was derivative of  Lloyd Webber/Rice “Jesus Christ Superstar” that preceded it by a year. Similar criticism has been aimed at “Wicked” for cashing in on the Harry Potter phenomenon. The music is nothing special , largely generic 21st century fare. The lyrics work better though.

In the performance that I viewed, Elphaba was played by Amy Ross and Glinda by Charli Baptie. Ross belts here songs over with such an intensity, it can verge on the strident.   Baptie possesses a more cultivated voice and shows an admirable talent for comic timing. For me, although Ross puts in a strong performance, it is Baptie, understudy to the stricken Helen Woolf who takes the performance honours in this production. Good support is provided by Aaron Sidwell, (Fiyero), Kim Ismay, (Madame Morrible), Steven Pinder, (the Wizard of Oz) and Emily Shaw as Nessarose, Elphaba’s invalid sister, who in Winnie Holzman’s book that the musical is based upon, becomes the Wicked Witch of the East.

Where the shows does really hit the heights is in Eugene Lee’s spectacular set design and Kenneth Posner’s lighting. Between them they conjure up a magical environment full on. The scene where Elphaba levitates and is caught in mid-air by the searchlights , that ends Act 1 is one of the most striking images that I have encountered in nigh on fifty years of theatre-going.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wayne Cilento’s musical staging and James Lynn Abbott’s dance arrangements are also excellent and provide many memorable scenes, especially of the flying monkeys.

Susan Hilferty’s resplendent costumes also enhance the visual quality of this show.

Live music is also provided under the direction of David Rose and the orchestra acquit themselves well.

“Wicked” is a confident, (verging on brashness), visually impressive musical, that for most of you will weave sufficient magic from its wand, and put you under a spell that immediately renders a state of anesthesia whereby you forget its equally impressive admission price.

 

Continue reading Review of “Wicked” at the WMC by Roger Barrington

Womb Paves Way, The Place, Ffion-Campbell-Davies by Tanica Psalmist

 

(5 / 5)

 

During the beginning sequence of this dance piece we saw a tranquil essence of her head carrying a basket. Ffion resembles traditional class, depicting strong and dignified ethnic women. Ffion walks eloquently at ease whilst balancing flawlessly from afar in the dark, gradually getting closer to the moonlit spotlight, elegantly lifting the basket from her head into her arms to hold, scattering what looked like red petals on to the ground to surround her; simultaneously singing aloud ‘wade in the water’.

She was dressed in a white colonial dress, which had a petticoat style, made out of light fabrics consisting of cotton and silk. Ffion dressed in this way conveyed a representation of her ancient character, an ancestor, whose generation would later become an inhabitant of a colony.

She sang in mid-range Soprano, however suddenly her tone of voice swiftly transitioned into trembling unsettling sound effects with heavy gushing, gasp noises. This calm character had now presented emotions of pain, worry, hurt, neglect and sorrow. Her stability, balance and movement were now operating in opposition to her original energy. Her speed, direction of her body exhibited a perceived sense of disturbia in her characterisation leading her body to begin to twist and turn, push and pull, dive and duck, bend and crease as well as crawl and sweep up everything that had fallen out of her basket and lost with no hope of accumulating anything back. She slowly gave up and climbed into her basket whilst looking around her with a sense of burden and struck of darkness and curse upon her.

FFion Campbell-Davies in Womb Paves Way, (c) Carole Edrich 2018

Elimination of the torture identified in this woman spiritually came to an end once Ffion stepped out of the basket positioning her body directly to face the eyes of the audience, where we see she had more to say then give. Her soft radiant voice emotionally connecting, stemmed from her strong introductory to her family’s history, background and effects of colonialism. Ffion presented a strong autobiography of her conscious state of mind on her ancestry, with what it conveyed to her being a female on the rope to self-discovery, identity and self-expression. She then took us through an emotional journey, radiating a translucent spiritual longing for connectivity through the expression of dance, her choice of movement is daring, thrilling and resonating as the flexibility of her limbs leads her to strip down to comfortability, taking off her heap-wrap, undoing her braids so that she could caress her hair, she then subtly took of the top layer of her dress to be more free and sensual with her creativity, freedom and openness to the acknowledgment of her body.

