Shadow Aspect, Ballet Cymru, Riverfront

November 7, 2017 by

It is not often a dance stays with you and maybe even brings a smile to your face, in the way a great tune lingers and brightens those dull moments. Ballet Cymru’s collaboration with choreographer Tim Podesta and the former Royal Ballet Guest Principal Dancer Mara Galeazzi has that certain something that makes it stand out from so much dance that has instant appeal (or no appeal) but that fades by the time you reach the pavement outside.

My lingering moment is when our exquisite leading lady (and there are times when the show does have a feel of a showcase for Mara) moves in a shaft of light created by that intelligent designer Chris Illingworth while the sound of crackling fire matches the chemical energy of her movement as she scorches her way through the stage. Then we have the sensual and slightly scary duets between the male dancers in particular as they explore the theme of our dark side (yes, Jung is the inspiration and the explanation of the name) and one another against the stark black wall onto which we have the shadows that form characters as much as the physical figures caressing the boards. The dancers perform on their own, in mixed gender and single gender duets, ensemble at times but never comfortably and even the stolen kisses have a cold feeling of fleeting communication in a world of isolation and perhaps cowardice.


Mara Galeazzi


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Miguel Fernandes and Miles Carrott


The set from Podesta and Andy Mero is shockingly stark and is totally used as a blank black canvas by Illingworth creating not only spaces as we would of course expect but also living areas of light that were completely integral to the performance and development of the darkening narrative.

Our national ballet company performs to and sometimes against the sound of Jean-Phillipe Goude’s Aux Solitudes and it gives a diverse range of musical pleasure including charming song, the sounds of rain and fire, breathless exchanges in French and contributions from the dancers. It is a glorious combination of what you would probably expect from a contemporary dance company but performed by dancers with classical artistry and a unique melding of vocabularies.

The excellent space that is the main stage at The Riverfront is the natural home for this company that somehow takes its minuscule funding to create work that is entertaining, engaging and has just the right level of edginess. It is a crying shame, well, more a criminal act, that this company does not have access to the Wales Millennium Centre main stage that so frequently has dance of such a lower calibre and certainly less importance.

Sadly, this dance from the Australian choreographer only played two nights at The Riverfront and then transferred to Sadler’s Well in London and so those dance lovers who didn’t or just cannot manage to get beyond the outskirts of Cardiff will have missed the experience. Yes, the arts in Wales have their own Jungian dark side – the inability of audiences and much of the arts community to explore beyond their comfort zone (Cardiff) and explore the outer edges of consciousness, well, Newport or Swansea let alone further afield.



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Robert Moorcroft and Gwenllian Davies


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Miles Carrott and Beth Meadway


The idea of each one of us has a different aspect, a shadow, a dark inner consciousness, whatever you want to all it, is also reflected in the choreographic relationship between each of the dancers (in their duets in particular) but also in their relationship with the gorgeously refined, lithe and utterly attention-grabbing Galeazzi. Her every movement, whether an arm gesture, a facial expression, a slight change of hand and finger direction, thrills we spectators of this personal dance experience. There may be, as mentioned, the slight feeling of the prima ballerina having her showcase solos and the rest of the ensemble supporting this Jungian ego’s time with us. However, that would be totally wrong in that the choreography is incredibly detailed, thought out and intricate for each of the Ballet Cymru dancer, from those duets, body slapping rhythms, fire cracker sharpness and near manic racing around the stage by Daniel Morrison. Some of the most impressive and hearteningly polished dance is also when Galeazzi dances with company dancer Robert Moorcroft, for example.

It is a delight to see a full ballet that genuinely develops from the bravura excitement of the first half to a more moulded and also mesmerising second half which increases our enjoyment towards the satisfying conclusion. Rarely has this company and individual dancers looked better as they relish the new, distinctive choreography and vocabulary they are given by Podesta and I would not be surprised the inspiration to push their own boundaries of working with Galeazzi.

How wonderful it would be if this always growing, always improving and always delightful, company could have the resources to work both with Artistic Director Darius James and Assistant Artistic Director Amy Doughty while also bringing in guest choreographers and dancers.  They and we deserve no less.


Photography Sian Trenberth


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