Sunday, 26 December 2021

The Nutcracker and The Mouse King

The Nutcracker and the Mouse King
Author Hans Gerritsen  (c) 2021 Dutch National Ballet (all rights reserved 


The Music Theatre The Nutcracker and the Mouse King 18 Dec 2021 and 24 Dev 2021 13:00

Between 1991 and 2003 Wayne Eagling was the Artistic Director of the Dutch National Ballet. In that role, he collaborated with Toer van Schayk to create The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.   On 18 and  24 Dec 2021 the work was live-streamed over the internet to audiences around the world. I watched both performances.

This ballet includes the Mouse King in the title for a reason. In other productions, the role of the mouse king is quite limited.  He leads his mice into battle against the toy soldiers and begins to gain the upper hand until Clara clobbers him.  In Eagling's version, he appears first at the Stahlbaums' party, later as a nightmare as Clara tries to sleep, next as the leader of the mice and finally in a duel with the prince.  The battle between mice and soldiers seems to symbolize a struggle between chaos and order which echoes in the boys' mithering their sisters or the Arabs dragging their captives.

Eagling's collaboration with van Schayk has led to all sorts of fantastic creations.   A giant pink-eyed monster rodent, an autonomous walking robot of a nutcracker and the fantastic machine with its circular centre-piece that at one point turns itself into a massive feline compete with a moving paw in the final confrontation with the mouse king and a ruined temple for the mirliton scene.   So much more compelling than a kingdom of the sweets with the Spanish, Arabs and Chinese dances representing chocolate, coffee and tea.

The two shows had different casts and each is to be congratulated.  Clara was danced by Maia Makhateli on 18 Dec and Riho Sakamoto on 24. Sakamoto has recently been promoted to principal which pleases me considerably as I have been following her progress ever since she joined the Junior Company in 2014 (see Riho Sakamoto promoted to principal).  Makhateli was magnificent as she always is and was partnered gallantly by Jakob Feyferlik,   Also impressive were Edo Wijnen who danced the nutcracker, Vito  Mazzeo who was Drosselmeyer and James Stout who was the mouse king.   Sadly I do not yet have a cast list for the Christmas eve matinee and I can't be sure who performed the leading roles other than Sakamoto.

Live screening is better than nothing but it is not the same as attending the theatre.   Theatre - particularly ballet - is two-way communication.  A good audience lifts the artists to new heights.   I am sure the dancers were aware that viewers like me around the world were cheering ourselves hoarse and clapping till our palms were sore but that's not the same as hearing us.  The Netherlands like the UK has had to cope with the "o" strain at the worse possible time and the season may have to be curtailed for public health reasons.  But one day the pandemic will be over in both countries.  When it is, my priority will be to watch this ballet live.

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Made in Wales

Ballet Cymru's triple bill at Sadlers Wells 

 Joanna Goodman

The Lilian Baylis Studio at Sadlers Wells in London is quite a small theatre and on Saturday night it was full. There was a buzz of excitement and anticipation for Ballet Cymru’s Made in Wales triple bill – and there were a lot of dancers in the audience, so expectations were high. And we were not disappointed. 

The opening piece, Poems and Tiger Eggs, by Amy Doughty and Ballet Cymru’s founder Darius James OBE, was an interpretation of some of Dylan Thomas’ best known poems. These were read live on stage by Cerys Matthews (who some might remember as the energetic lead singer of Catatonia) accompanied by music written by Matthews and performed by jazz musician Arun Ghosh. Matthews has a relaxed yet compelling stage presence and her beautiful melodious voice brought familiar poems to life in new ways. The choreography was complex and energetic and engaged the audience straight away. The 12 dancers shifted smoothly from combination to combination and from an amusing depiction of suburban life in ‘That sanity be kept’ through the poignant drama of ‘The hunchback in the park’ to darker works, ‘Do not go gentle’, ‘And death shall have no dominion’. The dancers’ simple costumes and acrobatic contemporary style accentuated their strength and flexibility which combined with power of Thomas’ poetry and Matthews’ emotive performance was a hard act to follow. 