Ffion’s sensory of movement is breathtakingly subjective and rational, deeper into her connectivity to her ancestry and acceptance of her women-identity and culture; she submits uplifting, rooted, tribal movements symbolising an unchained, happy and charismatic attitude to her individuality and regenerated mind-set. Ffion’s increased energy and fluidity from her feet travelled through to her arms projecting aspiration, hope, structure, purpose and gratitude.

A heartfelt, passionate, sincere, genuine, deep and fulfilling story told through dance, compelling music and storytelling. Conveying a fusion of emotion and reaching a place of acceptance in your skin and being; as well as having obedience to the fruits of your sprit in order to receive enlightenment, self-love, value and happiness of your nature.

Tanica Psalmist

 

Review of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo at the WMC by Roger Barrington

 

(4 / 5)

 

On an overcast autumnal evening, I dragged myself down to Cardiff Bay to see Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.

Now my dear readers, when I write dragged I don’t mean it in the Biblical Sense. No, I didn’t don my favourite purple tutu and hot-footed it down to the recently rescued Cwmbach railway station after the weekend deluge, and travelled down the Cynon Valley on the brand new Transport for Wales network. No… not after last time and my close encounter near Penrhiwceiber. And now that my Arrival Trains ban had been lifted…well, you know. Anyway, this is dragging on a bit

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo – doesn’t that roll of the toungue and sound as appetising as a Parisian baguette..Ballet and France are synonymous.  Vaslav Nijinsky and his lover  Sergei Diaghilev after creating their name in their Russian Motherland relocated to Paris where they were fixtures in salons of the avant garde and created their questionably best balletic work. In more recent times another Russian immigrant  Rudolf Nureyev found inspiration in a Parisian environment and the elegance of  French prima ballerina Sylvie Guillem have helped to elevate French ballet to the pinnacle of ballet aestheticism.

And of course, we have Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo., to take it that step further.

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!  Start again.

Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo, have nothing to do with France, other than it French title. Some may argue, they have nothing to do with ballet.

The troupe was founded in New York City in  1974, but origins go back a couple of year earlier. Originally playing at off-Broadway venues they received  such favourable reviews that their reputation spread and the venues they played at broke out of NYC to firstly a wider American audience and then worldwide. Ten years ago, they performed at the Royal Variety Performance in front of Prince Charles.

Classical Ballet is easy to make fun of. Who hasn’t performed gormless renditions of such standards as “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” getting on your pointes and then immediately falling off them? I am pretty sure that I have alluded to my own performances of the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Elephant”. – with my own choreography I hasten to add.

The difference here, and it is a substantial one, is that the dancers of Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo are damn good. If you cast an eye over their pedigrees, there are dancers on display that are associated in the past with ballet heavyweights such as Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet School,The Dance Theatre of Harlem,San Francisco Ballet School, English National Ballet, Beijing Dance Academy and the Central School of Ballet, (London). Although, as you might expect, the “ballerinas” are largely American, the all-male troupe also has representation from China, Japan, Cuba, Colombia, Spain and Italy.

The Cardiff programme, which seems typical of the majority of other venues it is playing at on their British tour is in five segments.

After a humerous off stage introduction announcing cast changes to the advertised programme, the curtain drops on dancers in their virgin white dresses assuming a pose of unexpectedly artistic beauty. The segment is taken from Les Sylphidess with music by Chopin. Eugenia Repelskii solos in The Valse, followed by Nina Immobilashvili in Chopin’s sublime Prelude, Opus 28,No. 7.  You’ll know it when you hear it. Nicholas Khachafallenjar and Alla Snizova amaze you with respectively, their power and grace, before the return of Nina Immobilashvili dazzles you with another Valse before the curtain falls and the first interval.

There’s not so much shenanigans on show for the next two parts, Harlequinade Pas de Deux and Trovatiara Pas de Cinq allowing such illuminaries as Sergey Legupski, Helen Highwaters, Guzella Verbitskaya and Guzella Verbitskaya showing their considerable talents to maximum effect and Eugenia Repelskii making a welcome return.

For me the highlight is Olga Supphozova’s rendition of “The Dying Swan”. 

 

 

 

The segment begins with a searchlight trying to locate the stricken bird in a scene reminiscent of the clowns in Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai. When she is eventually tracked down the audience is treated to a performance of such artistic beauty, where Ms Supphozova acts out the death throes and involuntary spasms of an intensity that Anna Pavlova could only have dreamed about, all accompanied with  extreme exaggerated  moulting feathers – it is something to behold. Diaghilev would have blown a gasket!

