Get the Chance are working with new theatre company YEAH YEAH to support audiences to attend a sharing of an in development piece of work and then discuss their thoughts. The sharing will take place at Chapter Arts Centre on Saturday the 13th July at 7.30pm.
YEAH YEAH are a new Cardiff theatre company developing uplifting gig theatre. A crossover for those that might enjoy a musical, tribute band, stand-up comedy, or a touch of ballet.
The work in development (working title) ‘Magical Place’ is free to attend.
Expect iconic songs you know and love plus drums, keytar, lycra, laughs, dance and the biggest pyrotechnics they can afford, Magical Place is a new work still in development and the company welcome your feedback
Please note, that this is a sharing of a work in progress, and therefore not the complete anticipated production. Sections of the work will be performed, with the aim to gather audience feedback. Audience members participating in feedback will earn two Tempo Time Credits for volunteering their time.
“Tori is here to perform a musical, Morgan is here to perform a rock show.
So expect iconic musical and rock songs you know and love; comedy, dance, live drums, keytar and lycra.”
Duration: 1hr (which will include optional audience feedback)
“Two household’s, both alike in dignity. In fair Verona where we lay our scene”. So begins Shakespeare’s 1597 tragic love story of star crossed lovers. Intended as a radical reinterpretation of the classic tale, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures company does away with the feuding families, the setting and indeed many of the characters. Instead the tragedy is set within the confines of the “Verona Institute” – some form of psychiatric ward in the not too distant future. And rather than being from rival Montagues and Capulets, the eponymous lovers are two patients being treated in the institute.
Stripping back the characters and removing the text forces you to concentrate on the connection between the characters, and in that aspect Bourne’s production is excellent. the chemistry between Romeo (Andy Monaghan) and Juliet (Seren Williams) is beautiful; their moment of meeting at the party and subsequent coming together crackles and fizzes with excitement. As they weave around each other and intertwine you feel their passion, all sound tracked brilliantly to Prokofiev’s score. Their romance is the highlight of the piece, with it’s devastating ending heartrendingly performed by the pair.
Similarly impressive is the ensemble cast. As part of New Adventure‘s endeavour to nurture the next generation of dancing talent in the UK, the whole show was cast from open auditions nationwide, and at each venue on the tour six local dancers take up place in the ensemble. It is testament to their talent and the hard work of Bourne’s creative team that they blend seamlessly in with the ‘permanent’ cast.
Less convincing is the overall concept for Bourne’s piece. Romeo and Juliet has been reinterpreted in different ways ever since it’s creation. Each interpretation can reveal fresh or different perspectives, from Baz Luhrman’s film with guns set on Venice Beach to the 1957 film West Side Story highlighting the violence between rival gangs. Yet here the interpretation falls flat. Rather than rival gangs or families, the Verona Institute is divided into girls and boys. Each are generally kept apart by officious looking guards and officers, yet are allowed to interact. The two sides don’t appear to hate each other and the only obvious tension between them is sexual tension. As a result the drama has to come from a prison guard, playing the equivalent to the Tybalt role. This change in dynamic removes much of the fuel which creates the drama in Shakespeare’s script.
The other issue with Bourne’s Romeo + Juliet is the choice of location. Set in a mental institution, the cast are subjected to medication, examination and strict exercise regimes. Their movements vary from uptight and restricted in the presence of authority to wild and passionate when let loose. Yet the subject of mental health isn’t really tackled or explored. Why have these young people been institutionalised? What help are they receiving while inside? A cynic might think that the setting was chosen to tie in with the increasing awareness of mental health, and to tap in to the surrounding zeitgeist. However, in doing so did they consider how it looks to then show people with mental health problems rocking backwards and forwards before ultimately killing each other or themselves?
As a piece of modern dance, Bourne’s production is a triumph. The choreography is dazzling, the music and score have been adapted from the original with a pared down orchestra by Terry Davies to great effect and the ensemble work from the cast is excellent. Yet sadly as an overall piece of work it doesn’t feel fully thought through with regards to how the reinterpretation changes the dynamics of the piece or intent behind it. Excellent choreography and performances, hampered by issues with the interpretation.
Matthew Bourne’s Romeo + Juliet is running at the Wales Millenium Centre until the 22nd June 2019.
Awakening is a mixed bill reflecting on National Dance Company of Wales founding’s of different international choreographers. The showcase involved three works: ‘Tundra’ by Spanish choreographer Marcos Morau; ‘Afterimage’ by Brazilian choreographer Fernando Melo; and ‘Reveller’s Mass’ by Caroline Finn the Artistic Director and now Resident Choreographer of National Dance Company.
is a partnered piece that involves the dancers being in sync throughout the
whole piece. It has a history of Russian folk dance, mass parades and
revolution which is why the dancers stay connected. The costumes were also
inspired by Russian folk dance for example the skirts at the beginning gives a
mesmerising image of them floating across the stage.
In the piece ‘Afterimage’ the dancers sit at a small table using other dancers behind a mirror interrupting each other’s reflections whilst moving, like showing two types of reality all in one. Although this is the shortest piece, it gives out so much emotion. Using an illusion technique called ‘Pepper’s Ghost’ shows exactly what it states…the dancers looking like sprits coming in and out of other bodies on stage which was very bewildering but breath-taking to watch.
‘Reveller’s Mass’ is a religious fervour with explorations
of communion and ceremony involving a long water bath with candles in the
middle which explains Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ mentioned in the programme. Ed
Myhill gave a terrific performance as the cult leader and actually ended up
being quite funny at the end of the work. Each dancer has a curious character
in which they all come together using charismatic and compelling choreography.
was an absolute pleasure to see “Awakening” at Sherman Theatre Cardiff by
National Dance Company Wales. The audience enjoyed 3 works (“Tundra”, “Afterimage” and “Revellers’ Mass”).
As a partly Russian person, I was impressed with “Tundra”. The choreographer perfectly modifies some classical Russian Folk Dance movements and fits them into the work. The idea of staying connected was probably taken from Folk Dances as well, but dancers were using their whole bodies to stay connected, not only arms, which I find really interesting and impressive.Not only movements were inspired by/ taken from Russian culture, but also costumes were created using some traditional Russian patterns. I am not sure if the music was Russian, but definitely had a Slavic motif. Apart from the connection with the Russian culture, I was in love with the lightning, a huge rectangle light and this play with the shadows gave me an unforgettable experience. I would recommend to anyone who is interested in bringing different cultures to contemporary dancing.
is a contemporary dance work that uses elements
of Russian folk dance alongside an urban vocabulary. Marcos
bold style is robotically precise, trying to create something more human in
that we used to work together, in terms of connections and community. These
days we are all so disconnected.
