Sunday, 3 June 2018

Ballet Cymru's Cinderella Second Time Round

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Ballet Cymru Cinderella Waterside Arts Centre, Sale 2 June 2018, 19:30

I expected great things from Wales's national ballet company (see Ballet Cymru 2018 Summer Tour 21 April 2018). I was not disappointed. Cinderella is the best work in Ballet Cymru's repertoire and their Cinderella is (in my humble, northern, rustic opinion) pretty well the best anywhere. But then what do I know? After all, I have only seen Ashton's, Bintley's, Bourne's, Gable's, Hampson's, Nixon's, Ratmansky's, Wheeldon's and probably one or two others that I have forgotten. While I love nearly all those other works, Darius James and Amy Doughty's is the one I love best.

There are four reasons why I love James and Doughty's version so much. The first is that it is very pure.  The libretto sticks closely to Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm's story which is actually quite short and very tight. So, too, is the ballet.  As I noted in Ballet Cymru's Cinderella 15 June 2015:
"This is a very tight production that adapts well to touring with ingenious costume and stage design and lighting. It is dramatic and poignant in parts but also witty. It is exactly the right length. It tells the story in full but does not drag for a second. It makes maximum use of the company's small but very talented troupe of dancers."
That brings me on to the second reason why that ballet is so good which is that James and Doughty give every character his or her moment in the spotlight. Let me give just one example.  In the first act Cas (Cinderella's stepbrother) spins Seren (her stepsister) spectacularly around the stage. Those names lead me to the fourth point. The ballet is very Welsh by which I mean that it is free of frippery and frivolity like a Calvinist chapel but, like the singing that might emanate from such chapel, emotionally very strong.  And most Welsh of all (the fourth reason why I love this ballet) is Jack White's simple, moving, beautiful score.

There have been a few changes to the production since 2015. The company relies heavily on its lighting design to set the scene and there seem to have been some new projections. There seem to be fewer voice overs from the Grimms' text. The ballet opens with the words:
"Dear child, remain pious and good, and then our dear God will always protect you, and I will look down on you from heaven and be near you."
But I can't remember any others which is a shame because I think they were useful cues for the audience in the performance that I saw in Lincoln. I think there may have been some minor changes to the libretto. I remember a chair in which Cinderella's mother died which seems to have disappeared but I do not remember a bike for Prince Madoc or his chum Maldwyn which seems to have added this time.

The biggest change of all, of course, is in the dancers who have joined the company.  Beth Meadway was an enchanting Cinders. Before the show I noted on Facebook that she comes from Hull, the city of Xander Parish and Kevin O'Hare. Xander picked it up and reacted with a "like". Well, all I can say is that they would both have been proud of their fellow codhead.  Another dancer who impressed Gita, in particular, was Eka Mastrangelo. Gita, who has studied Indian dance as well as ballet, noticed how Eka moved. "She must have studied Bharatanatyam" remarked Gita during the interval.  And so it transpired when we met the cast briefly after the show. Eka also confirmed that she worked with her eyes which help to tell the story in Indian dance. Gita also had a fair old chinwag with Alex Hallas who comes from Baildon near Bradford, another city that has produced more top class dancers.  I congratulated Isobel Holland who doubled as Cinderella's dying mum and the bird that looked after her and Maria Teresa Brunello who danced Seren.

It was good also to see again the dancers we already knew: Robbie Moorcroft who danced Prince Madoc, Miguel Fernandes who danced Maldwyn and Dan Morrison who danced Cinderella's father.

Much as I love this ballet there is one aspect that saddens me deeply.  The last time I saw it was a  rehearsal of the second act that the company performed in its studio for the members of the London Ballet Circle (see Ballet Cymru at Home 5 Oct 2015).  Maldwyn was danced by Mandev Sokhi who died a few days later.  Mandev was a beautiful dancer. What was particularly poignant last night is that he had connections with Cheshire. He certainly trained there - possibly at the Hammond.  In Remembering Mandev Sokhi 27 Nov 2015 I wrote:
"Mandev will be remembered tonight far beyond Newport and indeed well beyond Wales for he danced wth Ballet Cymru in every part of the United Kingdom."
I suggested two practical ways of remembering him one of which was to attend an even that has now passed. The other is still available and that is to become a Friend of the company.  Ballet Cymru is a national treasure not just of Wales but of the whole United Kingdom and we owe it to ourselves to help it grow and flourish.

If you you live in Northwest England and missed the show last night you can still catch it tonight in Preston, Otherwise you will have to travel.  But like a restaurant in the Guide Rouge with three rosettes, this show is well worth the journey.

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