Caragh Medlicott reviews Ballet Cymru 2 – Made in Wales, a series of pieces from Wales-based choreographers featuring dancers from Ballet Cymru’s Pre-Professional Programme.
Enjoyed upon a warm spring evening, ‘Ballet Cymru 2 – Made in Wales’ offers a heartening display of the very considerable talent already in full bloom at Ballet Cymru’s pre-professional programme. Made up of four individual pieces, the eclectic show is fuelled by the rumbling passion of its dancers and the commendable generosity of its choreographers who provide not only emotional tactility, but an ungrudging, freely shared spotlight. At its best, dance, (and for me, ballet especially), has the power to stir those strange, subterraneous feelings which belong to a more primal core. Certainly, ‘Ballet Cymru 2’ delivers on that bravura. A two-part film reel tracking the ordeal of a Ukranian ballet company through lockdown to their present European tour (one which continues in the wake of great emotional distress), is a touching nod of both solidarity and tribute. Its effect, while perhaps not a natural piece in the flow of the performances, gives substance to the emotive fuel triggered by the dances themselves.
In opener ‘Found’ – the work of choreographer Krystal S Lowe – we see an intermingling of language and movement. At the far corner of the stage, a hanging microphone detects the slow pacing of two circling dancers who begin to speak in alternate languages. This becomes the theme of the piece, the different languages in some moments swirling harmonically and in others competing in discordance. Performed, it is a tangle of dichotomies – dancers are fluid, intertwined, then break away in aleatoric movement. Its abstract expression is that of potentiality and also consequence. In many ways, it offers a sort of amorphous reflection on the journey of life itself. More specifically, it seems to meditate on the relationships and encounters which might send a person this way or that.
It’s a theme which, while not exactly mirrored, can be spotted elsewhere throughout these four pieces. There seems a recurring fascination with action and reaction – shoal-like and synchronised one moment, dancers disperse and jostle; bouncing like beads atop a heavy bass speaker. The eye is frequently drawn to every corner of the stage, the space used with a dynamism to match the dancers themselves. Costumes here are bold but unfussy, ranging from neutral and mis-matched pyjamas to playsuits completed with an array of thick socks spanning all the colours of the rainbow. Music, too, is rich and varied. Bass burbles, electrics whirr – from lugubrious strings to sighs of piano, these scores reveal the true emotional scope of such wide-spanning pieces.
Ballet Cymru’s Resident Choreographer, Marcus J Willis, provides a touch of equal parts adventure and sweetness in ‘Echoes’. Billed as a celebration of the young dancers’ personal journeys, the cohort responds with clear resonance. There is a sincerity of style and expression which offers more heart than technical mastery ever could (not that this is a production short on skill). And still, it is that very hunger – the tantalising sense of being on the edge of things – which propels a number of noteworthy solo performances. Indeed, these journeys are truly just being embarked upon, and if ‘Ballet Cymru 2’ is anything to go by, there are bright futures ahead. As the audience shuffles out at the close, the lingering impression is of performances fresher than the blossom newly adorning the trees outside.