This was the first time I had seen Tundra being performed live within the show Awakening, with no background information on it before watching the performance I was extremely mesmerised at the way it was both executed and how the design went so well alongside it. Being in first year on the dance course at USW I’m just starting to watch more varied dance performances and realise how much diversity there is within the dance sector, Tundra giving me an excellent insight into new ideas and concepts. Tundra was a delight to watch and really shows the connection and trust the dancers have between one another, allowing the audience to really relate to both the beautiful costumes that relate so well to the Russian Folk dance and harmonised precise movements.
I am glad I didn’t look at the background of Tundra before the showing of it as I feel it allowed me to have my own thoughts about the piece, before knowing the reasoning behind it. Having then looked at the programme notes it is clear what Marcos Morau wanted to explore and portray within Tundra. I think it is an extraordinary work that I would give a 5 star rating.
Don’t miss this incredible work Tundra choreographed by Marcos Morau, it’s a must see.
evening began with Tundra, a nod to Russian tradition with a whirlwind of
optical illusions. This is the third cast I have now seen perform the piece and
each have brought their own dynamic to it. This time it wasn’t the swift canons
nor the captivating opening sequence that brought my intention. Rather it was,
the unified presence of the performers on stage. They didn’t seem like one entwining
body which other casts had achieved but instead as individuals stood at a
united front. Each with their own way of moving but held together by their
defiant gaze and unified approach. This seemed more reflective of the Russian
Revolution in which the piece was created in memory of. However, I must admit
part of me longed to be dumbfounded at the pure skill in which the choreography
provides. But upon reflection, I must acknowledge how a piece adapts with age
and more so when you know a magicians tricks it’s a lot harder for something to
Despite that, Afterimage was a piece that really resonated with me. I had been to see the open rehearsals last summer so was aware of how the trick of Peppers Ghost worked. However, this wasn’t a necessary surprise needed to be impacted by the simplistic beauty of the movements and the story within the piece. The powerful relationships between the performers left you delving for more clues and causing each audience member to create their own story as to why. When in fact, there could be endless possibilities. Something possibly more beautiful than what was happening on stage, was the pure amazement of the children sat behind me. Their squeals and gasps as different characters emerged and disappeared from the set. As well as their insistent debate of how the Company managed to achieve the magic that was occurring on stage.
The final piece was that of Revellers Mass, a farewell from Caroline Finn as Artistic Director of the company. The stage was filled with a community of characters each with their own story to tell. Once again Ed Myhill played the roll of the mastermind, a role he plays extremely well, and seemed the master puppeteer for the rest of the cast. The piece was one of those that you could watch multiple times and depending on your seat within the theatre your eyes would be drawn to different narratives throughout. Although I struggled to find sense of the ending, it provided a light hearted finish to what was a brilliant evening showcasing the skills and character of the new cast. I can’t wait to see them all grow as a company and to see what else that have in store for us.
As someone with a Roman Catholic upbringing watching Revellers Mass by Caroline Finn as part of NDCWales’ Awakening 2019, I could clearly recognise moments relating to the Christian Faith and I felt I was able to make so many connections with that performance! It was enjoyable and clever to have comedic moments where the audience actually laughed out loud! It’s not always you can watch a dance piece focusing around religion and laugh!! Would love to see this again.
On Wednesday 1st May 2019 I got the pleasure of watching National Dance Company Wales at the Sherman Theatre in the spring tour of Awakening. The evening consisted of three captivating pieces, opening with Tundra choreographed by Marcos Morau, Afterimage by Fernando Melo and Revellers’ Mass by Caroline Finn.
When I originally watched Tundra for the first time I was already intrigued first of all by the opening section where the floor length skirts gave the illusion of hovering across the stage with ease, and then the simplistic movements, but performed within half counts of each other to look as if moving across the stage as one being. However seeing this performance for the second time for myself made it even more interesting to watch. Having learnt sections of the repertoire from two of the company members earlier on in the year was what made it even more engaging to watch. About to enter the professional industry means that when you watch this work and have had the chance to learn it, makes it feel more accessible and less daunting to think about graduating.
Afterimage was an interesting watch with its visual effects happening live on stage making it seem like there are two dancers dancing in each others space. I do think for this piece it would vary what your reaction may be depending on where you sit. I would be keen to see it again from a different angle to experience what I may notice next time.
Revellers’ Mass felt
far more familiar to me as a piece based on what I have seen the company do so
far. Similar to Finn’s
other works in my opinion like Green House and Folk. The piece was lively and
energetic and reminded me of when I saw then company for the first time back in
September 2016. Although the company members have shifted and changed since i’ve been in
been lovely to see how each new member added in to the company brings something
new to the dynamic of the works.
Dance Company Wales are a company that I really enjoy to watch in performance,
as they always seem to exceed my expectations, and pull off everything I
believe that they set out to do.
Awakening was made up of three works, Tundra by Marcus Morau, Afterimage by Fernando Melo, and Revellers’ Mass by Caroline Finn. Tundra is a piece that I have now seen twice, and is one of my favourite works from the company. The way the dancers come together to create such an incredible image has me captivated, and really takes me on the journey with them. Tundra is said to be “as mesmerisingly beautiful, as it is robotically precise.” For me I believe this is exactly how the piece portrays itself. Every time I have seen the work I have been put into a complete state of euphoria.
really recommend watching all of the works performed in awakening, especially
am currently a student at the University of South wales studying dance, I
thoroughly enjoy watching National Dance Company Wales works at any showing or
sharing they offer. On the 1st of May we went to The Sherman Theatre to watch
Awakening. This showing included three amazing works created by Marcos Morau,
Fernando Melo and Caroline Finn. Each work was completely different yet still
flowed next to each other in the show.
The first work to been shown was Tundra, now this is the third time I have watched Tundra and it still gives me chills to this day. Watching the precision of 8 dancers moving in sync with each other on a bare stage is a remarkable thing, it’s something so aesthetically pleasing that I find myself being mesmerised. Watching Tundra as an open rehearsal to being performed and toured feels like I have seen it grow into bigger and better things performance by performance.
second work to be performed was Afterimage. This piece completely captivated me
in seconds. Going in fully blind to this piece I had no pre assumption or
wants. It was 20 minutes of pure amazement, the use of an old “trick” really
blew my mind, and to see it be used in such a well thought way with decorum and
elegance was beautiful to watch. From beginning to end I couldn’t take my
eyes of the stage, movement and dancers.