After the second interval, the performance concludes with the famous collaborative team of Ludwig Minkus’ s music and Marius Petipa’s Paquita which was relatively faithfully performed. I’m grateful that The Kingdom of the Shades from La Bayadere also conceived by this pair has been left alone.

Throughout the performances, the audience is kept on their toes picking out the buffoonery on show. The petty vendettas, the mistimed errors, the sideways glances, the knowingly awful choreographic interpretation, the narcissistic performers, there is so much going on you can’t expect to notice it all.

By the time the troupe engage in their crowd pleasing ensemble dance to the appropriate  music of, “New York, New York”whilst wearing the most kitsch of hair gear a la mode of the Statue of Liberty, many of the audience  were on their feet.

The costumes would adorn the most prestigious ballet companies and if that’s not enough for you, then you also have the exquisite piped music.

However, at the end of the day, it is a one-trick pony. Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, know their audience though, and any chance of boredom creeping in through repetition, is negated by the interludes of dancing excellence,

By deftly pastiching  the most classical of sensory art forms, Les Ballets have created their own.

Cash in your chips, (Monte Carlo – yeah?) and get down to Cardiff Bay for the second and final performance in Cardiff on Wednesday evening, but check availability as the auditorium was near capacity this evening.

Continue reading Review of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo at the WMC by Roger Barrington

News : Frankenstein, Cascade Dance Theatre, Welsh Language and English Language Audio Information

 

Celebrating 200 years since the publication of Mary Shelley’s masterpiece; Cascade breathes new life into a story that has become so much more to us than its 19th Century origins. Visceral and engaging, Cascade’s production brings to the stage all the potency, drama and tragic inevitability that has made the original novel beloved of generation after generation.

We all know Frankenstein; the tale of the monster made of and by man. A cautionary tale, a creation story, an outsider story…a love story. This November, a new Frankenstein is born as a company of six performers and two musicians bring to life Artistic Director Phil Williams’ compelling new adaptation of the ultimate gothic fantasy.

Live music will continue to play a pivotal role in the Company’s work with original composition and performance by Jak Poore (Theatr na nÓg, David Walliams’“Gangster Granny” & “Awful Auntie”) and Ben Parsons (Cherry Ghost, Arctic Monkeys, BBC and Sky TV). Set and costume will come from Paul Shriek (Ballet Boyz, WNO, NDCWales). Cascade Dance Theatre brings its latest creation FRANKENSTEIN, to the touring circuit in Autumn 2018.

This exciting new production delves into the dark world created 200 years ago by Mary Shelley. Artistic Director Phil Williams returns after his successful tour in Autumn 2016, heading a team of international collaborators in a bicentennial celebration of Shelley’s gothic masterpiece.

Every performance of Frankenstein will feature open captioning for D/deaf, deafened and hard of hearing audience members.

FRANKENSTEIN TOUR DATES 2018

1st Nov Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea.

6th Nov Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Aberystwyth

9th Nov Ffwrnes, Llanelli

10th Nov Torch Theatre, Milford Haven

13th Nov Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon

17th Nov Blackwood Miners Institute, Blackwood

20th Nov Borough Theatre, Abergavenny

23rd Nov Neuadd Dwyfor, Pwllheli

24th Nov Galeri, Caernarfon

29th 30th Nov and 1st Dec Chapter, Cardiff

 

Theatr Dawns Cascade mewn cyd-gynhyrchiad â Chanolfan y Celfyddydau Taliesin
yn cyflwyno
Frankenstein

“It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils…”

I ddathlu dauganmlwyddiant cyhoeddi campwaith Mary Shelley, mae Cascade yn cyfleu agweddau newydd ar hanes sy’n golygu mwy o lawer inni heddiw na chwedl wreiddiol y 19eg ganrig.

Mae cynhyrchiad angerddol nwydus Cascade yn ail-greu’n rymus ddramatig ar lwyfan ddatblygiad anochel anffawd sydd wedi sicrhau lle i’r nofel wreiddiol yn ein calonnau, genhedlaeth ar ôl cenhedlaeth.