This was achieved by Liam Riddick’s Murmurations, set to music by Welsh singer Charlotte Church. Riddick was an award-winning dancer, performing with BalletBoyz and the Richard Alston Dance Company, whose influence can be seen in his choreography. This is Riddick’s first work for Ballet Cymru and its lyrical freshness is a great addition to the repertoire.

Ballet Cymru’s choreographers and dancers come from all over the world, and they all look different – unlike the typical corps de ballet – yet they move together in a fluid and harmonious way, blending classical ballet and flowing contemporary moves. This was particularly noticeable in Murmurations, which was inspired by the way starlings fly in ballet-like formations.  The dancers move together in flowing and leaping combinations, lifting and supporting each other in different ways. Again, the choreography was demanding and acrobatic, but it is also abstract, balancing out the dramatically figurative Poems and Tiger Eggs where the choreography often directly reflected Dylan Thomas’ words as well as its rhythm. Notwithstanding its abstract nature, it was a moving interpretation, enhanced by Joe Powell-Main’s beautiful expressive shoulders and arms which also spun his wheelchair with incredible speed and strength.

While the first two pieces felt like the essence of Wales, the final work, Isolated Pulses, was more broadly resonant. Created during lockdown by the company’s resident choreographer Marcus Jarrell Willis, and set to a medley of tracks ranging from Olafur Arnalds to George Frideric Handel, to the LSU Tiger Marching Band, the choreography was designed to convey the significance of individual existence and how each individual contributes to and shapes the world, through a series of  synchronised configurations around simple props of chairs and mirrors – each person was locked down in their own space, until they shifted and mingled with each other.  Here the costumes were more individualistic, and each role had a personality that interpreted the choreography in different ways, even though the coordinated sequences were designed to make moving shapes and patterns on the stage. 

While the first two pieces tended to move from cameo to cameo, Isolated Pulses belied its name with a broader range of music and bigger scenes, with all the dancers on the stage together throughout the piece. This perhaps echoed Willis’ background at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and Rambert Dance. Again, despite its theme and title, Isolated Pulses reached out beyond Wales, expressing the way all of us have reacted collectively and individually to a situation that has affected the whole world. It was a great finale to an evening that showcased Wales’ cultural heritage and diverse contemporary talent in an original and enjoyable way. If you get the chance to see this, definitely go! This is my first experience of Ballet Cymru and I am looking forward to more of their interesting and unique work.

Thank you, Ballet Cymru and Terpsichore.

Joanna Goodman, November 2021

Wednesday, 10 November 2021

Ballet Cymru's Giselle

Author Sian Trenberth Photography   © 2021 Ballet Cymru - all rights reserved


Ballet Cymru Giselle Riverfront Theatre, Newport 6 Nov 2021 19:30

On its home page Ballet Cymru proclaims:
"We are a ballet company who like to do things a bit differently. We enjoy finding new ways to make what we do exciting, innovative and relevant."

Nothing exemplifies that better than their new Giselle which was premiered at Lichfield cathedral and online on 8 July 2021 (see Giselle Reimagined 9  July 2021).  They are a small but important company which spends much of its time on the road.  Many of their venues are small auditoriums with limited ranges of stage equipment.  Ballet Cymru's artistic directors, Darius James and Amy Doughty, have taken the essentials of some of the world's great ballets and refashioned them for a small cast that is constantly travelling before audiences that may not see a lot of ballet.  They succeeded spectacularly with their Cinderella and Romeo a Juliet.  Their Giselle is a similar success.

