It is an odd sensation sitting waiting for the beginning of a ballet performance with that excitement that builds before a pop star walks on to the stage. But then this was no ordinary ballet performance: it was the reuniting of the exquisite dancers from Ballet Cymru with Wales’ most adored performer Cerys Matthews.
The songs Cerys performs, wearing her signature straw hat, a giant talent nestled on the side of the stage, are from Tir, her take on Welsh song spanning the centuries and our nation’s culture.
Darius James and Amy Doughty’s choreography is like a youthful blast of energy into the music of a country. The dancers are choreographed to be both listeners to Cerys’ singing and interpreters of the songs. But this is only one level of the evening as Cerys also charms her audience with an insightful, but again characteristically modest and self-deprecating, tour of musicology, the backstories of the songs, their development, their significance and always brimming with her own passion for them. She gets us to make the sounds of the sea for Llwyn Onn, join in Migldi Magldi and we all have to sing at least the chorus of Calon Lan.
The dances vary as much as the songs starting with almost flower power happy ensemble work, all leaps and jagged gestures, smiles and zippiness from company members Lydia Arnoux, Krystal Lowe, Tim Hill, Robbie Moorcroft, Natalie Debono, Allegra Vianello, Daniel Morrison and Mandev Sokhi. When the mood is right this transforms into lithe and elegant classical duets and then drop dead gorgeous solo work including the intoxicating combination of athleticism and artistry along with daringly delicate en pointe work. Guest artists Emily Pimm-Edwards and Daisuke Miura return to the company for this evening and both give us edge of seat virtuosic solos and finally, the dancers again assemble around Cerys as this rather special twmpath ends.
Dance has no particular spoken language and neither does it matter in the slightest whether you speak only English. Cerys warm and homely chat with her audience is far more in English than in Welsh and of course the songs are conversely more Welsh than English. What is the language preference of the audience? Who knows? Apart from the fact that there was that glorious spontaneous singing of Calon Lan when Cerys invited the audience to join in.
After the interval the tone changes as Catrin Finch joins musicians from Sinfonia Cymru as the mood and style melds into a perhaps more conventional ballet performance inspired by the composition of the contemporary champion of our national musical instrument.
First Catrin chats to the audience about her music, the humbling experience of the work being given human form through dance, and reads a short war poem that inspired her first short piece for the performance.
This proves a gentle, lyrical precursor to the dancers joining the musicians for the three part Celtic Concerto. The excitement of the first movement which she explains is best described as a jig is uplifting and pithy, with the dancer surfing on the strings and racing rhythms.
This is then subsumed by darker, refined choreography set against projections that resemble vast stained glass windows for the second movement Hiraeth which enables our national chamber ballet company to develop sumptuous movement. The concerto and the choreography then transforms into the mesmerising third movement Solstice and this rather special evening draws to a polished and refined conclusion.
Want to see more? Of course you do. Our national ballet company is touring a gloriously entertaining and stimulating Cinderella this season. Visit www.welshballet.co.uk for tour details.