Typically, a review will start with a small summary of the piece at hand, before diving into all those opinions and criticisms and star ratings. I won’t be giving you a summary of Folk, choreographer Caroline Finn’s first piece for the National Dance Company Wales, as the narrative is vague at best and even if I did try to tell you what I thought the plot was, it wouldn’t matter. It wouldn’t be the same as what you thought and it’s not important. The vitality of Folk is the cluster of oh-so-human feelings floating and hurtling across the stage.
The stage is set with a dead or dying tree suspended above it, roots and all. Beneath is a cluster of fallen leaves. This minimal design places the setting somewhere between fantasy and reality, where the familiar is present but made uncanny. This visual is as close to a description of Folk as you’ll get, really.
Rather than one singular narrative, Folk is divided into sequences, reconstructed moments that may not correlate but combine into a kind of community. The one constant throughout is the sense of society and coexistence, even as seemingly separate incidents occur. In one, a girl steps out from the crowd and begins to garble in hysterical half worded French before being scooped up and restrained by a co-dancer. In another, the majority dance the same dance while some slip out to move to their own tune before being pulled back in to be replaced by another. This cycle of seeking for individuality then balking and returning to the mass makes for an interestingly surreal scenario that hints at crowd mentality and anonymity.
One especially poignant segment sees the performers pair up and dance individual routines. The couples seem more like combatting vines from one tree than independent movers as they slip out and round each other and re-tangle themselves together in a hypnotic intertwining cycle.
When the lights went out, I was shocked. Had I been in a trance for the quickest hour of my life? Turns out, I hadn’t realised it was only a 30 minute show. Nevertheless, I felt cheated. I could have stayed in that half-world all day.
Words: Chiara Margiotta
Picture: Rhys Cozens
Folk, Zoo Southside, Aug 20-25, 3.30pm