Folk

Folk is Caroline Finn’s first piece for the Cardiff-based National Dance Company Wales since becoming its Artistic Director two years ago. It is a hugely exciting, surreal if somewhat incoherent show but that is probably the point since it aims to explore social dynamics which, in this show, appear to be largely dysfunctional.

Caroline Finn is definitely one to watch and I urge you to see a talented choreographer in the making who will surely go great places.

The start is too slow but this is forgiven once the piece gets going.The grey trunk and roots of a dead tree suspended in the air suggest we are underground. Perhaps it symbolises the psychological world of the characters though, if so, one wonders why there is a pile of leaves underneath. Suddenly a girl pushes up through the leaves; it’s a combination of surrealism and realism that continues throughout and makes for a fascinating, if at times confusing, semi-narrative.

The dancers appear to be characters as if in a play and yet their story is unclear, other than that each pair or group is unhappy, antagonistic, distraught or failing in some way. Groups form, gesticulate, writhe and freeze-frame only to reform and freeze agian in different poses. On one hand there is terrific energy and inventiveness in this cast-devised group choreography but on the other, despite expressing dysfunctionality, it verges on obscurity at times.

There are some striking set pieces. Pina Bausch’s influence is shown when a girl steps forward and talks and shouts in French. What it is about is unclear, even if you speak French, since her words are half-heard. Small groups walk in unison in tiny steps round the stage. At times they clap. Why? At other times, they laugh. Why? Despite the mystery, this successfully conjures a depiction of group dynamics and the feeling of being ostracised.

In marked contrast to the cast-devised group sections, the central section where three different combinations of lovers are choreographed by Caroline Finn, the clarity and beauty of the lifts and lines are striking. In particular, there is a finely judged simplicity to the couple at the back, where the man lifts the woman in a vertical hold and they remain stationary throughout except for her arms alternately reaching upwards in contrast to the other lovers who are more complexly choreographed.

Despite appreciating that the chaotic style of the devised work suits the general theme of dysfunction, this reviewer could not help longing for more editing and shaping to give the piece more emotional depth. However, Caroline Finn is definitely one to watch and I urge you to see a talented choreographer in the making who will surely go great places.

Reviews by Stephanie Green

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

NDCWales will be performing Caroline Finn's award-winning, darkly comic Folk as part of the British Council Showcase. Folk features artistic director Caroline Finn's quirky and highly engaging choreographic style. Exploring themes of social dynamics, familiar and surreal scenes and characters come alive in an enchanting landscape. 'Finn knows how to choose a resonant image, and how to orchestrate emotions' **** (Guardian).

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