Caragh Medlicott reviews two open air performances from NDCWales, Faye Tan’s ‘Moving is everywhere, forever’ and Ed Myhill’s ‘Why Are People Clapping?’.
A thick layer of stratus clouds disperse just in time for National Dance Company Wales’ first open-air performance of 2021. It marks the start of a tour from NDCWales which will cover a variety of outdoor locations across Wales – British summertime permitting, of course. At Chapter Arts Centre, the outdoor stage is set up in the car park, encircled by speakers and chairs. It’s a simple layout, and one which belies the nature of two performances similarly concerned with not only the revel and joy of movement, but the freedom to dance in a world cautiously reopening post-pandemic.
The first performance is Faye Tan’s ‘Moving is everywhere, forever’, which is set to a foot-tapping soundtrack from the experimental electronic duo, Larch. Music looms through the speakers, a slow-build introduction throbbing with increasing intensity as the first dancer breaks onto stage. One by one, more performers arrive, each moving in discordance, doing their own thing with a naturalism which could, at times, be taken for improvisation. The mixture of distinct and quirky costumes – from multi-coloured blazers to blazing golden gloves – give the impression of a series of alternative Doctor Who incarnations.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the performance title, the spontaneity of the dance feels something akin to a flash mob. The music is elating, and so are the dancers. There are sprinkles, here and there, of serious technical skill but the driving force is one of rhythm – celebration. The primal joy of moving in time to the beat; the harmonious disparity between individual expression paired with the unity of the music. The payoff isn’t necessarily one which stirs deep or complex emotion, but who cares when you’re having this much fun?
After a quick costume change and a few cast alterations, the second performance begins not with a bang… but with a clap. Newly adapted in back-to-basics fashion for the minimal setup of an open-air performance, Ed Myhill’s ‘Why Are People Clapping?’ is certainly a change in tone after the prior swell of electronica. Here, instead, there is just a spattering of music taken from Steve Reich’s ‘Clapping Music’ – the remaining beat comes solely from the dance troupe themselves (something of a challenge without even the acoustics of a theatre to amplify the sound).
Still, the dance itself is engrossing in its novelty. If anything, the sudden drop in volume has you leaning further forward in your seat, reluctant to miss a beat. Walking a well-worn line between mime and dance, Myhill’s choreography blends both elements to offer a symbiosis that rejoices in rhythm and comedy. Still, despite a turn to dance dramatics, there is no discernible throughline beyond a child-like devotion to all things fun and silly. There are hit-it-out-the-park baseball sequences and more than a hatful of silly faces. At its best, ‘Why Are People Clapping?’ has the dancers throwing set-pieces back and forth, like being bitten by a – at times literal – dancing bug.
All wrapped up in 45 minutes, this double-header from NDCWales delivers in the short but sweet department. Perhaps not a soaring display of nitty-gritty technicality, of tumultuous balletic emotion, yet these two performances still rank high on the Fun O meter – and after over a year and half of grey lockdowns and boredom, isn’t that just what the doctor ordered?
Full details of NDCWales Open Air Performances can be found here.