The final work was Revellers’ Mass the scenery, music, costume and movement took this piece from just a dance work to a truly fascinating performance. Just like all of the pieces I became enthralled by this piece. Its pace made it impossible to notice you’d been watching 7 dancers for 32 minutes. The movement felt like it took you on a story through the work, and the performativity displayed by all the dancers had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. Overall Awakening was a one of the most enjoyable and creative shows I have seen in a very long time, I would recommend for anyone to see these work. I will always be grateful to be able to watch this company and for letting me be inspired at ever show
do you get lost in a whirlwind of movement that is in a world of visual awe?
engaging in National Dance Company Wales’s Awakening tour which showed off
a variety of three different dance works, Tundra; Marcos Morau, Afterimage;
Fernando Melo and Revellers’ Mass; Caroline Finn it was evident that the dancers
alone were in direct correlation not only with themselves, each other and the
music but the use of lighting within those dance works seemed to contrast
throughout by adding significant mood swings in to and from one scene to the
next which made them all unite as one.
set the mood itself with the dynamic, electronic and cybernetic world as Morau
described it as. How did Morau show this statement through movement and
visuals? The strobe lighting and effect which pierced the audience’s eyes as
these sharp energetic rigid small animistic gestures being performed contrasted
this somewhat settle plain light with a series of layering gestures performed
by the company making the work dynamic for the audience’s eye.
contrast to this Fernando Melo’s piece (Afterimage) is the focus point of my review
where I ask the question, what makes this performance? A male dancer dressed in
a navy blazer and round neck t shirt sets the scene amidst the dull lighting
and sits comfortably on a wooden chair with his arms laid out across the table
that is placed to the right side of him. A series of arm gestures are performed
with the introduction to the mirror that surrounds the scene which constantly
reveals, hides and manipulates the movement of the dancer as Melo even spoke
about this being a main priority to his work.
the piece goes on, we indulge in a series of uncertainty as to which side of
the stage the dancers are at, were they at the mirrored, or the fore front
space? As we get absorbed into the layering effect that spears right the way
back through the dull black back drops that captures a multi layering mirrors
of that one person performing.
idiosyncratic of the lighting and sound being used throughout the works that
the company brought to the stage of their Awakening tour presented a variety of
how dancers can captivate the audiences with not only their bodies connecting
but their connection towards the musicality and visual effects.
pieces, majestic and powerful dancers, who drew me in closely with the subtly
in their movements”
by National Dance Company is one not to miss. As a student studying dance and a
former Associate of the company it was inspiring to see the range of what
contemporary dance could be in a professional context. During this performance
the company performed three works ‘Tundra’, ‘Afterimage’ and ‘Revellers’ Mass.’
by Marcos Morau explores the theme of the Russian Revolution. The dancers
predominately dance in unison and are frequently connected to one another. This
can be said to reflect how a variety of different classes came together to
revolt against Tsarist Russia. This work is full of intricate details and
precise timings to form an overall specific image, because of this it is very
clear to the audience when something goes wrong. However, during this show the
dancers executed it with a fairly high level of dynamic precision. Their
captivating performance alongside the set creates a tense environment for all
who watch. As an aspiring dancer this work seems like a daunting challenge. The
level of precision that is required to perform this work amazes me every time.
second piece ‘Afterimage’ was
choreographed by Fernando Melo. This work was a huge contrast to the previous
work, a much more softer and subtle performance. The piece involved mirrors on
stage to create the illusion technique Pepper’s Ghost. This effect allowed the
dancers behind the mirror to appear and disappear at various points in the
piece. The dancers in front of the mirror interact with the other dancers to
look at social interactions and how different people communicate with one
another. This piece was a reflective piece, there was no specific storyline so
you could interpret the piece however you wanted to. This form of contemporary
dance highlights the power of dance as a form of communication, the work could
say something completely different to everyone else. This enables the audience
to question what the piece means to them and why.
‘Revellers’ Mass’ was the
final piece, choreographed by Caroline Finn. The piece was inspired by ‘iconic
however while being based on these religious images the overall
performance was a fairly light hearted piece that focused on a variety of
different characters. The characters in this work portrayed a variety of
emotions while once again showing how contemporary dance can be numerous
things. The choreography alongside the engaging performance of the characters
created a fully immersive piece and was the perfect way to the end the show.
‘Spring Awakening’ is an ideal performance for anyone who is interested in contemporary dance or anyone who is curious as to what it is. In these works National Dance Company Wales highlight how it can be precise, dynamic, reflective and characteristic.
National Dance Company’s Wales ‘Awakening’ was an elating evening of dance works filled with culture, history and compelling narratives.
uses visual illusions with body and costuming to create an overall bigger image
and visual art. Dehumanising the dancers to appear robotic and as if they are a
part of something bigger, working as one.
uses two-way mirrors to create multiple versions of the dancers, adding layers
for the audience to decide what the interactions between the dancers may be,
whether they be an after image or in the forefront.
Revellers’ Mass is an elaborate production with intriguing and intricate interactions between performers with imaginative and expressive choreography. The piece includes light and dark moments and humour. The whole work had me on the edge of my seat trying to get a closer look to become more immersed in the narrative.
A thoroughly enjoyable evening and a well thought out programme of productions. All costumed impeccably, with innovative visual effects, props and wonderful accompaniment
Awakening by National Dance Company Wales was a show that consisted of three dance pieces, Tundra, Afterimage and Revellers Mass.
this review I will be focusing on the dance piece; Tundra. This piece is based
off of Traditional Russian Folk dances, mass parades and revolution, but in a
more modern context. This piece was created by Marcus Morau.
first thing I want to talk about is their costumes. The costumes were
colourful, patterned jumpsuits paired with plain white socks. I thought the costumes
were bold and after watching some videos about traditional Russian folk dances
I can see that they were trying to take some of the details out of traditional
Russian costumes to put into their piece.
really enjoyed this piece because it kept me engaged from the beginning. In the
beginning it looks like the dancers are floating around the stage but they’re
actually doing lots of really fast, little steps. After watching the videos of
traditional Russian Dances I also saw that they were using some of the moves
but in a different way. They stayed connected a lot in a line, just like they
do in Russian Folk dances so they have tried their best to explore these
movements and structures.
is definitely a piece I would watch again. It is full of energy and all the
dancers were coordinated. I especially liked how they used foam towards the end
of the dance to make it look like snow. I would give this performance a five
piece that stood out to me the most from the three brilliantly executed works
on this tour was Afterimage. Now I’m not sure whether that is because
I have previously watched Tundra on stage and the rehearsals for Reveller’s Mass,
but something in Afterimage resonated with me on a personal level.
appearing bodies that seemed to be ghostly behind the body on stage created
many enigmas for me throughout watching the piece which is what I really
enjoyed about the watch. The multiple scenarios and relationships created allow
the audience to connect and relate to their own past or even present
situations. From the first sighting of the clever, thought through optical I
connected very personally to every situation/relationship that I saw.
pin point what it is exactly about the creative imagery that was stuck with me
for so long after watching the work, but the delicate precision of the dancer’s
movements definitely made it an incredible watch. Having not known anything
about the piece before seeing it the first time definitely wouldn’t hinder
my decision to watch it again.