Rydym i gyd yn gyfarwydd â stori Frankenstein, anghenfil a grëwyd o ddyn, o waith dyn. Chwedl rybuddiol, hanes creadigaeth, stori am ddieithryn… stori serch.

Ym mis Tachwedd fe gaiff Frankenstein newydd ei eni wrth i gwmni o bum perfformiwr a dau gerddor anadlu bywyd i mewn i addasiad cymhellgar y Cyfarwyddwr Artistig Phil Williams o’r ffantasi gothig benigamp hon.

Cefnogir gan Gyngor Celfyddydau Cymru, Llywodraeth Cymru a’r Loteri Genedlaethol, gyda chefnogaeth ychwanegol gan Ganolfan y Celfyddydau Aberystwyth, Tŷ Cerdd a Creu Cymru.

Y Daith: www.cascadedancetheatre.co.uk

Review Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Programme B, Peacock Theatre by Hannah Goslin

 

 

(4 / 5)

 

I got myself a taste of the Trocks last week, and I ached for more.

Probably not as much as they ache after performing 2 different shows over the course of 2 weeks.

You would think – doing comical ballet dressed as women would become old hat – but boy, are you wrong.

This time around, we had different ballets – from Les Syphides, Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux to Napoli Pas De Six, Raymonda’s Wedding and a revisit to The Dying Swan.

Each performance different to the last, there is no repeat of the routine – both comedy and dance and the stand out performers are not the same as last time, taking the lead with their characters and their foibles.

What can be congratulated by them as performers, is that no one is on stage and forgetting where they are. They are engaged, the are paying attention, and in their own subtle ways being involved and hilarious in their ‘hammed’ reactions as much as those we are ‘meant’ to be paying attention to.

Again, the ballet aspects are brilliant, perfection and stunning to watch. Their transformation and changes between the female and male characters invoke typical and traditional ballet. But they still have their own characters – the slightly dumb male lead, distracted by everything and anything in Les Syphides to the beautiful and slightly egotistical bride in Raymonda’s Wedding.

We have a repeat performance of the Dying Swan, but with a different dancer, they have taken their own take – the basic choreography is the same, but their character is different and so we are still easily engaged and laughing at different jokes.

Again, I really enjoyed Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo and felt as if I was seeing an old friend, but with new and side splitting stories.

Hannah Goslin

 

 

Review: The Bromyard Folk Festival by Roger Barrington

 

(4 / 5)

The 51st  annual Bromyard Folk Festival recently took place and I spent a delightful afternoon at one of Britain’s major showcases of home-based talent in this perennial music genre.

Performing at this year’s festival were headlining artistes such as Oysterband, The Young ‘Uns and the guy I was fortunate to catch, Chris Wood.

The Festival site is located about a quarter of a mile outside the attractive Black and White styled buildings of the Herefordshire market town of Bromyard. Only being 90 minutes drive from South-East Wales, makes it easy accessible. The town itself holds many fringe events such as bands playing in the pubs and Morris Dancers performing in the Town Square. The overall effect is quintessentially English, and, even on a murky drizzly September afternoon was sufficiently edifying for even the writer’s Welsh gaze.

At the field where the paid part of the Festival is located, there is a veritable cornucopia of activities that welcome the attendee.

The main acts are housed on the Wye Valley Brewery stage, housed inside a large marquee. This is where I watched the superb songwriter/musician, Chris Wood.

 

 

 

 

Self-taught on the guitar and violin, he is inspired by the traditional dance music of France and Quebec. What impressed me most was his witty and clever lyrics, presented with a clarity of vocal annunciation that hammer home the song’s message, but in a quiet easygoing manner. It isn’t too difficult to understand why he has been twice awarded the BBC  Folk Singer of the Year. He has collaborated with  Billy Bragg,and Martin and Eliza Carthy and other folk-world luminaries and recently supported Joan Armatrading, not that, (in his own words), she requires any support. And if, in the unlikely occurrence that his musical career flounders, he could make a decent living as a stand-up comic such is his highly amusing delivery.

You also have a large bar marquee where acts perform and an outdoor stage, where I witnessed the prancing antics of a Morris Dancing troupe. There are also a number of related trade stalls and food vendors, a children’s play area and competitive events are held during the Festival’s four days.

