Review: NDCW – P.A.R.A.D.E. & Tundra @ WMC

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Mark Rees, National Dance Company Wales, Rubicon Dance & BBC National Orchestra of Wales – P.A.R.A.D.E. & Tundra
Wales Millenium Centre
Wednesday 25th October 2017

It’s a great delight to finally hear some of Erik Satie’s music at the Wales Millennium Centre. Here at Weeping Tudor Productions, we’ve been heavy inspired by this witty, French master and we are inspired to do more of his work in the future. Watch this space!

The combination of Marc Rees and Caroline Finn is a heady one. It’s an exciting prospect which was declared a year ago, enough time to ponder what exactly would be the focus. Through this Russian Revolution centenary, we’ve yet to have much work which premiered that vital year and this is what makes Parade, or rather P.A.R.A.D.E in this case, so special.

The premiere of this remarkable ballet has never been underestimated. With the eccentric music by Satie, Picasso doing costumes/set and a huge theatre curtain, the odd story by writer Jean Cocteau and the jolting choreography Léonide Massine. The riot on the night, rivalled the one from 1913 with Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, even though that one is much more infamous. Parade even sparked from poet Apollinaire the creation of that brilliant word: surrealist.

So what were we faced with in this new interpretation? Although the theme of revolution was in the air, the production itself lacked any of that promise. The performance began outside with political declarations from Eiry Thomas, who appears to be summoning the new order by way of a Robot walking down the Centre itself. It’s an odd way to start and felt more like Doctor Who meets Metropolis. We then followed into the Centre, as we then watched Stepford Wives, a dance piece on loop. Jack White’s music evoked the Satie inspired elevator music that was piped into the foyer, as we saw male dancers in dresses holding on to trolleys, dancing more akin to a club beat. This was another odd moment, that has some humour but I was craving to see what would be done with the ballet itself.

Themes from the outdoor show open the stage work inside the Donald Gordon Theatre. Thomas is back and declares more babble about Robots and the relationship with Russia has had with Wales, only to find herself in a coughing fit a la May’s clumsy speech from the other week. I almost half expected one of the boxes on on stages to fall, like a fallen letter! The staging itself felt more like Minecraft meets the postal service. BBC NOW played the Satie score with a punch, really picking up on all the little details. At times ragtime, in other moments fairground music, the score is a whirlwind fifteen minutes. The addition of a typewriter, sirens, gunshots, lottery wheel and more, all add to this frenzied hilarity which seeps from the score. It simply never fails to bring a smile to my face.

This new dance is less attractive and feels more like performance art or the ballets which Satie would do later in his lifetime. The boxes are filled with bodies, police tape is warped around more bodies. This simply lacked the wow factor and the build-up to this was anticlimactic. After some fancy paper made dresses and costumes were displayed, it turned back into the obscene sci-fi drama, that we faced outside the venue. The whole P.A.R.A.D.E. was a mixed bag and felt neither truly Russian inspired nor surreal. One wondered what Satie and his gang would have thought. Perhaps another riot?

The second dance work entitled Tundra was the standout part of the evening. Marcos Morau has choreographed a sublimes piece which should have had equal promoting for it as the other work. In a flurry of stunning positioning, the dancers create a tapestry of blurred motion. Their arms and legs at times become one unit to form a mechanised entity, constantly in motion. A deity appears at the start and the dancers shift around in long skirts, preventing us from seeing any of their legs. It almost appears they are on a platform and are not moving of their own accord, as strobe lights framed them from above, occasionally descending. The costumes as well evoke the violent colours of the mother land and some poses evoke Stravinsky’s Rite. This was the real deal and remained an unforgettable vision.

This night of two halves very much jarred, but was made right with Tundra.

If curious, Bangor audiences should still go and check it out.

Raucous & a sublime evocation. [SM quote]

P.A.R.A.D.E. & Tundra tour to Bangor on 28th & 29th October 2017.

P.A.R.A.D.E. rating: ⭑⭑⭑
Tundra rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑
Overall Rating: ⭑⭑⭑⭑

Photo Credit: Rhys Cozens


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