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Welsh Independent Dance, Surrender Yourself To Me

By David Adams

The Western Mail, 25 May 2005

Milan Kundera has a chapter in his novel ignorance where he meditates on the different words in different languages for nostalgia. For his characters, like him, are émigrés from their native Czechoslovakia. He admits each has a different semantic nuance which can signify a subtle range of emotions, from vague longing to home-sickness, encompassed by what the author calls the pain of ignorance, not knowing. One word he omits is hiraeth, possibly the best- known Welsh word outside Wales, and another is Kaiho, an old Finnish expression for longing and the title of Tanja Raman’s stunning solo piece first shown in a Wales Independent Dance showcase and now developed into a fine dramatic dance as part of its Triple Exposure Tour. Kaiho has got beyond any real evocation of Finnish hiraeth for this Welsh-based performer, perhaps (unless you speak her language, in which excerpts from her personal diary provide part of the soundtrack) but there is still the basic fear not of ignorance but of loss of identity that needs no words. Ms Raman is a graceful, muscular dancer with a good sense of theatrical and again was very impressive. There’s a different kind of hiraeth for June Campbell-Davies, whose return to her Afro-Caribbean origins is explored and recorded in her Falling Leaves Return to Their Roots, another piece developed since its first outing for WID last year.

The performance, with Adeola Dewis, whose take on those dance roots is more recent and more hip, is fascinating journey complemented by some beautiful cinematography from Katya Stiller. The highlight of the programme, inevitably, was a new work directed by Charlotte Vincent, Surrender Yourself To Me, a breathtakingly exciting and accomplished piece and certainly one of the best dance works I’ve seen from a welsh company. The dancers were eminent performers familiar from their work with Diversions, Dynion, Earthfall and others- including those we now think of as solo artists- some of whom are (in the most complimentary sense) the more mature of welsh dance practitioners. They met, were introduced to Ms Vincent’s methods and devised this remarkable piece under her direction. The result is a work that has just about everything- sex, violence, tenderness, wit, good humour, energy, folksy jigs, and grand jetees- and was above all dangerous dance. Dangerous literally but essentially in theme and style- a spare narrative of the aftermath of what looked like a country- house dance party becomes an edgy stripping away of pretence and formality that climaxes in near-rape. The dancers (Douglas Comely, Suzanne Firth, Eleanor McDonald, Iain Payne, Jo Shapland and Jem Treays) pair up, play games of musical chairs and games of other kinds, share and then are alienated, subverting the polite measures of Telemann and Bach as emotions surface and run out of control. The sheer physicality of the performance is exciting, but so is the display of virtuoso dancing, where all are (often unexpectedly) impressive, and in a satisfying ensemble work a sunning performance from young Cardiff based Eleanor Mc Donald, partnered by an outstanding Jem Treays, actually sent shivers down your spine.