Founded in 1983, Cardiff-based Diversions dance company was recently renamed National Dance Company Wales. That signals status and stability (the company is now firmly established at Cardiff’s Millennium Centre) rather than a change of direction: it continues to be run by its founders, and to commission works by diverse international choreographers.
With this programme, the newcomer was Greek choreographer (and costume designer) Andonis Foniadakis, whose Veil of Stars is atmospheric and striking. A swampy fog covers the stage. The dancers scamper through it in spacey-disco gear: glittery body stockings, metallic tunics, tassles. All wear golden masks. Julien Tarride’s madcap music – layered collages of sawing strings, tripping piano, hoots, rumbles and blasts – adds to the air of goblin revelry. When the dancers lift their masks, they reveal masks beneath; later, they crack them like eggshells.
In the finale, a woman in a sparkly pink catsuit is carried about like a fairy queen attended by minions. The idea seems to be to transport us to a fantasy world. But the effort – over-the-top music and costumes, relentless energy – is more evident than the aim, and the piece doesn’t take flight.
UK-based Nigel Charnock has a scattershot approach, but he hits his mark more often. Lunatic is characteristic Charnock: a magpie assortment of scenes, a mix of cabaret, dance and theatre, an edgy performance style that gleefully tramples dancerly decorum. There are hints of the 1940s and 50s – the Glenn Miller sound, sensible pyjamas, searchlights and salutes – and typical Charnock moments featuring cross-dressing, popular songs and audience invasion. Most telling is the way scenes of chilling fear and chaos keep erupting through the antic surface; madness and terror are always close by.
The company relish the piece; Joanne Fong, a powerhouse of a performer, gives the most kick for your buck.