National Dance Company Wales advertised that this piece would be ‘three dances to reconnect us’ and this is exactly what they did when the Pool Hayes Academy Sixth Form dancers travelled to Shrewsbury for their first Dance Aspirations day.
The first part of the day we watched the NDCW open dance class in the auditorium where we observed an independent warm up then a technique class led by Victoria Roberts, the rehearsal director of the company. This insight into a usually private company warm up showed us how a professional company prepare and the importance of ballet even within a contemporary company.
After this we were lucky enough to get the opportunity to interview company member Josh Attwood, who was a previous student of our teacher. He explained what it was like to be a professional dancer and described a day in his life. The opportunity to speak to a professional dancer really helped us to understand how much hard work and dedication it takes to successfully work as a professional dancer and has inspired us to consider our next steps towards this after sixth form very carefully.
A few hours later we returned to the auditorium to watch the performance of ‘One Another’ which is a triple bill.
‘Wild Thoughts’ by Andrea Costanzo Martini
We saw this piece as a celebration of the body because of the way the dancers explored their use of body, in combination with voice and movements. This choreography used animalistic movements with all dancers using contact to explore relationships. The block colour costume worked well for this dance as we felt that this could have been to emphasise the abstract nature of the piece and highlighted a lot of different gestures. The costume was abstract enough to support but not overpower the original theme of the dance. The dancers used a dynamic contrast and projected their voice to the audience with different facial expressions, which was effective to the audience as the combination of voice with movement is something that us students have not seen before and left us excited for what was to follow, having pushed us out of our comfort zones and left a lasting impression.
‘Codi’ by Anthony Matsena
‘Codi’ explores a narrative about the Welsh mining community. In this piece the lighting was key throughout the performance, with the use of headlights giving the audience an insight into working conditions for the miners and setting the scene effectively. This was also supported with the choice of costumes. The props used gave a sense of drama and highlighted how dangerous conditions in the mine were for the workers. Throughout this piece we could really feel the level of emotion conveyed to the audience, where it goes from being excited and energetic at the beginning to sorrowful at the end. The use of voice effectively conveyed the passion of the community. Overall, this was our favourite piece because it taught us about an important historical event, helped us to empathise with miners and understand their dangerous conditions and inspired us to research more widely for our own choreography stimuli.
‘Ludo’ by Caroline Finn
The final piece in the triple bill was about transitioning into adulthood and revisiting fond memories of childhood experiences. The choreographic use of experimenting with games explored as a child was very entertaining as we tried to spot the various inspirations and witness how these had been turned into movement material. The clever use of props, such as the benches that were originally sat at the side of the stage that turned into a merry-go-round has inspired us to experiment with props in different ways back in lessons. It was interesting to see the clear characterisation within the different dancers, allowing us as the audience to explore these childhood memories through the eyes of each character all the way through. The personalised, multi purpose costumes also allowed each dancer to be playful with their character. This piece was placed perfectly at the end of the triple bill to leave the audience on a high.
After the performance we were lucky enough to be able to sit in a Q&A with members of the cast and learn which piece was their favourite, understand more about the development and rehearsal process for the show and understand how some of the pieces were created over Zoom due to Covid restrictions. Having this opportunity really helped us to develop our appreciation of the pieces and inspire us to try new approaches and push ourselves to explore movement material in different ways in our choreography lessons.
Overall, we loved all three pieces that NDCW performed; particularly how different each of them were and how the use of voice was incorporated. The performance style and characterisation of each piece was so different, which I don’t think we were expecting. We also loved seeing different props used in different ways throughout the three pieces and how the lighting was used effectively, especially in our favourite ‘Codi’.
We would like to congratulate NDCW for a fantastic show but really thank them, Josh especially, for opening up previously unseen elements of the rehearsal and preparation process for audience members to immerse themselves in – the impact the whole day has had on our lessons now we’re back in school is very clear to see and we are all better dancers for the whole experience.