I found there to be a highly convivial atmosphere present between the organisers and festival-goers.  Free car parking is provided in an adjacent field.

Already the 2019 dates are set for  5th-8th September 2019 and tickets will be available early next year. I am already looking forward to it!

 

Roger Barrington

 

Review Blak, Whyte, Gray, Blue Boy Entertainment, Barbican Centre by Tanica Psalmist

The sensory of the dancers’ movements projected an aura of an overwhelming system, which conveyed power and pain from the three dancers’ bodies. Uniquely taking eyes through a figurative journey, as their bodies effortlessly would vigorously flop and rise, their fluidity hypnotised, leaving you mesmerised to the depths of how political distress affects the mental and emotional state.

The music was upbeat. In beat we witnessed a fusion of dance styles such as krumping, popping, electro funk gliding to the counts within the music flow that went to the rhythm of 1,2,3,4 but automatically speeded up to their heartbeats chanting 2,4,6,8. This soon boomed to a higher frequency as they began spinning, breakdancing and exploiting various other hip hop movements, perfectly synchronised to the music produced by Michael Asante.

The three dancers were all dressed in white, visually moving our brains due to the expressions of strain and their reactions of torment in vain. Their clothing interestingly had straps, tied down to their chests. You could feel the dancers’ hearts race, pumping to the counts of 10, 20, 30, and 40. The repetitive moves majestically synced. Projecting moves of life and power whilst they embraced an emotional energy, triggered by a world we all know so well.

The second half brought even more intensity to the stage. A batch of five guys enchanted moves of ill health, in an oppressive nature. Their violence embodied was evidently from a segregated culture. Hope was their supply, their influence was their leader, precautions were their discipline, and the misguided was their teacher. These five guys were full of anger and despair, soon joined with the three dancers seen at the start, who slid along the floor. The dancers’ resonated hurt from colonisation, mixed in with an identity crisis leaving one of the main dancers fatally hurt; as if he had been wounded, portraying weakness, no vacant strength in his strive to fight.

When he was solitary on stage, the lights were flooded with a sparkly white, glossy effect with smoke filtered across the stage. The dancer during his solo dance act was regenerating, embodying martial art movements as a sign of him strengthening and empowering.

A scarlet cloth was draped around this dancer, which instinctively held a connection to culture. We saw that what was lost had been restored. As the dancers re-joined him they all effectively started tribal dancing. Incorporated into the dance moves were light bouncing, embracing, smiling, culture, architecture of hearts rejoicing, as their bodies bounced like tigers. It became an expression of unity and life between the past and present of home manifested through hip hop dancing.

The artistic designs on stage, blossomed the audience with amazement as masks were slowly hanging down on set, the room went dark revealing these masks to now have vibrant, glowing colours which brilliantly had the same facial patterns duplicated on to the dancers faces. The luminance radiated from their trousers, bursting colours of blue, with a reddish, orange tint.

The music consisted of heavy, deep drums and heartfelt string instruments. The ambience was uplifting as it radiated emotions of tranquillity, hope, victory and a full tribe of life. Each dancer individually performed a solo as themselves, which conveyed their known identity. The colours from the projection resembled a sunset in the background displaying colours that were warm and exotic. The artistic designer wonderfully exhibited streams of a liquid gold sunset display as they danced like it was their last time. Full of energy, fire and enjoyment, zero stopping involved.

The final dance moves had huge arm swinging incorporated, with big feet stomps and jumps symbolising freedom and happiness. In slow motion as the music began to fade and the magical sunset went down we saw the elegancy of them walking off into sunset together, representing strong unity within their community, who were born to survive.

A powerful production!

Tanica Psalmist  

Review Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Peacock Theatre by Hannah Goslin

 

(4 / 5)

 

What’s better than dance?

Dance and comedy.

While I enjoy a good ballet, Les Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo, or ‘Trocks’ as they are affectionately known as, are a triumph.

Ballet is beautiful, but Ballet can be ever so serious.

The Trocks take snippets from real ballets, such as Swan Lake and Trovatiara and present them in a humorous way – playing off the fears of ballet dancers and the mistakes that could happen, and in put their own slapstick amongst truly beautiful dance and technicality.

The Trocks are all male, dressed, colloquially, in ‘drag’ but still play both male and female parts with absolute brilliance – switching from serious ballet to comedy, they are nothing but awe-inspiring and engrossing.

