Arriving at Wales Millennium Centre it felt rather thrilling to be led away from the crowds eagerly arriving for the big show of the night and instead being ushered around the back to a far more intimate setting. Created and performed by members of National Dance Company Wales in the small auditorium of the Dance House, Alternative Routes is the impressive result of a mere six weeks of intense choreography and rehearsing.
The palpable air of anticipation of viewing a brand new production, heightened by an intriguing but enigmatic programme, abruptly settles into silence as the lights dim and the pitch black stage gradually lightens to reveal two dancers in white. Choreographed and danced by Angela Boix Duran, ‘So Long As We Remember’ is a contemplative duet focused on past relationships and exploring the nature of how time clouds your memories to leave a distorted picture of reality. Despite some beautiful lifts and perfect synchronicity, for me the performance lacked some emotion which unfortunately made it a little hard to relate to.
In contrast to the simplicity of the first piece, Chris Scott’s ‘Sam’ is an explosion of vibrancy and chaos. Five dancers in eccentric outfits of varying shades of crimson, embark on a fascinating montage of dance styles accompanied by no less than nine changes of music which trace a course through the decades. With a nod to ever expanding social media, text is projected onto two black screens onstage as we are invited to ‘Come into wonderland’. And what a land it is! From tap to twerking the main subject of this piece seems to be hedonistic liberation as the performers fearlessly dispose of their inhibitions (along with most of their clothes), throw themselves upon each other with wild abandon and role play sexual intercourse. Despite, or perhaps because of its utter madness, this was a most enjoyable piece and Camille Giraudeau deserves a special mention for being completely mesmerising.
A short interval was followed by the only interactive piece of the night. Inspired by the famous board game Cluedo, Mathieu Geffré’s ‘Murder My Sweet!’ invited the audience to turn detective as we attempted to figure out which of the four dancers was the culprit. The story played out on a more elaborate set than previously used and the use of props enabled some striking routines. Dancers climbed, fell and fought over tables and chairs creating an engaging visual as different parts of the story were played out on a number of different physical levels, reflecting the layers of secrecy and suspicion filtering through the characters’ emotions. Dancing behind a semi-transparent screen, Natalie Corne created some beautiful silhouettes before the tension broke and the scene descended into violence with flying objects and smashed glasses amidst the screams and shouts of the dancers.
The final performance of the night was Matteo Marfoglia’s ‘Omertà’ which translates to ‘Conspiracy of Silence’ and explored the role of women in Southern Italian Mafia society. An extremely moving and powerful piece danced beautifully by five young females, it told the painful story of women’s oppression within this culture. Dressed in black with their hair tied back, each woman stood in a single spotlight gagged and frozen. Different sounds were played to which each woman would react to with one repeated movement – a sharp intake of breath, a tentative clearing of a throat, a coquettish laugh, a stern hushing and whispered Italian words. The tempo gradually increased with sounds and movements overlapping until the women broke free, ripped off their gags and hair bands and liberated themselves. A cascade of water drenched the dances before they began an intricate and almost desperate routine finishing as it began, with them each back in their spotlight, gagged and alone. A sad and haunting story made more so by the truth that inspired it and a fantastic ending to a wonderful night.