National Dance Company Wales’s triple bill gets off to a shaky if intriguing start with Lee Johnston’s They Seek to Find the Happiness They Seem. It’s a kind of anti-romance in which a couple begin with hands clasped together, bodies gently intertwining but eyes determinedly avoiding contact. In the central section they dance restlessly side by side, as if both are searching for the same thing – though it’s not each other. Finally, they open their arms and turn towards each other. And keep on turning until they’re facing away once more. It’s a great framework, but too much of the choreography feels like filling.
Alexander Ekman’s Tuplet is deft entertainment that becomes something more clever and magical. It’s all about the interplay between audible and visible rhythms. The dancers begin by bopping to their own vocalised sounds. A marvellously cartoonish solo is pretty much beatboxing in movement form. A lineup of performers is triggered into jittery actions as their names are called from a rhythmic register. At the end a wash of rhythm-free ambient sound bathes the stage and the mood becomes almost mystical. The parting shot is amusingly cheeky: a silent film of an audience clapping that leads, like a barefaced cue, to our own loud applause.
The closing solo of artistic director Caroline Finn’s Folk is also a kind of bodily beatboxing, and though it’s passionate rather than witty it suffers in comparison with Ekman’s finesse. A shame, because the preceding scenes accumulate an almost mythic power. An upside-down tree hangs over the stage. In costumes that make them look like storybook illustrations – cowls, shifts, wraps – the dancers enact surreal scenarios that tap the primordial psyche: a man crawling like a beast on a leash; a woman held high as if reaching to heaven; a group surging and falling as if tossed by fateful storms. Finn knows how to choose a resonant image, and how to orchestrate emotions.