Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Week of Pines and The Same Flame

Ballet Cymru , Riverfront, Newport , May-04-14
Week of Pines and The Same Flame by Ballet Cymru One of my many regrets is missing Ballet Cymru’s collaboration with Cerys Matthews. Thankfully I don’t have to say the same about the next manifestation of this alliance, the energetic company’s work with composer’s Thomas Hewitt Jones and Georgia Ruth, two rising stars of the music world.

These laudable partnerships further demonstrate the huge vale of dance in Wales; the dragon may have two tongues buts its feet happily to either.

Ballet Cymru’s artistic director Darius James steers a careful path between crowd pleasing conventional ballet and stirring the waters of innovative with projects that gently push boundaries. Underpinning these objectives is the shockingly limited funding for the organisation.

The result can be seen in this new collaboration between the company and two Welsh musicians; pleasing on the eye for conventional audiences, successfully different enough to warrant attention and created in a frighteningly short time.

Thomas Hewitt Jones’s The Same Flame compositions are performed by the Vivum Singers on which Darius James, Amy Doughty and his dancers have created a largely lyrical flow of choreography that seamlessly linked the songs. However, I am informed that while I could hear all of lyricist Matt Harvey’s words, including his use of fast paced rhymes and word play that coloured the basis of the dance, in the gallery this was less audible.

The dancers were joined by guest artist Suzie Birchwood whose wheelchair-based dance was not only inspiring but also inspired, adding to the appeal of the work.

The lyrics also formed the basis of Chris Illingworth’s lighting designs including subtle cloudscapes. This contrasted with Georgia Ruth’s Week of Pine (the name of the bilingual singer’s new album). The concept for this set was a gig by Ruth and her band with the dancers a 60s hippy audience. The band was placed on a platform against a plain black wall, lit in a folk concert style while the floors pace was inhabited by the revelling audience.

While the vocabulary for The Same Flame was poetic and safe in melding conventional ballet steps and forms inspired by the music, in Week of Pines there was a more fun, adventurous, narrative approach that created a short piece of dance theatre.

The dancers were dressed as quasi hippies at a concert reacting to the performance by Ruth and her players, Iwan Hughes, Aled Hughes ad Dafydd Hughes with the composer/singer herself on electric harp. Flowing from upbeat ensemble work, duets to wistful solos, the dances followed a clear narrative stream culminating with the equivalent of an end of gig group hug.

The performance was preceded in the theatre foyer by Gwyn Emberton’s Wistful Thinking, inspired by Dylan Thomas’ Fern Hill, a tight and intense exploration of contact dance partnering.

The show will be touring later in the year and it will be interesting to see how the works develop with more time to polish, sharpen and adapt the choreography while retaining the almost ad hoc freshness of this premiere.

Reviewed by: Mike Smith

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