May 13, 2017
The dancers of National Dance Company Wales are evidentially technically brilliant: I would have liked to see them dance. Instead, this double bill of Profundis and The Green House features watered down physical theatre, where you itch for the dancers to break rank and move.
Roy Assaf’s Profundis’ opening tableaux are resonant of both classical aestheticism and prevalent images in popular culture. As the audience enters, a woman stands poised at the back, her stance statuesque and crafted. Cut to a slow moving, as though underwater, dancer who moves her limbs syrupy into posed, seductive images. Her face is petulant, defiant, all of which deny an easy sexualisation. She is followed by a group of dancers, who mark through the images of ritual and combat in Parthenon-like patterns. It’s an intriguing opening, and you’re happy to see how it will develop.
Unfortunately, an abrupt cut to a world of twee impersonations and fetishised randomness move the piece into classroom level immaturity. Combining spoken phrases that ask ‘what it all means’ with the movement, the dancers struggle to project their voice with the same capacity with which they use their bodies. It is not without charm, the dancers are endearing, but the piece flaps without getting anywhere.
The Green House, from NDCW’s Artistic Director Caroline Finn, has the varnish of Beckettian surrealism and loneliness, without any of the substance. A sickly green living room, sharply demarcated on the stage and framed by a ‘LIVE’ sign, forms the world for the similarly green garbed dancers. The set is impressive but it constrains the dancers, who get caught in their own awkward routines in specific areas of the stage. While this repetition of mundanity allows for some nice commentary on the stifling nature of certain everyday behaviours, the piece never gets moving. The malfunctioning dancer is too often a trope rather than an exploration.
Once you realise that each dancer will have their ‘turn’ in the spotlight, you are just counting the solos until the piece ends. And as great as Max Richter is, his ubiquity in contemporary dance pieces proves jarring in this instance rather than immersive.
Overall, a safe, clean production, but the dancers could be better challenged.