National Dance Company of Wales is the first touring company to be invited to the newly refurbished Linbury Theatre,the Royal Opera House's good looking  second stage.

NDCW in Fernando Melo's <i>Afterimage</i> © Rhys Cozens
NDCW in Fernando Melo's Afterimage
© Rhys Cozens

We are treated to three award winning choreographers and two London premieres. Tundra, choreographed by Marcos Morau contrasts brightly coloured, highly patterned costumes (designer Angharad Matthews) with a stark porcelain-like set (created by Joseff Fletcher) befitting of the work's title. The stage is lit by a razor-edged white rectangle. Within this tightly defined parameter the cast appear as Matryoshka dolls. In horizontal and vertical lines they move in exacting unison or rapid counterpoint. Elbows jab, knees twitch and hips stutter. Gestures pass between the dancers like an electrical current. Dead-pan, they are the nuts and bolts of a well-oiled machine. Morau's jilting syntax is absorbing to watch, like finding one's way through a puzzling maze of limbs. He is single-minded in his aesthetic but a lack of variety in form was a little numbing.

Brazilian choreographer Fernando Melo premieres his first work for a UK ensemble. Afterimage is a delicate, ephemeral piece. A table and chair are cocooned in a soft pool of light, a fragile barrier from an encroaching darkness. This is the focal point for a sequence of vignettes. Using the Pepper's Ghost illusion (angled mirrors) dancers appear and disappear in ghostly conversations. Are these apparitions echoes of the past or fleeting glimpses of the future?

NDCW in Caroline Finn's <i>Revellers' Mass</i> © Rhys Cozens
NDCW in Caroline Finn's Revellers' Mass
© Rhys Cozens

The wordless cameos are eerie and intimate. Movement is largely restricted to the dancers' upper bodies. Pale arms skim the table top and finger tips ripple along its edge. Torsos arc against the hard surfaces seeking solace in empty reflections.

It's a captivating 20 minutes and an exemplar of the Linbury Theatre's mission – to give presence to choreographers and companies that otherwise wouldn't be seen in the capital.

There is a clue is in the title. Revellers' Mass is a dinner party with a twist. Decadent and soulful, absurd and sorrowful, the company serve up a delectable finale. Inspired by religious paintings, notably Da Vinci's The Last Supper, choreographer Caroline Finn, digs into our experience of religion, ritual and ceremony.

Finn's expression of spirituality is of the flesh, not the transcendent. In contrast to choreography of Morau and Melo, the dancers are expansive. They eat up the space with wide juicy pliés and angled poised limbs. There's a cacophony of activity on stage demanding our attention, a potent cocktail of tragedy and hedonism to tempt our sensibilities.

NDCW in Marcos Morau's <i>Tundra</i> © Rhys Cozens
NDCW in Marcos Morau's Tundra
© Rhys Cozens

Opulent costumes by Gabriella Slade layer black lace over swathes of gold and red material, flirting with the light as the dancers move. A nod perhaps to the succulent colours of religious art and iconography.

How does this end? Like the bleary-eyed morning after the night before. To Edith Piaf's formidable rendition of Non, je ne regrette rien the ensemble clear the stage, dragging unconscious bodies into the wings, collecting the scattered detritus of their carousing and scoping up the disregarded limbs of mannequins. Ringmaster, dancer Ed Myhill, stands unabashed centre stage, with a twinkle in his eye and not an iota of regret.

****1