|Ballet Cymru (Independent Ballet Wales)
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|Author:||David [ Wed Nov 17, 2010 2:43 am ]|
|Post subject:||Ballet Cymru (Independent Ballet Wales)|
Lady of the Lake
Independent Ballet Wales
Lilian Baylis Theatre, Sadler’s Wells, London; November 13, 2010
by David Mead
“The Lady of the Lake” (“Llyn y Fan Fach” in Welsh) is one of the most famous of Welsh folk tales. It tells the story of Owain intoxication’s with Glythin, a mysterious beauty who lives in a lake, and who he takes home and marries while promising never to strike her three times. Glythin’s presence is not welcomed by most of the family though and problems soon follow. Eventually Owain breaks his vow and Glythin returns to her watery world, leaving her husband grief stricken.
Ask someone to image what a lady of the lake should look like and the chances are they would come up with someone like Lauren Poulton. She was a near perfect Glythin. Golden haired and in her flowing dress as turquoise as the waters of her lake, it was easy to see why Daisuke Miura’s Owain was swept away by her.
Artistic director and choreographer Darius James moves the story on quickly, perhaps too quickly, especially in the first act when the action switches constantly from lakeside to home to blacksmith’s forge and back again. The story is told clearly, but many of the scenes are very short, which restricts the dancers’ ability to invest their characters with too much in the way of depth. Although Glythin’s innocence was most apparent, the sense of uncertainty and unease about her felt by the rest of the family never really came through.
It is not until Act II, where the scenes are longer, tend to flow into one another rather than stopping dead and suddenly changing, and the choreography stronger, that one starts to see a dramatic narrative emerge. Suddenly the tensions in the family are clear. A male pas de trois that develops from a family argument and a following pas de six were both particularly powerful and purposeful. Olga Peititeau’s arrival as an alluring gypsy girl adds an extra frission to proceedings. Later, Poulton and Miura dance a quite athletic pas de deux, exploring every part of the stage as the intensity of their feelings finally surface.
Now one really starts to empathise with the predicament Glythin and Owain find themselves in. The scene that sees Glythin dancing beside a rushing mountain stream as she seeks solace from her natural element is quite moving and some of the best in the piece. The pain of her situation is clear for all to see as she seeks solace from her natural element. It is here that Glythin is at home and Poulton really shows it, her flowing arms and non-stop tumbling and rolling reflecting completely the water cascading down the hillside over the rocks on the film behind.
James’ use of film as a backdrop is most effective. Manuel Pestana, Matt Wright and Janire Najera’s projections not only transport us from one location to the next, but add to the atmosphere in a way it is difficult imagining a traditional backdrop ever achieving. It is never overdone. Indoors the backdrops are invariably sparse, often little more than a window through which one can only see a single, leafless, tree. Outdoors, the cloudy, often dark sky and bleak hillsides of the Brecon Beacons add to the moody feeling and sense of foreboding. Again, the best comes near the end when Glythin returns to the lake. By cleverly projecting partially on the stage floor as well as the cyclorama, she really does appear to walk on the water before melting back into it.
James and Independent Ballet Wales must be applauded once again for their commitment to new music as well as new dance. Not only was this whole evening piece performed with just eight young dancers, but it was accompanied by former BBC Young Composer of the Year Thomas Hewitt Jones’ new score for cello and chamber orchestra, partly recorded, but performed with Hewitt Jones live on cello. His score, recently recorded for a forthcoming CD, captures the mood of the story perfectly with moments of happiness and jollity juxtaposed neatly with a more ominous sense of where events are leading.
Since their formation in 1986 Independent Ballet Wales has done much to promote ballet, and design and music for ballet, in the principality with relatively few resources. Such small companies are likely to find themselves particularly squeezed in the forthcoming public spending cuts, but the good news is that, following a recent review of regularly funded arts organisations by the Arts Council of Wales, Independent Ballet Wales is to receive regular funding from 2011, although the precise sum has yet to be determined. The company will also be changing its name to Ballet Cymru (Welsh Ballet).