Making such adaptations often requires adjustments to the libretto, characters and score.  For example, the mesmeric effect of rank upon rank of artists in white romantic tutus approaching each other in arabesque as the music reaches a crescendo is difficult to achieve with a small cast on a tiny stage playing recorded music.  Moreover, most modern audiences are unfamiliar with Rhineland folk tales about forest maidens who die before their wedding day.   Most of us have seen or at least heard of horror movies about the undead who crawl out of their tombs at night.  That is why there were zombies crawling about the stage instead of wilis en pointe in Act II.

If you replace wilis with zombies you probably need a new score.  James and Doughty commissioned Catrin Finch to adapt Adam's music. Finch had previously contributed the music for Celtic Concerto and The Light Princess and it was through those works that I first learned about her.  I have started to explore her other work. I was lucky enough to meet her at a reception at the Riverfront Theatre after the show.  I hope to write more about her work in this publication later.  Finch kept important parts of Adam's score such as the overture to Acts I and II and passages from the made scene but the greater part of the work was her own.  Some of it was very dramatic such as the percussion to indicate a heartbeat.

Apart from substituting zombies for wilis, James and Doughty kept the story more or less intact.   It unfolds with great clarity.  In keeping with their mission to make everything they do exciting, innovative and relevant James and Doughty set the ballet in contemporary Wales rather than the medieval Rhineland.  As there are not too many lords of the manor in Brexit Britain, Albrecht is no longer a noble, Merely a married man playing the field away from home.  He does not carry a sword but he does keep something in his wallet that enables Hilarion to denounce him.  The main character changes are the introduction of male as well as female zombies and Cerys, a besty for Giselle instead of an over solicitous mum,

I have now seen the ballet three times - once on-screen on 8 July, once live at the Stanley and Audrey Burton in Leeds on 4 Nov and again live in Newport on 6 Nov.   Each performance was a different experience. The company danced well in Lichfield and Leeds and must have made a lot of friends in both places but their performance in Newport before their home turf was of a different order of magnitude.  After a performance of TIR some years ago, their patron Cerys Matthews described them as "the pride of Newport and the pride of Wales".   She won a peel of polite applause for that remark.  On Saturday, it was palpable.  The crowd in the Riverfront have learnt to appreciate ballet and taken their home company to their hearts.  Just like the crowd in the Grand has adopted Nothern and the Hippodrome BRB.  Ballet Cymru has put down roots that may one day blossom into a mighty national company with its own school.

The cast was the same in all three shows.   Beth Meadway danced Giselle with grace and poise.  It was as if she was born for that role. Tall with an expressive countenance, there were instances when she was on pointe in Act II that reminded me of the lithographs of Grisi.  Andrea Battagia is a powerful athletic dancer but he is also a fine dance actor capable of expressing the subtleties of Albrecht's personality and his many emotions.  Isobel Holland, one of the most pleasant individuals one could ever hope to meet in real life, was a convincing personification of decay and evil as the lead female zombie.  So, too, was Robbie Moorcroft - again congeniality itself in real life - who created the new role of lead male zombie.  Two newcomers to the company impressed me particularly: Yasset Roldan as Hilarion and Hanna Lyn Hughes as Cerys.  I shall follow their careers with great interest. All the members of the company danced well in all three performances and I offer all of them my congratulations. 

James designed the sets and video projections.   These were ingenious and set each of the scenes effectively.   I particularly admired the churchyard scene just before dawn.  Ballet Cymru relies heavily on such projections but these were particularly good.   The opening scene of an ECG flashed onto the gauze together with the percussion and the cast's jumping like cardiac muscles warned the audience at the start that Giselle had a weak heart. James's designs were accompanied by skilful lighting design by Chris Illingworth and the imaginative costumes of Deryn Tudor.

