Monday, 5 December 2016

Ballet Cymru's "Sleeping Beauty Moment"

The Millennium Centre
(c) 2016 Jane Lambert: all rights reserved

Ballet Cymru Little Red Riding Hood and Three Little Pigs Millennium Centre, 4 Dec 2016

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to attend an event which may be as significant for Ballet Cymru as the first performance of The Sleeping Beauty by the Sadler's Wells Ballet in the Royal Opera House on 20 Feb 1946 was for the Royal Ballet. That performance of The Sleeping Beauty made the Royal Ballet. There is every chance that yesterday's performance of Little Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs before a packed house at the Wales Millennium Centre with the entire BBC National Orchestra of Wales will do the same for Ballet Cymru. The performance celebrated two significant anniversaries: the centenary of Roald Dahl's birth in Llandaff  and the 30th anniversary of the formation of Ballet Cymru (see Our History on Ballet Cymru's website).

The show took place in the Donald Gordon Theatre which is a massive auditorium as my photograph shows. According to Wikipedia it has 1,897 seats which makes that auditorium significantly larger than The Lowry with 1,730, the Leeds Grand Theatre with 1,550. and the Bradford Alhambra with 1,440 and only slightly smaller than the Royal Opera House and the Coliseum. There was barely an empty seat in the house.  With a population of only 346,000, Cardiff is not a massive city. To attract nearly 1,900 people tat 16:00 in the run-up to Christmas speaks volumes for the regard that members of the public have for Ballet Cymru.

I had seen the show at the Riverfront Theatre in Newport on 21 May 2016 and reviewed it in Ballet Cymru's Summer Tour 22 May 2016. David Murley saw it in the Lilian Baylis Studio at Sadler's Wells last week and reviewed it in Little Red Riding Hood comes to London on 2 Dec 2016. On each of those occasions the dancers performed to recorded music. Dancing to a massive symphony orchestra presented logistical questions such as where to put the musicians. They were too numerous for an orchestra pit and part of the attraction was to experience the orchestra playing a new work.

Donald Gordon Theatre
(c) 2016 Jane Elizabeth Lambert: all rights reserved
The answer was to put the orchestra on stage as in Elite Syncopations. Just before the show started the musicians and dancers assembled behind the screen in the photo to the left. As the house lights dimmed, silhouettes of the musicians and dancers could be made out. The curtain rose and the lights focused on Mark Griffiths who began the story by introducing the wolf and other forest creatures. I had feared that a work that had been designed for small or medium theatres would be swamped by the sheer expanse of the auditorium but the orchestra scaled up the production naturally and seamlessly.

The role of Little Red Riding Hood had been danced by Lydia Arnoux. I don't know whether Darius James and Amy Doughty had created it for her but she was well suited to it. When I read in David Murley's review that Anna Pujol had danced Little Red Riding Hood in London I was intrigued because Pujol is taller and dances differently. Pujol certainly impressed David Murley:
"Spanish company Artist Anna Pujol portrayed a likeable, empowered, no-nonsense and even glamorous Little Red Riding Hood. Pujol has sass and class. There were moments speckled throughout the piece when she was a budding Cyd Charisse."
I was impressed too. She made the role her own. There are a lot of chaînés and other  pyrotechnics in James and Doughty's choreography which Pujol executed exquisitely.

All the dancers performed well and it would be unfair to single any out for special praise but I loved Robbie Moorcroft's depiction of the "bad grandma", Dylan Waddell's mean wolf and half pantomime cow and Miguel Fernantes's other half. It was as always good to see Krystal Lowe on stage again as a guest artist.

I met the dancers briefly at a small party after the show. They told me about the thrill they experienced at dancing to a full house in a massive theatre. They also loved dancing to live musicians. They want more of both. They are ambitious. They want to see their company grow. They are looking forward to Farnham Maltings on Thursday but they are ready for bigger things now.

Other Reviews

Mike Smith  Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs, Ballet Cymru, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Wales Millennium Centre 5 Dec 2016 Art Scene in Wales

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