“Lady of the Lake” continues on tour to Cardiff (November 20), Stamford (November 24) and Torrington (November 27). For more details, and “Giselle” dates see http://www.welshballet.co.uk/tour-dates
A copy of this review with images will appear subsequently in the magazine.
|Author:||David [ Mon Nov 14, 2011 10:01 am ]|
|Post subject:||Ballet Cymru: Beauty and the Beast|
‘Beauty and the Beast’
Lilian Baylis Theatre, London; November 12, 2011
Ballet Cymru, Beauty and the Beast. Photo Peter Teigen.JPG [ 13.13 KiB | Viewed 3946 times ]
There can be few companies so deserving of decent funding than Ballet Cymru. For more than a quarter of a century, they have struggled against the odds to bring top quality productions, each one different form the other and each showcasing the solid ensemble work that has become their trademark.
It would be wrong to single out any individual as each performer is easily of soloist standard and all display a maturity of approach and depth of concentration that make “Beauty and the Beast” compelling. Each is a true dancer/actor, an accomplishment not always noticeable in our larger companies. Darius James’ choreography is demanding in places, requiring strength, smoothness and precision which is amply delivered. Perhaps dancers in major companies should be compelled to work this close to an audience in their first season as there is no room for slips or flagging. The rigours of touring are much greater in companies with comparatively few resources but Ballet Cymru dancers seem to thrive on it.
The integrity of the production was maintained throughout, with a handful of dancers feeling like twice as many. The clever use of projection was no mere exercise in multi-media presentation but told a story in itself. The beckoning arms of the candelabra were scarily brilliant and the diagonal lines of the dancers playing the servants in the Beast’s lair made effective suggestion of long, dank corridors. There was a nice moment as the ‘flames’ of the fire sprang to life in the projection after being ‘lit’; a knowing joke that supplied a nod and wink to the artifice without breaking the spell of suspension of belief.
Each sister in Belle’s story was well drawn with individual characterisation; I particularly liked the sister with the glasses. Olga Petiteau’s Belle was a Cinderella-like charmer who never descended into sickly sweetness but who seemed ever the outsider. Her sisters ganged up on her subtly without being parodies; there was a real sense of family with its inherent allegiances, alliances and conflicts.
But of course, it is the Beast who is the real showstopper. Mandev Sokhi has impeccable technique that was evident in last season’s productions but, in Beauty and the Beast, he has the added challenge of working on jump stilts (what would Maestro Cecchetti have made of that!!). The stilts have a natural shape of a hock and a hoof, with the projection of the foot rest providing scope for creating the Beast’s stifle. The head (presumably incorporating a helmet) suggested, simultaneously, a long-horn cow skull, an insect and a minotaur. His subtle limp belied the fact that this Beast is light-footed enough to execute a touching pas de deux as Belle gradually falls in love with him. The choreography was daring and encompassed the use of floor work with the support of the servants. Sokhi made the transition from upright to floor so smoothly that it was impossible to see how it was accomplished.
Steve Denton’s costumes are lovely, the deep reds of the sister's full skirted dresses echoed in Belle's jacket and cape. Belle's pale dress makes her easy to identify, with the red of the cape tying her to her family. The blues and greys are ideal for the Beast's vast house, the reds a reminder of their formerly wealthy past.
In these days when original scores are comparatively rare, David Westcott’s gentle evocation of the story is a delight. With more generous funding, it would be wonderful for the company to perform to a fully orchestrated version or, even better, to a live orchestra.
What a rare privilege afforded by the remarkable Ballet Cymru: how often is it possible, even in the most expensive seats, to see ballet that is so well executed fin such detail? This is a company that could easily make the transition to the main house, so catch them soon before it is too late to observe them at close quarters.
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