Ballet Cymru Shadow Aspect, Riverfront Theatre, Newport, 6 Nov 2017
Though I doubt that either profession would thank me for mentioning it, ballet dancers share a lot more than you would imagine with barristers. I know one of those professions inside out as I have practised law for 40 years. Ballet I know much less well because I experience it mainly from the stalls. Such insights I have come mainly from reading and the occasional conversation with a dancer or ex-dancer and perhaps on some aspects my adult ballet class.
One of the similarities is that there are gradations of stats. At the Bar, we have silks or Queen's Counsel and in ballet, there are principals (ballerinas and premiers danesurs nobles). We learn out skills by watching the silks in action if we are lucky enough to be led by an eminent QC. From what they tell me ballet dancers learn by performing with the greats in very much the same way.
Those thoughts crossed my mind on Saturday as I watched Mara Galeazzi dance with Ballet Cymru in Tim Podesta's in Shadow Aspect at the Riverfront Theatre in Newport. I have always had a lot of time for the extraordinarily gifted young artists of Ballet Cymru but their performance that evening was the best I have ever seen them do. They were inspired by Galeazzi and they danced like angels but that was not the only miracle I saw. They energized Galeazzi and she danced in a way that I had never seen her. It was an hour and a half of magic.
According to the programme, Shadow Aspect referred "to the unconscious aspect of the personality that the conscious mind does not identify in itself. In short, the shadow is the dark side where individuals are defined and bonded by their mutual feelings of isolation." They quoted Carl Jung:
“To know yourself, you must accept your dark side. To deal with others’ dark sides, you must also know your dark side.”Well, I will take their word for that. As a no-nonsense Northerner, I didn't look for meaning. Just the pure of the movement.
I should say a word about the score. It was by Jean-Philippe Goude about whom I knew next to nothing before the performance but I was captivated by it and now want to hear everything he has written. A word too about the designs for which Podesta collaborated with the architect Andy Mero. They were as bare as possible. No backcloth. At one point just the bricks of the back wall. With Yukiko's costumes and Chris Davies's lighting. their starkness was dramatically effective.
Immediately after the show, the company had to trundle off to London where they repeated the show at Sadler's Wells. "Thank you for coming!" said Darius James and Amy Doughty as if I was doing Ballet Cymru a favour by grabbing my reviewer's ticket with both hands. "Sorry there's no reception" as if I go to Newport for anything but the dance. Attending that performance was very special and it will be a long time before the memory fades.