Now 30 years old, National Dance Company Wales is relatively small in scale with just 12 dancers, but its ambition and reach is considerably wider. Touring across the world and performing new and innovative contemporary works, the company has put Wales firmly on the international dance map.
Its latest triple bill at the Linbury Studio Theatre opens with Virtual Descent. Choreographed by Eleesha Drennan, the work features dancers alternating between surreal, robotic steps and more fluid and animalistic movements seemingly inspired by all manner of land and sea creatures — from rippling jellyfish to prowling leopards. To a percussion concerto by BBC National Orchestra of Wales’s resident composer Mark Bowden, the choreographer's style is interesting but dancers are so darkly lit (especially in comparison to the fabulous live percussionist), that the work failed to maintain our attention.
Stephen Petronio's Water Stories makes a disappointing end to the evening, with Welsh waterscapes projected onto the back of the stage and a stream of dancers (in constantly changing costumes) having little choreography to inspire or relate to the work's title.
Noces, choreographed by Angelin Preljocaj, is the performance's literal and metaphorical centerpiece. Set to Stravinsky's superb score, the piece confronts and confuses, engages and emotes. Exploring the idea of weddings, a cast of five couples demonstrate their love-hate relationships, with female dancers leaping spectacularly into the air only to be caught and wrestled to the ground by their partners.
The cast interact with moveable wooden benches, which alternately represent objects of attack and places of comfort, and lifeless rag doll brides, which seem equally contradictory in their symbolism. The National Dance Company Wales dancers are impressively skilled throughout the programme but it is in this work that they really captivate.
National Dance Company Wales is at the Linbury Studio Theatre until 1 November. Tickets priced £15–25 are available from the Royal Opera House website. Londonist received a complimentary ticket to review this performance.
Pictured: Water Stories / Photo: Rhys Cozens