The set is like any ballet – the costumes as opulent as any ballet and their beauty is beyond words. You feel that it should be wrong to laugh, but they somehow mix it so well that you laugh but also really appreciate their talent, stamina and grace. And gosh, they know the right time to pause, the right faces to pull and how to work us audience members.

I would suggest if you are new to ballet, to first see the Trocks – they are a lovely introduction to dance where it does not feel too serious, you are left time to appreciate the quality of dance, but also to relax into a comical and fun evening.

Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo is also visiting the Wales Millennium Centre at the beginning of October – Do. Not. Miss. Them!

Hannah Goslin

Review Joon Dance, Tongues, Chapter Arts Centre by Jeremy Linnell

 

A note on Joon Dance’s Tongues: This performance was shown as work in progress, the result of a period of research and development. It is a collaboration between Joon Dance, spoken word artist Rufus Mufas and young people in the community.

Tongues is coming in on a swell of excellent work for and with young people in Wales. Theatre Iolo’s excellent Platfform initiative is nurturing artists to make engaging, demanding work for and with young people, such as Tin Shed Theatre’s Boxes and 2016 by Paul Jenkins and Tracey Harris. Even National Theatre Wales is getting in on the act with We’re Still Here making great use of a community cast, including several young people, given strong moments within professional production to connect with an audience and have their voices hear. The UK as a whole is really seeing a shift in how we make and present work for young audiences, with growing recognition that they deserve as dynamic and diverse program of work as older audiences, and that by nurturing the next generation of young creatives we can ensure this program of work continues to be made in the future.

Billed as “A public performance on the Friday at 6.30pm to showcase the piece of work developed through the week.” Tongues was the culmination of a week’s work with young people from the community around Chapter, for them to,

“Find your voice this summer with TONGUES. Ever wanted to speak out about what’s important to you? Like dancing or interested in performing? Together we will create a dance and spoken-word performance unique to you and your community.”

Its ambition is to fit neatly in to this growing landscape of diverse, young people led work. I feel this is important. Tongues is big ideas and big promises.

Tongues also opens with a promise to the audience. Well. A promise and a provocation. Upon being seated we are asked what “Canton is”. Our answers are written down and posted on the wall at the back. All the while bodies slowly writhe on stage like pupae waiting for the performance to begin. Before the show starts we are told our voices matter, that we are as much a part of this as the performers.

Tongues is ultimately a promise to give voice to its young people and its audience.

It’s a promise it breaks.

The performance, to be absurdly reductive, consisted of three halves (try working that one out, ha!). Live dance, spoken word and live sound mixing using audio captured from around Canton.

The opening number involved the young people dancing across the stage, with the most infectious, magnetic smiles I’d seen in a long time. Loving performance, loving being there, I was utterly delighted to be spending the next hour in their company. Even more so when they picked up the mic and started expressing their truths about the world.

What a tragedy to see them spend the majority of the performance sat at the back of the stage as the adults performed for them, spoke for them and made music for them.

What a missed opportunity to have three exciting live mediums, built on passion and emotion, to be performed in such a monotone and belaboured manner, and to not have the mediums play together and enhance the expression of each. I so desperately wanted them to react to each other, to find a voice together. I also had a particular note for whoever performed the majority of spoken word – they held the mic too close to their mouth making it difficult to understand, and the lack of variation in delivery made it hard to focus on what was being said. If the words came from young people let them speak!

And how great would it have been if our answers to “Canton is” had been included in the piece instead of involving us at the start only to be ignored for the rest of the performance.

The adults performing the work have worked hard and take great joy in what they do, and are clearly incredibly proud of the potential of the work.

It just needs to decide whether it is work for and by young people, in which case they need to be front and centre, or whether to use young people’s experiences as provocations for professional artists to create work around. A great deal of what I said can be addressed simply by changing how the work is framed to the audience.

I see great potential in this work and would love to see a more developed version, one that embraces its liveness and the unrefined, magnetic joy and passion of the young people on which it has built its foundation. Please do not take their voices away.

Unfortunately, The work is just not there yet. It is however an excellent, and exciting concept, one that is using mediums that resonate with young people in ways that traditional theatre doesn’t, so I am incredibly hopeful that the work will become something important and vital.