Saturday, 22 August 2015

So head over the water - on the transporter - to visit Ballet Cymru - in their home city

On 3 Oct 2015 the London Ballet Circle will visit Ballet Cymru at its studios in Newport. Audrey Allen writes in the Circle's newsletter:
"As the company is small in size it is possible to meet and talk to everyone in a friendly and informal setting, and those who went last year commented on the warm hospitality they received."
I have already had the pleasure of meeting Darius James and Marc Brew but it is dancers who make a company and Ballet Cyrmru has some lovely dancers. Last year at Stuck in the Mud in Llandudno I came very close to two of my favourites, Krystal Lowe and Mandev Sokhi (see An Explosion of Joy 21 Sept 2014). So maybe this year I will actually get to shake their hands.

Ballet Cymru reminds me a lot of Scottish Theatre Ballet when it first moved to Glasgow from Bristol. It is still a small company but it already has the confidence to stage full length classics like Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella and interpret them in an original way (see They're not from Chigwell - they're from a small Welsh Town called Newport 14 May 2013 and Ballet Cymru's Cinderella 15 June 2015). It is very conscious of being a national ballet company. For instance, it has commissioned two scores from the young Welsh composer Jack White, its programmes and website are bilingual and it has introduced characters with Welsh names into Romeo and (or rather "a") Juliet and Cinderella.

The London Ballet Circle is one of the company's funders.  It contributes the Stanley Hawkins bursary which enables a student to attend the company's advanced ballet summer school. The company also receives support from the Arts Council of Wales, its local authority, the Garfield Weston Foundation and other trusts and foundations as well as donations from the public. One of the reasons for the London Ballet Circle's visit is to raise funds and members of the Circle and their guests are invited to contribute £12.50 each.

If you are coming from London you should aim to catch the 09:45 from Paddington. If you live in the North or Midlands there will be space in my car for at least one passenger. I can take either the M6 and M5 if I have a passenger from the North West or the M1, M42 and M5 if I have a passenger for Sheffield or Nottingham. Just let Audrey know you are coming and send your cheque for £12.50 to her at 8 Goldsmith Road, London, N11 3JP (tel: 020 8361 2872, Email: The main party have to catch their train back to the Smoke at 16:39 but we can leave whenever we like and there is much to see in Newport.

First and foremost there is Caerleon with its Roman archaeological site, museum, fortress and baths. When I was learning Latin I had to translate an unseen about a man who threw a stone at a dog which had walked on his mud tiles as they were drying in the sun. I seem to remember that he missed. In the text book there was a photo of the canine footprint and the indentation made by the stone. The Romans didn't waste the tile. They installed it in the Caerleon baths and if you get to Caerleon you can actually see it.

There is also the Riverfront Theatre where Ballet Cymru will perform TIR, Celtic Concerto and a new ballet by Marc Brew on 6 Nov 2015.  The music for TIR will be provided by Cerys Matthews who is one of the company's patrons. She has such a lovely voice that it would almost be worth learning Welsh to understand her song. It is certainly worth a trip to Newport to hear her live.

I find myself going to Newport quite often for work. The Intellectual Property Office moved to Concept House in parkland on the outskirts of the city nearly 25 years ago. I argue such matters as entitlement actions (disputes over who owns or is entitled to apply for a patent) or oppositions and invalidity applications (disputes over the registration of trade marks) before tribunals known as hearing officers. At a recent conference on intellectual property law that I attended which was organized by the Intellectual Property Office I found that several senior officials were quite unaware that Newport had a national ballet company. I will try to bring those great institutions closer together.

Now, what's the transporter mentioned in the Jay Z  spoof?  It is actually a bridge across the Usk. It is called the transporter because goods and passengers are carried across the river in a module that is hauled by an electric motor. There are similar ones in Middlesbrough and Warringtom.  These structures seem to have their own friends' groups rather like ballet companies. I find it strange that anyone can become passionate about an obsolete mode of transport but maybe the friends of those bridges would say the same about my passion for ballet.

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