Wales has a strong dance tradition as you can see from this grasshopper dance but it does not yet have a national ballet school or comprehensive nationwide facilities for developing balletic talent.  There are good ballet teachers in the main towns and cities but most of Wales is rural.   Ballet Cymru's Duets Programme goes some way to filling that lacuna.   Before Saturday's show, several young local schoolchildren on that programme presented a short demonstration of what they had learnt in a very short time.  They drew rapturous applause after which most of them watched Giselle in the row in front of me.  Ballet Cymru's investment in its nation's youth will create, at the very least, an eager and informed audience for dance and possibly even some of the next generation of the world's principals.

Thursday, 7 October 2021


7th Symphony
Author Hans Gerritsen © 2021 Dutch National Ballet, All rights reserved

Dutch National Ballet  Toer  Streamed from the Music Theatre, Amsterdam, 25 Sept 2021, 19:15  and repeated 6 Oct 2021, 19:00

Toer is a double bill in honour of the celebrated choreographer, artist, designer and former dancer, Toer van Schayk.  It consists of two of his ballets: Lucifer Studies and 7th Symphony    Lucifer Studies is a new work which was premiered on 14 Sept 2021.  7th Symphony is described by the programme as one of van Schayk's most successful ballets.  He created it in 1986 and he was awarded the choreography prize of the Dutch Association of Theatre and Concert Hall Directors for the work within a year.   The programme was streamed over the internet from the Amsterdam Music Theatre on 25 Sept and repeated last night,   I watched both transmissions.

Both works were new to me.   They are very different.  The first contains studies that were intended to form part of a full-length ballet based on Vondel's Lucifer.   Work on the ballet has been interrupted by the pandemic but Van Schayk rightly considered that the studies were worth showing. The second piece is based on Beethoven's 7th symphony.   That symphony is one of Beethoven's most famous compositions.  Contrary to the opinion of an eminent ballet critic who really ought to know better that Beethoven is undanceable, the 7th symphony was crying out to be danced and van Schayk has choreographed it beautifully.  While I had to work hard to digest Joep Frannsens's Echoes for Lucifer Studies I could barely sit still and keep silent as the orchestra romped through Beethoven's exuberant work.

I like to think that I am reasonably well-read but I have to confess that until I saw Lucifer Studies I had never heard of Vondel or his play and I fear that few of my fellow Anglophones could claim otherwise.  There is a beautiful open space in the centre of Amsterdam known as Vondel Park and I wonder whether it was named after him.  Joost van den Vondel lived from 1587 to 1689 which encompassed the life of our great poet, John Milton, who lived from 1608 to 1674. I have now had a chance to acquaint myself with Lucifer. Even in translation, Lucifer is impressive and its subject matter is the same as Paradise Lost.  I know that poem well perhaps because I attended the same secondary school as Milton.  I am told by one of his former classmates that Matthew Rowe attended that school too.  Fragments of Milton's verse flashed through my mind as I watched the ballet. From the way the orchestra played, I sensed that Rowe was also inspired by Milton too and that he had communicated that inspiration to each and every musician.

Lucifer Studies
Author Hans Gerritsen © 2021 Dutch National Ballet, All rights reserved

Lucifer Studies had an all-male cast. As I suspect that each of the studies was intended to be danced by a principal or soloist in the full-length work, van Shayk selected some of the company's ablest young dancers.   They included Timothy van Poucke who has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the company winning the Radius prize within a very short time of graduating from the Junior Company.   Also in the piece was Martin ten Kortenaar whom I featured in 2014.   Others I recognized were Daniel Robert Silva, Nathan Brhane and Giovanni Princic.  That is not a complete list because I cannot recover the cast list for 25 Sept from the company's website.   Each and every one of those excellent young men impressed me greatly. 

Van Shayk designed the sets and costumes for Lucifer Studies.   The most striking feature of the costumes was that each of the dancers wore a differently coloured right sleeve.   Sometimes the colours of those sleeves were projected onto the backdrop focusing the audience's attention on the solo or duet in question.

Though Lucifer Studies lasts no more than 27 minutes it is a very absorbing work.   I had to watch it twice and discuss it with a dancer friend to get the measure of it.   After the world emerges from the pandemic I fervently hope that resources will be found to enable van Schayk to finish the full-length work.

