On form … NDC Wales perform Hinterland
The name Diversions, as National Dance Company Wales was originally called, was always a misnomer. This small, indomitable modern dance company has steadfastly followed a single path, bringing in a wide range of international choreographers and steadily building its audience. In 2009, the name changed; the company continued in the same direction.
Diversions was founded in 1983 by husband-and-wife team Roy Campbell-Moore and Ann Sholem, who had met a decade earlier at the Rambert School, and both gone on to perform with Scottish Ballet. When the Arts Council of Wales proposed establishing a premier Welsh contemporary dance company in 1983, the couple moved to Cardiff to begin the new venture, which they named after a road sign they had driven past – “Diversion: road ahead closed”.
From the start, their focus was clear: to create a repertory of new works, many by choreographers new to or little-known in the UK; and to establish a flagship national company. Small but determined, the company worked in relative obscurity, but received its first boost in 1991 when big-name American choreographer Bill T Jones created a substantial work for it (the award-winning History of Collage Revisited. He made another piece for it in 1998.)
A further boost came in 1999, when the Arts Council of Wales named it as a national company, alongside Welsh National Opera and Clwyd Theatr Cymru; and a final one in 2004, when the company became resident in the newly built Wales Millennium Centre. From then on it began to tour more widely, with more international bookings. In 2009, deciding simply to call a spade a spade, it took a new name: National Dance Company Wales. On that occasion, Sholem commented: “The diversion is over – the road ahead is clear.”
Variety show … Nigel Charnock’s Lunatic (2009)
Watching National Dance Company Wales
Expect diversity. A huge range of choreographers have made work for NDC Wales. Alongside Campbell-Moore, who has made many company works, these include political provocateur Jones and US powerhouse Stephen Petronio, introspective Finn Tommi Kitti, Belgian modern-ballet choreographer Stijn Celis, and British dance-theatre maverick Nigel Charnock. Some of Campbell-Moore’s pieces have a Welsh connection – in music or design, for example – but the company outlook is international, not nationalist.
Such variety inevitably means that the dancers (themselves an international troupe) cope better in some works than others.
Since 2007, Sholem has been artistic director, Campbell-Moore artistic associate (they swapped jobs following the latter’s heart surgery). Joanne Fong, a charismatic performer of wide experience, is rehearsal director and also an artistic associate. Of the many guest choreographers, Jones had the biggest impact in the 1990s. This decade, it is Netherlands-based Israeli Itzik Galili, who had a hit in 2006 and is creating a new work for 2010.
Housewarming … NDC Wales at the opening of the Wales Millennium Centre
Rhodri Morgan, the former first minister for Wales, danced to James Brown’s Get Down on the balcony of the Welsh National Assembly, for which you can thank/blame National Dance Company Wales. He was one of several people who danced (or more accurately, waved their arms) in a video to mark NDC Wales’s new name in 2009. It also showed, incidentally, that Wales is not yet a funk nation.
In their own words
“Wales has done something unique in choosing to have a national company of contemporary dancers. For a small country, it’s much more appropriate – rather than having a mini ballet company that they couldn’t fund properly.” – Anne Sholem in an interview with Zoë Anderson, Independent, 2006
“We are no longer a young, energetic company – we are an innovative, creative, experienced company.” – Ann Sholem in an interview with Karen Price, Western Mail, 2008
In other words
“Diversions, the flagship dance company of Wales, prides itself on commissioning international choreographers whose work is largely unknown to UK audiences … such a policy carries both risks and rewards.” – Donald Hutera, Times, 2006
“Diversions has been going about its business, relatively unsung and overlooked, for more than two decades. Although the Cardiff-based company’s repertory could hardly be deemed radical, the dancing itself is usually fresh-faced and sincere.” – Donald Hutera, Times, 2005
“The company is truly international with dancers from Wales alongside colleagues from Australia, England, Canada, North America, Poland and Greece. The cross-cultural inflection in the work of the company reflects a growing confidence and maturity in Diversions, helped at least in part by its new home at the Wales Millennium Centre.” – Fran Medley, Western Mail, 2006
“The company is well known in Europe but I have a feeling that here [in Wales] they are not as well respected, which is ridiculous.” – Choreographer Itzik Galili in an interview with Karen Price, Western Mail, 2010
Stellar performances … Form by NDC Wales
In Welsh, as appropriate: wych! (great!), da iawn (very good), iawn (OK), dim yn ddrwg (not bad), gwael iawn! (awful!)
But check your pronunciation first.
Why isn’t Gethin Jones in it?
Scottish Dance Theatre is the nearest to NDC Wales in terms of size and outlook, though it’s attracted more critical interest. Phoenix Dance Company and Rambert Dance Company are other modern-dance groups with a diverse repertory.
Now watch this
In pictures: Diversions at 25 years
Opening of the Wales Millennium Centre, 2004. Choreography by Roy Campbell-Moore, music by Welsh composer Alun Hoddinott.
Chase the Glowing Hours with Flying Feet (2006), by Canadian choreographer Hélène Blackburn
Peeled (2007), by Netherlands-based Israeli choreographer Itzik Galili
Where to see them next
Check the National Dance Company Wales website for performance dates.