Friday, 6 December 2019

Ballet Cymru - Even Better than Last Year

Author Sian Trenberth Photography Ltd
© 2019 Ballet Cymru: all rights reserved
Reproduced with kind permission of the company

Ballet Cymru (Three Works: Wired to the Moon, Divided We Stand and Celtic Concerto) Pontio Centre, Bangor 30 Nov 2019, 19:30

In my review of 12 Dec 2018, I described Ballet Cymru's Dylan Thomas programme as "the company's best work ever" but I think this year's triple bill was even better.  I say that because Dylan Thomas's words as read by Cerys Matthews eclipsed the dance whereas this year the focus was on dance. 

The three works that Ballet Cymru could not have been more different: Celtic Concerto, an exquisite classical work by Darius James and Amy Doughty, Patricia Vallis's cotemporary Divided We Stand and Charlotte Edmond's innovative Wired to the Moon. The company performed all three works with flair. Ballet Cymru is undoubtedly a company in the classical tradition but it can shine in other styles as well.

In my preview of Ballet Cymru's appearance in Bangor, I linked to a YouTube film of the company's inaugural performance of Celtic Concerto in Newport in 2013.  Readers will appreciate the beauty of Catrin Finch's score, the exuberance of the choreography and the elegance of the costumes and lighting.  The women in black tutus and the men in matching leotards.  The cast has changed since then with highly talented young recruits like Beau Dillen, Joshua Feist and Oliver Wilkinson-Smith.  I first saw that work at Sadler's Wells exactly four years ago. I like it even better now than I did then.

I saw Divided We  Stand in Made in Wales on 22 March at the Dance House in Cardiff.  That was the end of course performance of the Pre-Professional Programme.  If I am not mistaken, Patricia Vallis has added to that work.  There is dialogue and real needle in some of the duets.  The choreographer trained in Rotterdam and New York which explains why I was put in mind of both NDT and Joffrey by her work.  Everyone danced well but there was an exchange between Alex Hallas and Beth Meadway that seemed to express perfectly the message that I drew from the work, namely a new harmony eventually emerges from confrontation.  The score was by Henry Purcell that suited the narrative precisely.  

In the programme, Wired to the Moon is said to have been inspired by functioning systems and how they respond to changes in their environment and shows us "how technology is an extension of our world and in this increasingly interconnected works we must exist in balance." Well, maybe. To me, the work seemed to have more in common with tide and beaches. There was a beach on the front page of the programme, some of the artists removed their trousers as if preparing for a swim, white boxes on stage suggested crests of waves or breakwaters. For a while, I was puzzled by the title then I realized that the moon actuates our tides and I suppose that it is a kind of system.  Katya Richardson's score was dramatic and Eleanor Bull's designs were thought provoking.  The dancing was, of course, superb.

I enjoyed all the elements of the triple bill, perhaps Celtic Concerto and Divided We Stand slightly more than Wired to the Moon because I had seen the first two works before and understood them better.  Although the company performed all three works equally well I think Celtic Concerto showed the artists to their best advantage.  They are a classical company and it is in that style that they are (in my eyes at least) most beautiful.

I saw the show with a member of staff of M-SParc and her 12-year-old daughter.  My guest's daughter had studied ballet for a while but she had previously seen only one live performance.  She was thrilled by Ballet Cymru and delighted to meet Darius James, Patricia Vallis and the cast after the show.  Several of the dancers asked whether she would like to dance professionally to which she said she would.  She told me that she would resume her classes with renewed enthusiasm.  She was not the only young student to have been inspired by Ballet Cymru. Just before the performance, pupils from the local schools performed a curtain-raiser in the foyer.  I missed most of it but I caught a scene on the balcony and those students were very good. Alex Hallas, who had rehearsed them, told me that quite a few of the children including several boys intended to join local classes. 

Most if not all major ballet companies in the UK have associates and outreach programmes but none seems to be as close to their local communities and young people from those communities as Ballet Cymru.  When I told Patricia Vallis what my guest's daughter had said to me, she replied: "That is such wonderful news! That is one of the reasons why we do what we do!"  It is yet another reason why I love Ballet Cymru so.

No comments:

Post a Comment