The performance at the Sherman Theatre consists of three works which are broken up by two 20 minute intervals. The works are: Tundra by Marcos Morau which is 30 minutes, Afterimage by Fernando Melo which is 20 minutes, and Revellers’ Mass by Caroline Finn which is 32 minutes.
is a mixed audience for these works as they are all very different. The
programmes for Awakening provide a good amount of detailed information on the
works, and it even provides us with insight to the things the choreographers
have explored and thought of whilst creating them.
first work, Tundra, is intense and serious but also feels that there are some playful
aspects to it. The opening to this work is a single dancer in the space. This
opening feels misplaced because the lighting is a red square in the centre and
is dark at this point and the movement of the dancer isn’t clear
because of it. However, this opening does give some cultural context of the
work. The 8 dancers in the work appear as Russian dolls wearing patterned tops,
long skirts and float around the space creating different spatial patterns. The
dancers exit and re-enter the space without the skirt on, instead we can see
they are wearing an all-in-one costume which is colourful and patterned. They
do very precise and linked movements throughout, either in canon or unison.
Marcos Morau says Tundra is inspired by “Russian folk dance” which is why
dancers are chained and connected”.
Afterimage is a very clever work where the images of the dancers appear, disappear, and multiply. The programme says that Afterimage gives the audience scenes to help them create a “personal response” but “without providing a single narrative”. This work feels quite ghost like, especially by people doing movement in unison either side of the mirror, as it looks like the person behind the mirror is their ghost figure to the person dancing in front of the mirrors.
set for Revellers’ Mass
is a long table towards the back of the space which is a representation of the
Last Super. We can see this table is filled with water as the dancers stand and
perform on it. There are candles on the table which are lit by one dancer
whilst church bells ring. This brings a religious aspect to the work. This is
also done using mannequins, as they can be seen as religious figures/statues.
The work begins to get wild towards the end where the dancers are dancing with
the mannequins or limbs of them and are also splashing the water on the table.
However, this calms down by a male dancer walking and standing centre stage
whilst the song ‘Non,
je ne regrette rien’ by
Edith Piaf is played.
the other dancers are cleaning up the mess on the stage which was created by
Fantastic to experience such a range of inspiring choreography and an articulate performance.
Infused with that distinctly Welsh edge that sets this company apart from others, the opening night for Ballet Cymru’s 2019 tour of Romeo a Juliet was a breath-taking spectacle of love, loss, power and pain. Featuring choreography from Darius James OBE and Amy Doughty, alongside Prokofiev’s classic score, a number of new dancers to the company (and to Wales) joined the more experienced faces that will be familiar to followers of Ballet Cymru. This performance demonstrated the real depth of talent that the company attracts, nurtures, and advances.
In her premiere professional performance, dancer Danila Marzili embodied Juliet with infectious passion and grace, effectively conveying the playful and childlike elements of the character as well as the inimitable pain and heartbreak leading to her death. In her opening scene, Marzili and Krystal Lowe (portraying Juliet’s friend, her confidante, rather than her nurse) expressed such a tangible affinity with one another that, immediately, I was transported directly from Newport into Juliet’s chambers. The scene ends, along with Juliet’s childhood, as she is introduced to her arranged fiancé, Paris, danced energetically by Joshua Feist in his own premiere performance with Ballet Cymru.
Opposite Marzili as Juliet, Romeo was performed by Andrea Maria Battaggia. Battaggia is a skilful dancer who returned to Ballet Cymru this year from Ballet Ireland. Having portrayed the role in 2013, this performance demonstrated the reasons behind this reprisal in 2019. His strength and passion deliver the character’s impulsiveness, tenderness, and emotion with expert flair.
Two real stand-out performances for me were two characters that are usually side-lined as secondary in the story of Romeo and Juliet. Alex Hallas and Beth Meadway, portraying Lord and Lady Capulet, conveyed strength, coldness, wealth, and power through their bodies in such a way that every time they stepped on the stage, they owned it. The costumes adorning these two characters were highly effective at complementing their status. Meadway’s dramatic poise and striking elegance as Lady Capulet was phenomenal; only to be given more depth by the implied affection between her and Tybalt (performed adeptly by Robbie Moorcroft) and her subsequent breaking down into anguish and distress at his death. This performance makes it vastly clear that these dancers are also capable actors, with every performer fully embodying and embracing their roles on the stage.
Perhaps it’s cliché to mention, but I am unable to write a review of Romeo a Juliet without referencing the balcony scene. Expertly choreographed by James and Doughty, and skilfully danced by Battaggia and Marzili to express curiosity and the passion, this famous and relatable interaction proved hugely popular with the very diverse audience present in the theatre. The setting of this scene took my breath away; the projection of a grandiose window and the stage lighting to define the setting accompanied a simple yet effective podium to demarcate the balcony. For my daily work, I spend a lot of my professional time at the headquarters of Ballet Cymru in Rogerstone, Newport. From the first sighting of this balcony while the company were in early rehearsals, I had a real desire to go full-Romeo with, “but soft, what light through yonder window breaks?” but alas, my acting days were short-lived and I struggle to keep a straight face anymore!
Minimalistic sets are indicative of the work of Ballet Cymru. Predominantly on the stage were moveable sheets of hanging chains which conveyed elements of wealth, grandeur, and battle. Designed by Georg Meyer-Wiel, this feature was highly effective in delineating space, serving as backgrounds for projection, and expressing the well-known building blocks of the plot of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Meyer-Wiel also designed the dancers’ costumes, with some real stand out pieces (I couldn’t decide which I preferred: the powerful black costumes of Lord and Lady Capulet, or Friar Lawrence and his entourage dressed in leather). One small criticism, however, is that I feel Paris’ green- jacketed costume was too similar in colour to that of the Montagues, and perhaps would have been more prominent if it reflected those of the senior Capulets.
Every piece of work produced by Ballet Cymru that I have seen has had intrinsically Welsh notes running through. Led by Artistic Director and proud Newport local Darius James OBE, it would be surprising to see a show from this company that didn’t include at least a few nods to Welsh culture and heritage! Romeo a Juliet did not disappoint: the title itself, a nod to the Welsh language; the projection of underneath a Newport flyover during one of the fight scenes, open to interpretation but definitely Newport; the incorporation of traditional Welsh clog dancing in time with Prokofiev’s Dance of the Knights/Montagues & Capulets… Admittedly, I wasn’t sure what to expect of clog dancing mashed up with ballet (and neither were my parents, who were visiting from across the border), but when the dancers were clogging in reasonably good time with the music – masked in hoods that covered their whole faces – Lord and Lady Capulet entered, performing in a more classical ballet style befitting of their characters. The strength demonstrated by the dancers – particularly Robbie Moorcroft (Tybalt) – whilst clogging was palpable. It is this kind of flair that sets Darius James and Ballet Cymru as a real formidable force in Wales, because this scene worked. It was memorable; it was powerful; it was Welsh. And it worked.