Young Gyu Choi and Nancy Burer
Author Hans Gerritsen
© 2021 Dutch National Ballet: all rights reserved

It is not hard to see why 7th Symphony was an immediate success.  Van Schayk caught the exuberance of the score and amplified it.   The cast was split into two groups lettered "A" and "B".   I regret that I did not record the names of all the dancers on 25 Sept because I thought that the cast list would be available with the repeat   I remember that I admired the performances of Artur Shesterikov and Floor Eimers but there were many others some of whom I did not recognize.   Everyone danced well in that show and I congratulate each and every one of them.   Van Schayk designed the sets and costumes. The women's dresses must have been a joy to wear. 

Of all the online shows that I have seen since the start of the pandemic, this double bill was one of my favourites.  It was a fitting tribute to an extraordinary talent who celebrated his 85th birthday last month.

Friday, 6 August 2021

Dancing in the Penthouse

In Back to the Studio with KNT  I described KNT Danceworks new venue in the ABC Buildings on Quay Street in Manchester and gave practical directions on how to get there, where the park and how to find the studio once inside the premises.   Though not designed as a studio the space is in many important respects superior to the rehearsal studios in the Dancehouse.

If there is sufficient demand the ABC Buildings will host the first studio Day of Dance for nearly two years on 14 Aug 2021.  It is a day on which Karen Sant hires some of the best dance professionals on stage or in the schools to train us.   Those whom she had assembled in the past include Alex Hallas, dancer and choreographer with Ballet Cymru, Harriet Mills, principal ballerina with the Karlsruhe Ballet and Joey Taylor of Birmingham Royal Ballet from the stage as well as great teachers such as Jane Tucker of Northern Ballet Academy and Martin Dutton of the Hammond School.

Next week's programme looks very inviting:

  • Beginner and Pre-Intermediate Ballet Class between 10:00 and 11:30
  • Beginner and Pre-Intermediate Choreograph between 11:30 and 13:00
  • Intermediate and Advanced Balled Repertoire between 13:30 and 15:00
  • Intermediate and Advanced Ballet Class between 15:00 and 16:30

If you want to attend this event (and why wouldn't you) you must register through the Class Manager app as soon as possible.   It will only go ahead if there are at least 15 takers for each event.   If you have not already signed up for the event do so soon.   Karen will need to make a decision at least a week ahead.  I have put my name down for the Pre-Intermediate Class and Choreography sessions.   I look forward to seeing some of you there,

Wednesday, 4 August 2021

Back to the Studio with KNT

Manchester Quay Street
Author Mikey Licence CC BY 2.0 Source Wikimedia Commons

Throughout this pandemic, Karen Sant of KNT Danceworks has kept north country dancers moving and motivated. Frst by transferring her regular classes online. More recently by holding some of those classes in the open air in Castlefield near the Roman fort where Manchester began.  While nothing beats alfresco dancing on a warm summer evening our city is better known for precipitation than sunshine.   On a particularly inclement evening, Karen announced a new venue in the ABC Buildings on Quay Street.  I rolled up there for my regular pre-intermediate ballet class with Karen yesterday.

 As Quay Street was my old stamping ground when I practised in Manchester I had no difficulty in finding the building.  It is located near Cobden House which housed the Manchester District Registry and County Court offices for many years and is now occupied by a set of barristers into which my former chambers merged.  It is a few hundred yards from Spingingfields car park and there is usually some metered street parking nearby if you care to look for it.  It is very close to Deansgate which is the main shopping street of Manchester.  Also, a moderate walk from the nearest tram stop by the Town Hall or Victoria and Piccadilly mainline railway stations.    

