Chris Paul attends an entertaining double bill Ballet Cymru performance of Cold Rolling & Tir at the Riverfront, Newport.
As you would probably expect from a double bill, the two distinct works forming Cold Rolling /Tir are contrasting. Despite these contrasts of both style and content, there is a clear thematic connection. These pieces tell a story of Wales and the resilience and ingenuity of her people. This is compelling and original dance from a company prepared to take risks, integrating dance, video, and live music (from Wales’ very own Cerys Matthews).
For those unfamiliar with the intricacies of the steelmaking process, the title Cold Rolling is a description of a mechanical process that takes place when making sheet steel. Originally a site-
The sole narrative is that of production and the exploitation of labour. Cranked up against a soundtrack of mechanical noise, part-
Tir (Welsh for Land) is a warmer affair, offering more textured and complex dance sequences exploring similar themes, but this time from the inside out. Inspired by Cerys Matthews’ album of the same name, Tir is really a collection of Welsh folk songs, going back some 300 years, set to dance. Welsh culture has been subject to revision, and often oppression and erasure over the centuries, and these songs are vivid portals to a culture defined and transformed through the industrial revolution. Often humorous, sometimes bi-
In placing such contrasting pieces on the same bill, Ballet Cymru uses the legacy of Wales’ industrial architecture, and popular culture, to tell in part the story of Wales. It is a sad story, one of harsh economic exploitation and social immobility, but a story made hopeful because of a resilient and inclusive Welsh culture that speaks its own languages, to invent and reinvent itself. Wales can be thankful that in Ballet Cymru we have a company both sufficiently prepared and skilful to tell this complex story from diverse sources, with such moving and creative conviction.
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Chris Paul has written a variety of articles for Wales Arts Review.