An integrally important responsibility of Ballet Cymru, and many other arts organisations around Wales, is to improve diverse representation within their audiences and share their art form with people who may never have entered a theatre, never mind seeing a ballet. Ballet Cymru’s Duets programme, which seeks “to support people to access dance, regardless of background, finances, race, belief, ability, and gender/orientation”, invited a number of its scholars (participants) from Moorland Primary School in Splott, Cardiff to perform the curtain-raiser at both tour dates in Newport.
Aptly named Romeo and Duets, the young people danced with skill (and to rapturous applause!) to Karl Jenkins’ Palladio, as performed by Escala. To complement this, complimentary tickets for the show and coach travel back to Cardiff were made available for the young people and members of their families. As a male adult beginner of ballet myself (I’m still aching from my second ever class as I write this!), it was refreshing to see how many boys were involved in this curtain-raiser.
It is always stimulating to see audience members experience something for the first time; four people sat on my row had never seen a ballet before, and were supporting their children in the Duets curtain-raiser. Ballet Cymru’s diverse audience, particularly when on home turf in Newport, creates a fresh and responsive feel amongst the audience which in turn connects them to the ballet they are watching. A real audience favourite was the ever flamboyant, provocative, and playful Mercutio (portrayed perfectly by Miguel Fernandes); a real excitement built up in the auditorium when he graced the stage with his presence, and almost tangible grief (at least on my row!) when Tybalt took his life at the end of Act II.
Ballet Cymru’s 2019 tour of Romeo a Juliet will continue across the UK throughout June and into July. In addition to this, in partnership with Wales Arts International, the company will be touring three cities in China throughout September 2019. Clearly, the sky is the limit for this dynamic, engaging, and passionate company and I’m excited, as ever, to see what Ballet Cymru has planned next!
Musical fans often snub Joseph for being like a school production but I challenge any musical fan to watch Jaymi Hensley in the title role and not be blown away. This production of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Wales Millennium starred Jaymi Hensley as Joseph and at first, I was apprehensive. Jaymi is famously known for being one of the members of the English pop band Union J and sometimes, in my opinion, they cast famous pop stars just for them to be a famous face and to sell more tickets. However, this was not the case. Jaymi excelled at this role and really helped elevate the show. His acting helped perfectly balance the campiness and seriousness of the show with his exaggerated facial reactions to the audience and emotional portrayal of being reunited with friends. His singing was flawless. He posses an operatic style voice which at first I thought would be distracting but it actually helped showcase Jaymi’s talented without being distracting. In fact, I would say that this show contained the greatest rendition of ‘Any Dream Will Do’ that I have ever heard. My only issue with his singing was that at the end of the performance there was a ‘sing-a-long’ section and because Jaymi was such a fantastic singer that it made it somewhat difficult to sing along but that is a minor detail. With Jaymi’s inclusion of riffs and high notes that I think were added just for him, it helped elevate this show from its school production roots (which was what Joseph was written for) to high quality, West End ready level.
One of the problems I had from the first time I saw Joseph last year was the almost nonsensical setting of this musical. In last year’s version, we jump from the Wild West with “One More Angel” to France with “Those Cannan Days” and while this was fun to watch it did confuse me somewhat. With this year’s production however the staging and lights were used to suggest a theme rather than a location. Rather than being set in France for “Those Cannan Days” there was simply a illuminated Eiffel Tower on the background of the stage , which obviously was not supposed to look like a real-life in-person version of the tower, which served as a reminder of a French theme rather than stating this is where they are. The other thing that confused me the first time I saw this show was the character of Pharaoh as he appeared to be an Elvis impersonator. It was only after this year that I realised it was a play on the moniker of “The King.”
This year the pharaoh, played by Andrew Geater, was amazing. He looked similar to Elvis, he had his mannerisms nailed down and his impression was fantastic. The brothers in this musical are a vital part of the narrative as without them Joseph would not have ended up in Egypt. Within the show, the brothers also added to the comedy and fun of the show but also had fantastic choreography especially in Potiphar’s song titled “Potiphar” where they performed an intricate dance routine with poles which they used to create key objects in the song which was great to watch. All of the brothers were excellent dancers who combined the seriousness and campiness of each number. However, during “Benjamin’s Calypso” the brothers dressed and performed as calypso dancers. Some of the dancers did look a little uncomfortable with this dance number but it was barely visible, apart from this, they were fantastic. They were hilarious and great to watch. Something that was really interesting to see was the portrayal of Potiphars wife. She appeared on stage dressed as a ‘flapper’ and danced accordingly which was a really nice touch as within the story she is supposed to be ‘free spirited.’ At the beginning of the production during “Jacob and Sons” there is supposed to be inflatable sheep on the top of the stage however they did not inflate as they were supposed to and the members of the production had to sort them out. This was a small distraction for the audience.
Overall, I think the choice of costumes and colours worked perfectly together with the narrator in black and silver (with stars across her top) and the brothers, for the majority of the show, plain block colours. The use of colour reached its climax in the iconic image where Joseph is stood with the multi-coloured coat spread out across the stage. The posters and advertising for this show reflected the use of colour by using the raining drops of the rainbow which encapsulated the drama, colour, and the fun of the show. The designers of the advertisements must have thought about this and should be applauded. The show blended the tradition and history of Joseph while at the same time making it modern and the best performance of Joseph I have ever seen. I rate this production at 4 and a half stars.
I am the wrong person to review these pieces. I love NDCWales’ performances like I love good chocolate, I love them like a filthy, dirty, sweet secret, I want to shout this to the world.
Tundra I have seen before. Seen? Seen? You don’t just see these dancers on a stage, you feel them in your guts and in your heart. I cannot begin to imagine what it must really be like to sweat and toil over the solid waste ground of the boards, feeling hot but showing cold. It is stunning. Complex, beautiful and stronger than ever.
I was taught about the tundra, the Russian Steppes, the permafrost and their people in a time when we embraced our differences, when our clothes and cities and foods and arts were noticeably different. Morau is a visionary unafraid of the past, unafraid of what makes us special, what joins us.
Now this is magic. The audience asks are there mirrors? No – I want to scream – it’s magic, let it be magic. Don’t explain – just enjoy the rolling images of relationships between the dancers, the music and the space they fill.
Melo wants the audience to have an active role in interpreting his piece, not tacit complicit traditional acceptance but think, join in, believe. Visually incredible – as it should be. This is a hungry piece.
