Inspired in equal MEASURES by the intricacies of social interactions and the vivid tableaux of 17th- and 18th-century oil paintings, Folk is artistic director Caroline Finn’s acclaimed inaugural production for National Dance Company Wales. Taking place in a setting that is simultaneously familiar and surreal, earthly yet otherworldly, the work explores the social dynamics of an intriguing community of misfits as they express their desires and emotions through a series of unexpected physical exchanges.
The piece begins with the sight of an ‘oil painting’ coming to life, as the nine characters slowly emerge from their ethereal stasis to move across the stage, which is dominated by a bare-branched, upside-down tree that hangs above a pile of fallen leaves. As the characters explore this strange autumnal setting – and each other – the viewer begins to understand the complex relationships between them as the show slowly crescendos to its inevitable climax.
Melding edgy choreography and elements of classical ballet with offbeat humour and a rousing soundtrack, Folk is as much a theatrical work as it is a piece of contemporary dance. Employing movements that range from fluid to jarring, and from elegant to erotic, the performers combine to craft a series of richly layered scenes that collectively create a darkly comic vision of society. What unites a community? What divides it? And how does being part of – or not part of – a group influence behaviour? Folk addresses all of these questions and more in a unique work that lingers in the mind long after the lights fade.
Folk Insider: 5 Things to Look Out For
1.) The upside-down tree that hangs over the stage acts as both a symbol of the community and the centrepiece of the show. As well as performing in its patulous shadow, the dancers regularly hang their belongings – from lanterns and scarves to brushes and stepladders – from its dangling branches.
2.) The show’s striking soundtrack – which includes works as diverse as Jacques Offenbach’s Barcarolle, Adam Hurst’s Midnight Waltz and Goldmund’s Threnody – is a crucial part of the overall experience.
3.) Like companion piece Animatorium, manipulation is one of the key themes of Folk, with one character invariably seeking to influence another at any given time, either in the physical, psychological or emotional sense.
4.) The costumes by Gabrielle Slade evoke the feeling of a bygone age, combining old-fashioned cowls and wraps in a palette of muted colours with pieces that could be mistaken for religious vestments.
5.) The work ends where it begins, with the characters returning to the ‘oil painting’ from whence they came. In a sense, the characters have come full circle, the difference being that the viewer now understands that this moment frozen in time does not begin to reflect the complexities of their social dynamics.
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Photo: Sian Trenberth