One hazard for dancers coming by car is the roadworks in Quay Street and approaches.   The congestion caused by those excavations was horrendous.   The journey from the intersection of the Oldham Road and Swan Street to Spiningfields - which can't be much more than a mile - took almost as long as the 25 miles from Holmfirth to that intersection.  Next time I shall park on the outskirts of the city centre and finish my journey on foot.

The class took place at the top of what I believe to be the B Building of the ABC complex. It was not easy to find because there is no signage. The reception desk was unoccupied and the staff in the cinema bar hadn't a clue though they did their best to point me in the right direction.  Happily, I ran into two other wandering souls.  After eliminating between us just about every landing and staircase in the building we caught a peel of tinkly music that eventually led us to Karen.   Newcomers to the class should enter the building by the first set of doors if coming from Deansgate or the last if coming from Spiningfields, walk down a long corridor to the lifts, take a lift to the top floor and climb the stairs to what appears to have been the penthouse.

Although probably not intended to be a dance studio, that space is an improvement on Studio 2 of the Dancehouse in several respects.  For a start, it has windows along both main walls.  Two doors open onto a balcony with views of central Manchester. The doors also provide good ventilation.  On the other hand, the floor is unfinished, there is no sound system and we have to use the window structures as a barre.  However, the amenity of the space more than made up for its limitations.

Because I was badly delayed by traffic and could not immediately find the class I arrived in the middle of pliés.  Karen took us through all the usual barre exercises except grands battements which she combined with tendus and pirouette practice in the centre.  She also taught us a delightful adagio which we performed in two groups.  We had warm-up jumps and joyful temps leves at the end.

It was a delightful class.   It was good to see so many familiar faces and of course Karen.  Everyone I could see had grins from ear to ear.   At £6.50 this class was a bargain.   To sign up or future ones, register or log on to the KNT Class Manager site and follow the simple directions.  There are also other classes at different levels of several genres on most days of the week,

Friday, 9 July 2021

Giselle Re-imagined

Lichfield Cathedral
Author Nina-no Licence CC BY-SA 3.0 Source Wikimedia


Ballet Cymru, Giselle Livestream from Lichfield Cathedral, 8 July 2021 19:30

Ballet Cymru is not a big company.  If one consults the dancers' page as I tried to do yesterday because there were several artists in the cast I could not recognize, Ballet Cymru appears to have only four members.  Yet Ballet Cymru is capable of staging major full-length classical ballets and often doing them better than many bigger and better-resourced companies.  its Romeo a Juliet is one of the best and its Cinderella is definitely the best - much as I admire the Hampson and Wheeldon versions for Scottish Ballet and HNB.  

Those productions are successful because Darius James and Amy Doughty rethink those ballets for a small cast on the road. They are innovative without being gimmicky.  Their works are of our time yet remain anchored in the classical tradition.  Most importantly, though their artists are from Australia, Bermuda, Italy and Yorkshire, the company is unmistakably Welsh.  Here are two examples of how they work.   If a score does not quite work for them they have the courage to commission a new one.  As often as not, that commission will go to a Welsh composer such as Jack White or Catrin Finch. Another example is how they tell a story.   Romeo a Juliet is set not in renaissance Verona but post-industrial Newport.   The brawl between Montagues and Capulets in Act 1 takes place in the pedestrian underpass to the River Usk.  It is broken up not by a duke but by flashing blue lights.  

James and Doughty applied that formula to their new Giselle which was premiered at Lichfield Cathedral last night.  Although I saw it only on screen I have no doubt that it was a spectacular success.  The camera caught the front row of the audience who rose to their feet at the curtain call. Standing ovations are de rigeur in some parts of the world, but in Lichfield they are rare.  I know that city well because I attended prep school there.

As I knew that James and Doughty had commissioned Finch to write the music I was surprised to hear the opening notes of Adam's overture but it was quickly followed by percussion as the cast entered the stage and shortly afterwards (and my memory may be playing tricks on me here) Bugeilio'r Gwenith GwynAs I tweeted last night Finch's arrangement of Adam with her own work and traditional Welsh airs was one of the reasons for the ballet's success.