A greedy, visceral, writhing display. Gorgeous. I think Greenaway, I see Spanish lace and the bloody colours of fFamenco, I see The Last Supper debauched and blasphemous. I bloody love this. How does Finn do this? I want to cry, it is so so good. It is funny, it is dangerous, it is an orgy and a ceremony.
The music is perfect – deep through to ironic – and the audience sighs and laughs along, cringing at memories of our own revelry. We particularly like the mannequin’s arms groping a dancer’s body as he cavorts on water Fun! Joyous! And there we are, dragged off in disgrace and a fitting end. Brilliant. And as always, I am left wanting more, wanting to see it all again.
Why do these dances make me cry? What is it about them that taps into something so primal, so rooted that when they soar, I do too? Perhaps it is because I could no more do what they do than fly to the moon, perhaps it is because I see what could have been. We are often brought up kindly and carefully, encouraged to train for a proper job but we miss something – art brings life, in all its forms. Do not be afraid to take that different path. Do not be afraid to paint your dreams.
It is with trepidation that I venture in writing a review of my first ever contemporary dance show, Awakening, a three-piece programme produced by National Dance Company Wales. All the three dance pieces have a distinctive style, show a desire to engage with ideas, and are executed skilfully. Watching the show was an interesting experience that left me intrigued, puzzled, and annoyed. I was intrigued by the attempt at using movement to convey visual effects, puzzled by the overall concern for concept, too often fuzzy, to the detriment of emotion, and annoyed at the diminished role of music, especially in the first two pieces, which but conveys a dystopian atmosphere, instead of being integral part of the performance.
The first piece, Tundra, begins with a captivating image of a dancer in a cone-shaped costume in a red light and an otherworldly voice. The stage is plunged into the dark and the figure disappears. As the stage is lit again by a white light, a group of dancers in white and blue cone-shaped costumes appear. They move together as a group and glide beautifully across the floor. This is perhaps the most striking part of Tundra, albeit relatively short by comparison with the main part of the piece, which consists of dancers in a colourful costume moving together as one. Their legs and arms touch to form one continuous shape and move on the stage like a snake. The choreographer, Marcos Morau, found inspiration in Russian folk music and dance, yet the cone-dress seemed much closer to the Korean traditional dress, while the main ‘snake-like’ performance reminded me of the Chinese dragon dance. The performance is smooth and elegant but the parts are disjointed and the music fails to convey any emotion.
Tundra is followed by Afterimage by choreographer Fernando Melo. The piece plays cleverly with mirrors and light to create the illusion of figures appearing and fading away like ghosts. The illusion effects are inspired by the technique of Henry Dircks and John Henry Pepper, which used light and glass to create ghostly appearances. In Afterimage, the dancers dissolve, often into one another, through multiple reflections. The piece is an exploration of different perspectives that never meet. It is well crafted, interesting, and performed gracefully; yet it feels too concerned with a visual effect conveyed through movement rather than dance. Like Tundra, it is too conceptual to convey emotion, and not aided by the dystopian music.
After the second interval, two women came and sat next to me. They could not make anything out of the first two pieces, ‘too symbolical,’ one said; yet they were enthusiastic about the third piece, the Revellers’ Mass. It is easy to see why. The Revellers’ Mass has a narrative, elaborate costumes, prominent music, and a tinge of humour. The piece begins with a male voice speaking Georgian and a priest lighting candles on a long flat surface. The sacred is alternated with the profane. The flat surface becomes a table and the sacred atmosphere turns into a wild party. At one point, the dancers at the table are reminiscent of the Last Supper, yet the reference serves little purpose and is a far cry from the biting irony of the Last Supper in Louis Bunuel’s Viridiana.Choreographer Caroline Finn is perhaps overambitious in seeking to capture ‘ritual and etiquette, and ceremony, as well as primal human behaviour.’ The conflation of ritual, etiquette, and ceremony is irksome and the contrast with partying as ‘primal human behaviour’ highly problematic. Revellers’ Mass is nevertheless entertaining and ends humorously with drunken revellers being dragged across the floor to the notes of Edith Piaf’s Je ne regrette rien.
As a novice, Awakening has been an interesting and thought-provoking experience. I acknowledge my preference for emotional engagement when it comes to all art forms; yet the three dance pieces have opened a door to a way of experiencing art that has left me curious notwithstanding the frustration. The show has perhaps succeeded in raising questions, the most important of which might be ‘does art need emotion to be art?’
I was unsure of what to expect when I sat down to watch Mark Morris’ Pepperland at the Wales Millenium Centre. It’s practically criminal not to know and love the Beatles in at least some tangential way, or not to have one go to song to draw out as your favourite. But I wasn’t watching with the nostalgia of many of the audience who had been there the first time, who could see themselves in the chorus of screaming fans in the opening scenes. I’m also generally unfamiliar with the dance genre and haven’t watched professional dance shows in years. But I thought that the show would be the perfect splash of colour to brighten up characteristically unpredictable Easter behaviour.
The opening scene sealed my unease, with Ethan Iverson’s inventive score somewhat undermined by unearned hints of darkness. The theremin was a particular point of contention for this show. Personally, I adore this unconventional instrument, especially in the rightfully iconic Ed Wood theme. However, It’s an instrument best used sparingly.
When placed artfully in pieces like the ‘Penny Lane’ dance, it was unexpected but refreshing. However, there were moments where it threatened to drown the score and the audience with it, through no fault of the talented performer. The show seemed to have that sort of tone problem throughout. While sombre notes in the orchestration sometimes clashed welcomely with the candy cane cheer of the costumes, more often than not they felt misplaced and unearnt in regards to the dancers, who were performing – wonderfully as always throughout the production – dances that didn’t meet the new tone to the music.
Again, when it worked it worked, but there were only brief flashes where it did. Some of the transitional dances were overly repetitive, but the technical prowess of the dancers can’t be faulted. Whatever the audience felt about the score or singing – and we’ll come to that later – the dancers had them all immediately onside, providing the audience with plenty of laughs alongside genuinely warm applause.
Despite their obvious prowess during the more cheerful numbers – especially my favorite of the set, ‘Penny Lane’, they were equally as impressive, if not more, when performing more tender and sombre scenes. The romantic dances especially were things of beauty. They represented a tender sixties fairytale where race, gender, sexuality and time meant nothing. Love and light were all, even when the lights dimmed and love faded. The show managed to give it’s very basic staging maximum impact. The ebbs and flows of lights and colour flexing to the music. Of particular note was the way that Iverson drew out the Beatles’ Indian influences to their most lavish conclusion.
The singer, however, was met with mixed reviews. Not doubting his vocal talents, he simply didn’t seem to fit the production. The dancers and their costumes indicated something more joyful which would take itself less seriously. The score was theatrical but often confused. Vocal talent and power alone can’t replicate charm, and the operatic style seemed like just another confusion added to the pile. The singer would have benefited from a show which approached its tone with more intent, or allowing himself some lapses in technical skill for raw emotion. In those brief moments where he did falter, his singing became much more powerful.
