National Dance Company Wales review – comedy and menace with rumbling tums and giant steps | Dance


NDC Wales are a very likable bunch of dancers to spend a couple of hours with, a versatile group of 10 distinct young performers in a triple bill that shows their range. The most easily engaging piece is Andrea Costanzo Martini’s Wild Thoughts, set partly to Matthew Herbert’s track Foreign Bodies, made with sounds sampled from the human body. After the dancers have amusingly catalogued their body parts in intricate rhythm, a rumbling of innards sets off a new skein of movement, as if led by gurgling intestines. There is plenty of dancing skill, as well as entertainment value.

Codi by Anthony Matsena.
Mining the past … Codi by Anthony Matsena. Photograph: Mark Douet

The most ambitious work is Codi, by Anthony Matsena, with input from his writer brother Kel. The fast-rising Matsena brothers were born in Zimbabwe and brought up in Wales, and here they delve into Welsh mining history. The stage is sometimes lit only by the dancers’ head torches, and the result is murky in more ways than one. There are fleeting scenes – pride, anger and strident protest, a draconian foreman, voices talking of being trapped, bodies piled in a heap: the Aberfan disaster instantly comes to mind but the details of the stories Matsena is drawing on are not revealed. In parallel, Matsena harnesses the energy of the dancers in forthright unison, using the glitch and pop and hard accents of hip-hop, ending on a note of triumph.

Ludo by Caroline Finn
Sense of playfulness … Ludo by Caroline Finn. Photograph: Mark Douet

Most unpredictable is Caroline Finn’s Ludo, a piece that feels like an inventive day in the studio, props being tossed at the dancers to play with: a spoon becomes the instrument of a game of control and spite; a gramophone is a comical, conical hat, and a set of oversized costumes by Rike Zöllner are refashioned into stretchy alien forms, ballgowns and straitjackets. It’s the kind of open-ended, absurdist play that has no great purpose, escalating to confidently orchestrated chaos or broken by an interlude where they dance with big expansive angles and lurching giant steps. Whether it ignites the viewer’s own sense of playfulness or is akin to watching a bunch of four-year-olds raid a dressing-up box is debatable, but either way, this Cardiff clan are good company.

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