Last night (Friday 9th February 5pm) we had an after school theatrical treat, discovering dance with National Dance Company Wales at Sherman Theatre. I was accompanied (as ever) by my 11 year old stepdaughter and 9 and 5 year old sons. None of them go to dance classes but they all enjoyed the event. Even surly Nine who didn’t want to join in the first half “no way”.
NDCWales’s Discover Dance production is a game of two halves. We kick off with an introduction from the effervescent Lee Johnston, the company’s Rehearsal Director which she explains is like being the coach. We’re taken through the dancers’ warm up routines with a chance for everyone who’s up for it to join the dancers on stage.
It’s a credit to the team and the welcoming, open tone they set that so many of the children in the audience were keen to have a go. Eleven and Five threw themselves into the opportunity. As Five said:
“It was really fun to go on stage. I’ve never been on a big stage like that. Sometimes I get nervous but the dancer made me feel happy because they showed me the moves. I think all the other children enjoyed it too.”
We swiftly move on to some exercises and sections of Folk, the production we’re treated to in the second half. Again, we’ve got the chance to join in and one of the exercises in particular fired up my boys:
Nine: “It was really satisfying when they did the crackling out of the ice. That’s the kind of movement game I’d like to play at home or school.”
Five: “Also Mum I liked the bit when they were doing hurricane bits. I liked the bits where he finished one of them, he keeped quiet for a little bit then he said loudly “Crazy crazy! There’s a tornado! Then you can just feel the snow melting and the ice in the water.””
We get to wave at the techies at the back of the seats as Lee tells us about the lights and sound that play their parts in a show. It’s a great way to highlight the whole range of skills and roles that are needed to pull a production together.
Nine: Charlie was the boss of the music and Adam was in charge of the lights.
Five: They did a really good job.
Half time comes and we break for an ice cream from the mid-refurb Sherman foyer, wees and a chance for the dancers to get changed and ready for their performance.
The second half is a half hour dance piece called Folk which absolutely flew by. Choreographed by Caroline Finn, it’s a perfect choice for a family audience with characters that feel both otherworldly and recognisable and a beautifully striking set designed by Joe Fletcher.
Nine: “Folk was quite cool because the tree was hung from the roof. This woman was randomly speaking Italian and it was quite funny. It was quite witch-like when they were doing the witch circle.”
Five: “It was spectacular! I liked the show when it was nearly at the end because I like imagination. And I liked the other bit when there was a teensy bit left to the end because it was just like a made up language and it was really funny.
It was great because I like puppet shows, they were making them look like puppets because they were copying. (*Nine demonstrates the moves we learnt in our seats during the first part of the show*).
The whole thing used up lots of funny imaginations. Whoever’s imaginations they were, I like their imaginations.
The music, it was good because I liked the one where it was sort of harmony like sort of calm. The beginning sounded like they were definitely in France and then there was some music that made me feel in the jungle and then Tokyo, is that the capital of Japan?”
Eleven: “It was really fun. I thought the show was really good and I loved the music.”
After Folk, the dancers return to the stage to answer questions from a buzzing audience. “Where are you from?” “When did you start dancing?” “What’s your favourite type of dance?”
Nine: “It was great because you could ask questions at the end so we could find out where they came from and how they started dancing. They were from lots of different countries, even America.”
Watching dance is a fabulous way to inspire keen dancers but it’s also brilliant for kids in general. There’s room for imagination, the chance to weave your own story, to laugh at something because it tickles your funny bone without words or slapstick.
Wales should be very proud of their dance company. They’re presenting beautiful work and stirring a love of dance. Discover Dance is an ideally relaxed way to introduced new audiences to contemporary dance and gives young people a chance to interact with the professionals.
Five: “I’d like to watch more dance because it’s funny sometimes and you get to do lots of different moves and when you dance it’s kind of like doing exercise and it’s good for you because it helps you stay healthy.”
Nine: “I’d like to watch more dance because it can be strange in certain ways and funny. It was very weird because usually you’d have a tree on the ground and you wouldn’t use a brush to sweep leaves, you’d use a rake.”
We were also intrigued to get a sneaky peak at the developments in Sherman Theatre’s foyer, which got a thumbs up from hard to please Eleven: “I LOVED the redecorating, it feels cosy but big too.” We’re big fans of the venue, their range of family friendly productions and the utterly awesome Sherman 5 scheme that has genuinely opened up the doors to so many people.
Discover Dance is touring the UK this spring, heading to Huddersfield, Brecon, Shrewsbury, Aberystwyth, Newtown, Mold, Newport, Swansea and Derby. Full tour dates on www.ndcwales.co.uk.