Saturday, 19 March 2016

Cambriophilia

"We have Anglophile and Francophile, but what do we call someone who is a lover of the Americas - particularly North America?" asked The Guardian on its Semantic Enigma page. "Mad" was one ungracious reply which not unnaturally ruffled more than a few Transatlantic feathers. A more serious reply was Americophile which I googled and, yes, the word does seem to exist.

But the English language doesn't seem to have a word for a lover of Welsh culture which is strange because there is so much to admire in that beautiful peninsula just a short drive away for most of us. So I'm going to coin one which I hope will one day find its way into the OED. "Cambriophile" and its noun "Cambriophilia".  That adjective certainly applies to me. As I said in Ballet Cymru in London 1 Dec 2015:
"To the best of my knowledge and belief there is not a millilitre of Welsh blood in my veins. Such Celtic heritage as I can claim is Irish and Scottish yet I love Wales as much as anyone who was lucky enough to have been born in the principality."
One of the reasons I am a Cambriohile is that Wales has a great ballet company in Ballet Cymru. I am delighted to say that it also has a fine contemporary dance company in the National Dance Company Wales.

The National Dance Company Wales spent a day in Huddersfield on 10 March 2016 and we got to know them well. They invited us to their company class over cakes at lunch time before performing three of their works on their current Spring tour and then finally sticking around in the meeting room afterwards for a Q & A. I should say for the benefit of those readers who have never been to Wales or Huddersfield that we share quite a bit in common. We also live in a hilly, gritty landscape which once had mines and mills and we share a love of singing with one of the best choral societies in the world. A language close to Welsh was once spoken in Yorkshire and quite a bit of it remains in names of geographic features such as Pen-y-ghent for one of the highest points in our county.

Company class was taken by Lee Johnston, the company's rehearsal director, and it was entirely classical starting with warm ups on the floor, barre work, and the usual centre exercises albeit to slightly different music than would normally accompany a ballet class. While the dance these artists perform on stage may not be ballet they are clearly ballet trained and they are as supple and graceful as any ballet dancer. Gita and I ran into Johnston on the way from the auditorium to the cafe.
 "Thanks for coming" she said.
"On the contrary. we thank you for letting us watch your company class" was our reply.
We introduced ourselves as Team Terpsichore and expressed our delight at meeting another Welsh dance company.
"We are good friends of Ballet Cymru", we were told, "who are just down the road from us."

The NCDW is based in the Dance House in the Millennium Centre in Cardiff which is indeed not far from Rogerstone which is the suburb of Newport where Ballet Cymru is based. The facilities of the Dance House sound magnificent: "a world-class production facility and performance and rehearsal space for local artists, youth groups and touring companies across the UK and beyond." They share that space with a roll call of some of the best and the brightest in Wales Welsh National Opera, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Touch Trust, Ty Cerdd, Literature Wales, Hijinx and Urdd. Facilities include "two dance studios, a lounge area and office space. The main production studio, the Blue Room, has the highest quality technical specification for producing and presenting dance, including 100 tiered and retractable seats. The second studio, Man Gwyn, is a simple square rehearsal studio complete with ballet barres, mirrors and full circle grey drapes for rehearsal, auditions or intimate presentations." Apparently the Dance House is always buzzing with activity.

The company has 9 dancers of whom only Josie Sinnadurai seems to be Welsh. The rest come from England and the Continent.
"You call yourself the National Company of Wales" I asked in the Q & A after the show, "so what's so Welsh about you?"
"Good question" replied David Pallant, their latest recruit, "well we go to all parts of the country and interact with schools of community groups."
"Our dancers are actually learning Welsh to work with children" added Lee Johnstone.
"Would you like to say something in Welsh?" said our Canadian master or rather mistress of ceremonies to Angela Boix Duran who is a strikingly beautiful young woman from Barcelona.
"Yr wyf o Sbaen" ("I'm from Spain") came the fluent reply.

The company performed three works for us:
I liked all three works enormously but the one I enjoyed the most was Verbruggen's Mighty Wind. It was exciting as the men tossed one of the women between them as though she were a sack of potatoes and also innovative in the way he used four mobile fans with powerful lighting to flare the dancers hair as though they were on fire. Verbruggen had created The Nutcracker for the Geneva Ballet which I mentioned in Geneva Nutcracker on 25 Oct 2015. I would love to see that work one day but for now A Mighty Wind will do.

The National Dance Company of Wales's next stop on their Spring tour is The Place in London on 12 April and then on to Aberystwyth, Milford Haven and Mold.  If you live anywhere near those places they are worth a visit.

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