Darius James, Artistic Director, Ballet Cymru: creating The Light Princess

April 12, 2017 by

What was the inspiration for your new ballet, The Light Princess?

The fairy tale The Light Princess from George MacDonald written in 1864, which draws inspiration from Sleeping Beauty, tells the story of a princess who is cursed, afflicted by a constant weightlessness and unable to get her feet on the ground, until she finds a love that brings her down to earth. The idea of how to express the princess’ predicament of weightlessness led me to want to include an aerial element in the choreography. We have used circus skills before in our production of Cinderella to portray the mother as a bird/spirit, so the dancers are familiar with learning new and different techniques. To be able to collaborate with Catrin Finch was another inspiration for this production. She has written a haunting and lyrical specially commissioned score, adding a unique and distinctive quality to the new work. We are delighted that Catrin will play live with a large ensemble of musicians for the premieres at the Riverfront Theatre in Newport on the 19th and 20th of May, 2017.

(For tickets call 01633 656757 or online www.newportlive.co.uk/booking )

Welsh harpist and composer Catrin Finch has written a new score for the ballet, what was your reaction to hearing the music for the first time, and what’s the thought process of putting the music to dance choreography?

I was so enthralled by Catrin’s haunting and beautiful score when I heard what she had composed. It is not typical ballet music but has a unique sound that fits in with our style perfectly. The music sets the tone for the telling the story, and is the first step in the process of creating the choreography. It provides a seamless connection between the dancing and emotion. Having the music played live will add to the performance, lifting the whole atmosphere and enabling the dancers to embody the characters.

Catrin Finch

The star of the show, The Light Princess, is afflicted by a constant weightlessness, unable to keep her feet on the ground – how challenging was it to convey this affliction in the form of dance?

The dancers worked with James Doyle-Roberts from Citrus Arts, a circus Wales based company, on the aerial skills including the hoop, silks and the trapeze. It is extremely challenging for the ballet dancers as aerial skills are not their first area of expertise though circus and ballet share some similar aesthetics such as line and smooth movement but other techniques are very different. Having no contact with the ground is quite tricky for ballet dancers, so one must use the arms and shoulders muscles which ideally should not be overdeveloped in dancers.

Darius James

Darius James

Elements from the circus and video visuals feature in the ballet, do you think integrating different media has more of a visual impact when telling a story, compared to more traditional ballets?

I have always wanted to break down the barriers of classical ballet by including different elements in my productions. We have integrated Welsh clogging in Romeo a Juliet, stilts in Beauty and the Beast, Cerys Matthews singing live for TIR, Catrin Finch playing live for Celtic Concerto as well as having narrators to embody the text of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood and Roald Dahls Little Red Riding Hood. I feel this definitely adds to the experience of the audience members, especially if they are new to ballet. It makes the performance more accessible.

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