The ballet followed the familiar story but with some modern twists.  There are not too many peasants in Newport these days so there was no peasant pas de deux.  Fox hunting is illegal in Wales so there was no ducal hunting party.  Young Welsh women can learn about the men they encounter from their smartphones nowadays so there was no petal picking. But there was still a Giselle danced by Beth Meadway, an Albrecht (Andrea Battaggia), a Hilarion (Yasset Roldan), a Berthe (Hanna Lyn Hughes) and a Bathilde (Natasha Chu).  Other artists, described in the cast list as "friends", were  Robbie Moorcroft, Joe Powell-Main, Madeleine Green, Jakob Myers, Sanea Singh and Jethro Paine.  Chu and Lyn Hughes also appeared in the crowd scenes. 

We at Powerhouse Ballet hold all the dancers of Ballet Cymru in high regard but we have a particular affection for Meadway. She taught us In my craft or sullen art at the Dylan Thomas workshop when Ballet Cymru visited Leeds (see More than a Bit Differently: Ballet Cymru's Workshop and the Launch of the Powerhouse Ballet Circle  29 Nov 2018 Terpsichore).  She also gave us one of the best online company classes ever last year.   Above all, she is a North Country lass - just like most of us.  I already knew that she could dance but I had never seen her act before.  She is at least as good an actor as she is a dancer.  She did not just dance Giselle.   She made us believe that she was Giselle.

Tall and dashing, Battagia was cast well as Albrecht. It was easy to see how Giselle's head was turned by him.  He did not carry a sword but he did have some sort of ID that he carelessly left in a wallet in his coat pocket.  I have always felt a bit sorry for poor old Hilarion.  If anyone deserves to die it is Albrecht and in Dada Masilo's version, he does (see  A Brace of Giselles 15 Oct 2019 Terpsichore).  James and Doughty stick to tradition and he perishes in a horrible way. Roldan danced his role with verve and passion.   The choreography gives him opportunities to demonstrate virtuosity and he took full advantage.  Berthe seems even younger than her daughter which may be why she is described in the cast list as "Giselle's friend".  There is a poignant moment as Berthe comforts Giselle when she first experiences heart trouble.   It is also Berthe who tries to revive Giselle at the end.   

In any production of Giselle, there is a contrast between acts 1 and 2.   In this production, the contrast was marked by the absence of pointe work in act 1.  The women wore soft shoes and turned on demi.  In the spirit world, Myrtha and Giselle were on pointe.  No doubt to emphasize their lightness like Taglioni in La Sylphide or Grisi in the first Giselle.  The wilis were the scariest I have ever seen.   The friends in act 1 became spirits in act 2.  They, therefore, included men who were particularly threatening.   They crawled over their graves like serpents.   No graceful arabesques or penchés.   They were led by Isobel Holland.   The tension between Holland and Meadway was palpable.   Holland like Meadway is an excellent actor. She also taught us at our Dylan Thomas workshop.  We at Powerhouse know that she is delightful in real life but as queen of the wilis she was grisly and venomous.  

The set was simple but robust which will be ideal for touring.   Essentially rectangular slaps with reflective surfaces. As in their other ballets. Ballet Cymru relied on projectors to create scenery or change mood.   One background - ancient Celtic and Latin crosses - was simultaneously beautiful and unsettling. All credit to the lighting designer, Chris Illingworth.  Congratulations also to the costume designer, Derek Tudor.  Myrtha's was stunning.   The women's skirts with their layers of material must have been a joy to wear.

I look forward to seeing this show on stage very much.  A screen is all very well but it is two dimensional and ballet has depth.   If Ballet Cymru ever offers this choreography as a workshop we should love to learn it.   Once this third wave has subsided we shall learn the Coralli-Perrot-Petipa version of the dance of the wilis but the James and Doughty version would be such fun.