Ballet Cymru was founded in Newport, where it is still based, in 1986 by Artistic Director Darius James and Yvonne Williams – their aim was to establish a beacon for quality classical ballet in Wales. Until the company received its first Arts Council project grant in 2003, the work of Ballet Cymru was created without the aid of any public funding. We are a company that has grown from humble beginnings and succeeded against the odds in a tough funding climate to the point where we are now planning to relocate from the Riverfront Theatre and Arts Centre to our own premises, where we will continue to create new works for audiences across Wales.
Our breakthrough production was undoubtedly A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which premièred in 1997 to critical acclaim, most notably from renowned ballet critic Nicholas Dromgoole of The Sunday Telegraph. In 2006 Ballet Cymru was awarded a Critics Circle National Dance Award, presented at Sadlers Wells in London. In 2008 Darius James received a Creative Wales Award from Arts Council of Wales. Later that same year, the company collaborated with composer Thomas Hewitt Jones to produce Under Milk Wood, excerpts of which were performed at The National Assembly of Wales. Last year, Ballet Cymru were nominated as Best Independent Company at The Critics Circle National Dance Awards in London, and in early 2014 we won the Best Large Scale Dance Production for Romeo a Juliet at the Theatre Critics of Wales Awards.
What we at Ballet Cymru are most proud of, in addition to our ongoing commitment to artistic excellence, is our educational and community work in south-east Wales. In 2012, our Assistant Artistic Director Amy Doughty won a Paul Hamlyn Foundation JADE Fellowship, which led to the formation, in partnership with Rubicon Dance, of the ground-breaking educational programme DUETS, which supports young dancers from disadvantaged backgrounds in Newport and Cardiff. We would not be where we are today without the wonderful support of the people from these two cities and it was fitting that we did something to support our community in return.
Every dancer and staff-member of Ballet Cymru firmly believes in equality in dance, and so we started working with Gloucestershire Dance on the inspirationally inclusive dance project Stuck in the Mud. This was a collaboration between able-bodied and disabled dancers that was performed in Gloucestershire, Swansea, Newport, Llandudno and Cardiff to enthusiastic responses, in particular this wonderful piece in Wales Arts Review.
Ballet Cymru were awarded Revenue Status by Arts Council of Wales in 2011, and for the first time we could plan our productions more than a year ahead. We moved recently into our first premises in Rogerstone, Newport – formerly a disused warehouse – which has provided much needed storage space and a purpose-built rehearsal studio, all under the same roof. This was made possible through the support of the Arts Council of Wales Lottery Division, The Garfield Weston Foundation, The Foyle Foundation and The Wolfson Foundation. We are currently in the final stages of refurbishment of the rest of the building and still need to raise funds to complete the work.
This December 5th we are hosting a charity fundraising event at our new premises with special performances of TIR and Celtic Concerto. These performances will be followed by a drinks reception at which audience members will have an opportunity to chat with the Ballet Cymru dancers and members of our creative team. There are only 20 tickets for this exclusive event – priced at £50 each – and all proceeds will go to help us complete the refurbishment of our new home.
TIR is choreographed by Darius James and Amy Doughty in response to eleven songs from Cerys Matthews’ iconic album of Welsh folk music. For Celtic Concerto, Ballet teamed up with harpist and composer Catrin Finch and Sinfonia Cymru to produce an exciting work based on Catrin’s first composition of the same name, which featured on the No 1 selling album Blessing.
To book tickets please contact me at email@example.com or phone – 01633 892927.
What’s next for Ballet Cymru? Well, 2015 will see a new full-length Cinderella, a co-production with the Riverfront Theatre featuring Citrus Arts and Sinfonia Cymru, with a new score from Newport composer Jack White. On an international level, the company has been invited to perform in India as part of a festival that will also involve Introdans from Holland and Basel Ballet from Switzerland. Catrin Finch’s piece Dadeni is in development for larger scale venues, and Cerys Matthews’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales has been recorded by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and is an exciting future project.
The Dahl Foundation have asked the company if we would like to be part of the Dahl Centenary celebrations in 2016, so watch this space for further developments.
I believe the company is now well placed for the challenges of the next three years. Crucially, the challenge remains to find new income and funding streams that will enable us to push the company to the next level where it can regularly produce ground-breaking work on a national and international stage.