Except that Newport is not all that small and it has a very good ballet company called Ballet Cymru. I blogged about the company in "Ballet Cymru: 'Romeo a Juliet'" and on Saturday 11 May 2013 I actually got to see them at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal.
Kendal really is a small town but its arts centre is impressive. Not only does it have a fair size auditorium for dance and drama but it also has space for pictures, cinema, a pretty good restaurant and several bars. Last Saturday there was a reggae concert and two first run films as well as the Welsh Ballet. My friend had an excellent sea food and I a meat platter before the show for £9.99 each. On the walls outside the auditorium I admired some interesting art work that appeared to have been made from rubbish washed up on a beach. Incidentally, the Brewery is only one of a number of attractions in this town. Earlier in the day we glimpsed the Quaker Tapesty and enjoyed some of the delicious drinking chocolate at the Famous 1657 Chocolate House. And there is so much more in this delightful town.
But we had come to see ballet and in particular Darius James and Amy Doughty's version of Romeo & Juliet. Now I knew Kenneth MacMillan's very well and had actually seen Lynn Seymour dance Juliet. It is a big ballet for a big company. I knew from the promotional video that Ballet Cymru would use the Prokofiev score and I wondered how on earth a small touring company without an orchestra on a tiny stage could possibly do justice to it.
The answer is that they did pretty well. There used a backdrop and projector for the scene changes: stained glass for Friar Laurence's cell and flickering candles for Juliet's funeral. Minimal props that had to include a double bed and catafalque. Contemporary clothes instead of Italian renaissance costumes. I liked Tybault's Welsh dragon tattoo that could have been lifted from the Jay-Z spoof. The music was recorded but it sounded almost as though it was live. According to the programme it was provided by Sinfonia Cymru conducted by Richard Laing.
However, it was the dancers who made the evening and they were delightful. It is probably unfair to singe any of them out but Emily Pimm Edwards as Juliet, Lydia Arnoux as Cerys (Juliet's girl friend instead of a nurse), Krystal Lowe as one of the Montagues and Daisuke Miura impressed me very much indeed. Edwards for her dramatic as well as balletic skill, Arnoux for her adorable, flirtatious girlishness, Lowe for her street wise swagger and Miura for his athleticism. I think I saw several stars in the making on Saturday night.
There was some interesting touches to the choreography. The use of a clog dance - not a sweet mother and daughter one as in Fille - but a more sinister emphasis of stamping feet by the Montagues. I have also mentioned the substitution of Cerys for the nurse which gave scope for Arnoux. And finally the tragic pas de deux of Romeo and the lifeless Juliet. Shortly after the performance I tweeted that I preferred James and Doughty's choreography to MacMillan. On reflection I would rather not compare the Royal Ballet's work with the Welsh because they are so different but I certainly liked the Welsh version as much as the Royal's and I would really like to see more of James's choreography. I have seen a lot of ballet over the last 40 years or so. I rarely get as excited about a company as I did on Saturday.
The company spent only one night in Kendal. The next day they were off to Ayr. Then back to the Lake District. Later this week they are on their way to Hertfordshire. It must be an exhausting tour. If Ballet Cymru come anywhere near you they are well worth seeing,