Perhaps the best way of summarising this show is ‘if you’re here for a beatles sing-along, that’s not going to happen.’ This mild, half unknowing derision of the audience suggests that this show has ambitions beyond its color palate, and has left fans outside of the review circuit – including my plus one – feeling rather cold, while it enjoys status as a critical darling. Still, the genuine love that emanates from the company’s every dance move – and the Beatles themselves as an evergreen subject matter – were enough to keep some lonely hearts more firmly on its side.
Taliesin Arts Centre has always felt welcoming to me. I particularly enjoyed collecting my tickets from the box office and having a smooch around the shop and gallery. Sadly the gallery is no longer there and a smart little box office has been established on the upper level. My ticket on this occasion, along with a very useful programme, is handed to me by a representative of the company and I am made very welcome.
Programmes are very important to me as I like to know a bit of background on the company and its creatives, and what I am about to encounter. The programme for Awakening is well written, with just enough information about everything I need to know. A summary of each piece and a brief description, with an extra word from the choreographer gives me just enough of an insight of what I am about to see without giving the game away. We are told that Awakening intends to ‘offer audiences diverse perspectives on the world’. The selection of 3 pieces shown tonight do that and more. It begins with Tundra, an entertaining and relatively accessible work, leads us into the very clever Afterimage and brings us finally to Reveller’s Mass, an unexpected and wild collage of religious iconography. A complimentary programme of work that does what an internationally acclaimed dance company should do – please, excite and challenge perceptions.
The audience is very mixed in age range, Taliesin Arts Centre and National Dance Company Wales have done well in their development of audiences for dance. I understand that Awakening has done well across its tour. Observing the marketing which includes stunning images and great trailers as well as the dedication to outreach work, I can see why it has been such a success. I expect that the company’s reputation and the quality of the work has meant that word of mouth, always the best form of advertising, has had a lot to do with it too.
The first performance of the
evening, Tundra, is an excellent start to the evening. We are presented with a
red square, with a dark and somewhat foreboding image of a tall dancer, making
its first statement. We enter then a stage lit by 2 strip lights, the width of
the stage, which whilst stark in appearance often alter in their brightness.
The company of 7 dancers appear like Russian dolls, with patterned tops and
long a-line skirts performing what I understand to be the traditional Beryozka
dance, which just looks amazing; the dancers are so clever at this illusion of
floating I wonder whether they are wearing Heelys to glide around the stage.
The soundscape and subtle lighting design play their part here and throughout
the piece; I feel as if I am looking into a time tunnel, a sort of digitally
remastered version of these folk dancers, chained together and stuck in a time
warp. Echoes of Russian folk music, throat singing and sounds of natural
elements help to give a feel of otherworldliness captured in time.
Divested of their skirts, the
dancers are now fully adorned in fabulously patterned body suits, reflecting
the gaiety of folk costumes and with more contemporary colours, particularly
the striking ice blue. With white socks they look at once like ice skaters and
then like gymnasts; their precise, linked movements, performed in almost
perfect unison, along with the lighting continue to make them appear Tron-like,
as if they are trapped together in a computer memory. This is the thing I like
best about contemporary dance, that it can be interpreted by the viewer in
whatever way we want. Whilst the programme gives minimal instructions, there is
plenty of room for my imagination to take me on that journey.
The choreography of Tundra is joyful, with so much to draw on, even including head bobbling, taking the reach of the Russian state into Asian territory. The soundscape continues throughout from thunderous crashes to the echoing sound of a child singing. The choreography relies on patterns and format; there are imperfections with a foot placed differently and a kick not quite in line, but I am tending towards intentional imperfection here, almost like a glitch in the system. The focus moves from marching upright to legs and feet, where once again the costumes come into play. I always marvel at dancers’ feet and these white sock clad movements continue the fascination. I am not surprised that this is such a popular piece.
Afterimage – the mirror that constantly reveals – is mesmerising in a totally different way. Initially I believe the set is 2 tables, 1 behind the other with 1 male sat at each. An illusion, as the whole work is an illusion set to confuse and play with our visual perception. A letter is delivered to the rear table using the method of Pepper’s Ghost, described in the programme as an effect originally used in carnival sideshows to conjure ‘ghosts’ in séances. The piece continues with reality and ghosts intertwined; 6 dancers, male and female, perform effortless movement and develop relationships that engage the viewer as their eyes adjust to see the dancer, the reflection and the ghost in a mirror that is so clear it feels like you could reach through it. It is strangely enticing to see the opposite view of the dancers as they move in and out of vision. The story of the piece is based around the letter, eventually opened and read, leaving the viewer with questions as to its content. Did she die? She looks like she died. Did she leave? It feels quite sad. Whatever the story, the effect of the female dancer walking away with one of the tables is a powerful ending to a piece that provides mysterious fascination to its end. Altogether a technically clever piece, although I fear that once viewed, the spectacle is gone.
Revellers’ Mass is everything it
promises to be. As featured in the programme we are presented with a long thin
table, its width almost covers the stage. This is the centre-piece, the table
of the last supper, which eventually reveals that it holds the water and the
wine as the dancers splash in it and perform on it. Candles placed along the
‘table’ are lit as church bells ring; an atmosphere of calm is created as
people mill around. Strange looking broken mannequins with arms or bits
missing, reminiscent of Da Vinci statues, complete the set. The costumes of
black lace dresses worn by male and female in almost androgynous fashion look
Italian or Spanish. A piano plays in the background, and then music – loud, dramatic,
vocal, operatic enters the fray and the dance begins. It is a bizarre display,
at times pious and at its most dramatic, irreligious. I don’t try to understand
at this point, just to observe and enjoy, because the audience is silent and
rapt in this feast of extraordinary choreography. It is as if we can see the
Sodom and Gomorrah of the world behind the religious iconography. Dutiful
gestures are mixed with what appear to be acts of disobedience; the
choreography is untamed and appears to reflect different cultures and beliefs.
The mannequins are brought into play, one carried around as if it symbolises a
religious statue. A scene of wildness is created, with a central figure
carrying a broken mannequin that pours gold onto the stage and is followed by
an almost crawling figure that hankers after it as it spills from its guts. A
false finish then, which on reflection feels intentional, as the movement
stops, the lights lower and the audience begins its applause, which lasts for
some time until we realise that there is more. The priest-like figure comes to
the front of the stage and stands staring, whilst to the sounds of Piaf’s ‘Je
ne Regret Rien’, the stage is cleared of its detritus by the rest of the cast. When
we are sure that this is the end, the audience applauds loudly, showing their
appreciation of this fantastic piece, which reflects the mess of the world in
which we live.
A fabulous evening of dance, beautifully crafted, carefully performed and very well received.
Up the ramps of steep metal stairs, in a room in the Loft, outside of the main building of Chaptert Arts Centre, the theatrical company August012 are rehearsing for their unique take on Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. The music begins. It’s a military tune. It’s 1815, the battle of Waterloo. The fighting, the casualties, the hollow victory. Then, at a stroke, it’s 2016, in Cardiff, the night of the EU Referendum. The battle of Waterloo and the battle of Brexit come together through a meeting and clashing of sounds, words, music, and dance making for an immersive sensory experience.
The tragedy and horror of Waterloo is juxtaposed with the carefree and indulgent pleasure of holiday-makers in 2016 ahead of the Referendum and the comic coming to terms with the result. It is a kind of estrangement that seeks to bring awareness of the historical implications of Brexit through rhythm and fun. All the pieces, the description of the battle, the drums, the music, a man chocking on a Dorito, Farage, and soldier-dancers, come together with perfect timing. The creativity fuelling Les Mis comes from the collaboration of Director Mathilde Lopez, Choreographer Matteo Marfoglia, and Composers John Norton and Branwen Munn, the latter working from West Wales.
The coming together of French-Spanish, Italian, and Welsh talent with diverse national and cultural backgrounds makes gives an extra dimension to the careful multi-layered assembling of sound, words, and movement. It is the collaborative and supportive nature of these relationships that stands out as I watch the rehearsals. There is no hierarchy, no instructions, no neat division of labour, but a coming together to harness the talents and creativity of one another. Mathilde says, ‘We can do that,’ not ‘Can you do that?’ She is not imparting instructions, she listens to others and makes suggestions. The work emerges from this shared effort and fun. They’re working hard but they’re also having fun.
The atmosphere is so relaxed and friendly that I wonder how a comment from me might be received. I comment and I’m struck by Carwyn, one of the actors, turning to me and nodding. It is a listening environment, where each member of the company can make suggestions and is listened to. John Norton, the composer/DJ, is surprised I’m surprised. ‘This is theatre,’ he tells me, ‘If you want control, don’t do it.’ Unpredictable, brittle, never finished, theatre is always in the making. Precision is impossible, flexibility is key.
Mathilde likes the challenge that music and movement present to her as a theatrical director. She needs to limit herself to give space to John and Matteo. Her listening and collaborative frame of mind includes listening to actors and non-actors who participate in the production. When auditioning for the play, Mathilde asked them what they were doing on the night of the Referendum. The piecing together of different perspectives and experiences reinforces the nature of this production of Les Mis where different worlds coexist.
Choreographer Matteo Marfoglia tells me that the idea is to have two
worlds side by side in the same space: the world of the actors and the world of
the dancers. The two worlds do not interact. The dancers and the actors are on
different journeys. The dancers, as soldiers, evoke with their movements and
sounds the tragic sense of the historical dimension of both Waterloo and
Brexit. Actors and dancers come in and out of the space interweaving the
present with the past, connecting and disconnecting history with our daily
Les Mis speaks to our own
reality. It is this sense of the real and dance as a way to communicate real
life that brought Matteo to Wales. Classically
trained, Matteo first moved to Amsterdam and Rotterdam to become a contemporary
dancer and, six years ago, he came to Wales to be part of the National Company
Wales. He left classical ballet because it did not meet his thirst for
something more authentic to human experience. He believes that contemporary dance
allows the individual expression of emotions to come to the fore.
Matteo is training to become a ‘Gaga’ dance teacher.
Gaga dance has been developed by Israeli dancer and choreographer Ohad Naharin.
At its core, Gaga dance is about embodying the inward emotions of the dancer
and how they connect with other dancers. The individuality of the dancer is
expressed outward flowing into the shared consciousness of the group. ‘We feel the same
emotions but we do so differently,’ Matteo explains, ‘We’re all connected
through an emotion but this emotion is expressed in one’s unique and individual
The emotional dimension of Les Mis is a pervasive sense of loss and futility contrasted with seductive pleasure and a hangovered awakening to the aftermath of the Referendum. As European nationals, Matteo and Mathilde experienced a deep sense of loss after the Referendum. They felt ‘under attack,’ as Matteo puts it. All of a sudden, they became foreigners, their presence questioned. Mathilde, who has been living in Britain for 20 years, is married to John and has British children who speak Welsh, felt the pain of exclusion, of being told to ‘go back home.’ She never needed to be formally British, she was part of British society, then Brexit struck.
Brexit has shown that being foreign is an identity that stays with you
no matter how long you live in your ‘adoptive’ country, no matter of many
changes you make, no matter how much you absorb of the local culture. The
‘in-betweeness’ that has characterised Mathilde’s life became problematic with
Brexit. Europe allowed overlapping identities that don’t stop at national
borders. Europe, for Mathilde, is the wider project of togetherness. It is
complicated and Europe often does not live up to the dream. The way the EU
functions right now doesn’t work for many countries, she tells me, but they
don’t question being part of it. ‘It’s like moaning at your parents,’ Mathilde
says, ‘you moan, you don’t kill them.’
The vote brought sadness to Mathilde and also anger. She found that
anger was more ‘socially acceptable’ than sadness because it makes one look
strong, but she found it tiring. She needed compassion. She plunged into
reading classics, such as Steinbeck, Camus, and Hugo. Classics were her way to
get her head around what had just happened and avoid a reductive perspective.
‘When you’re angry at the Americans, you read Steinbeck, when you’re angry at
Italians, you read Dante,’ Mathilde explains. Literary classics allow her to go
beyond the narrow contingencies of today’s events, put things in perspective,
and nourish compassion.
For Mathilde, Les Mis is a personal journey from sadness and
anger to compassion. Compassion is in the ability to listen to one another,
work together, and produce a work that is accessible to all.‘Will my grandmother get it?’
Mathilde asks herself when writing. She wants something accessible, not limited
to regular theatre-goers. She wants to be open to others, wherever they come
from culturally, socially, and, of course, politically. Some members of the
production voted Leave.
‘It is our duty to be compassionate,’ says Mathilde, ‘to find strength in accepting defeat, not despair.’ It is compassion that allows to overcome division, to appreciate human complexity, and find strength in togetherness. Mathilde finds compassion in being supported by Chapter Arts Centre, in working together with actors, non-actors, and dance students, getting inspiration from all.
Mathilde, Matteo, and John tell me working together requires humility, respect, and trust. As John tells me, ‘you need to sense the time when to follow someone else’s lead, when to defend one’s position, and when to let go of it.’ You need to abandon the need to take control. This deeply collaborative and inclusive production of Les Mis is fruit of mutual trust and compassion. It is what the UK needs now.
Creating opportunities for a diverse range of people to experience and respond to sport, arts, culture and live events.