Ballet Cymru: Made in Wales

Lilian Baylis Theatre, Sadler’s Wells, London
November 13, 2021

Ballet Cymru is a company that is easy to love. Original and slightly quirky, with dancers who are committed and diverse, it breathes authenticity and welcomes you with open arms.

Poems and Tiger Eggs is well described as a love letter to iconic Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas. Cerys Matthews’ lively delivery of some of his best-known poems accompanied by multi-talented Arun Ghosh’s music, is a real bonus.

Artistic Directors Darius James and Amy Doughty bring Thomas’ characters to life. Occasionally, as in the scene in the park, they are recognisable as parents and children. ‘The Hunchback’ is ingeniously interpreted by Yasset Roldan, the movement floor-based but full of passion. At other times the spirit of the poems is more abstract. Beth Meadway opens with a gentle, fluid solo then takes charge in a duet of spring love. ‘Fern Hill’ captures the delight of being ‘young and easy’ on a light-dappled stage and ‘Death Shall have No Dominion’ is interpreted in bodies melded into sculptured shapes. The choreography, classically based but given individual expression, is put to good service and performed with impressive commitment.

In Murmurations, his first work for Ballet Cymru, Liam Riddick uses the music of Welsh singer/songwriter Charlotte Church in a driving rhythmic score. Riddick is one of Britain’s finest dancers so it’s no surprise that his choreography has a thrilling fluency. Madeleine Green, casually dressed in shirt and jeans, captures the clarity of his style in her opening solo. Joe Powell-Main, too, makes a great deal of the material that stretches the dancers to their limits. The concept is uncertain, but the dance was a joy.

Isolated Pulses, by Ballet Cymru’s new resident choreographer, Marcus Jarrell Willis, is what it says on the box: a study in isolation to a relentless pulse, but there’s more. It’s regimented but not unwilling, the rules unwritten but mostly agreed. Within this frame the atmosphere is urban, edgy and never quite comfortable. There is well-rehearsed synchronicity, with individuals occasionally breaking ranks to do their own thing before they are gently nudged back into line.

A duet with plenty of back story is eloquently danced by Hanna Lyn Hughes in a baby doll dress and bearded Robbie Moorcroft. It’s a tetchy relationship, the two seemingly disinterested but with strong undercurrents of unfulfilled longings. An earlier trio, danced in the warmly lit depths of the stage behind a silhouetted line of dancers, adds a layer of complexity. The closing scene has dancers seated in rows on white chairs, the driving music is given martial overtones increasing the tension as they go through their paces with quick fire gestures. The dynamics are constantly shifting, and the dancers engage fully and move powerfully in Willis’ restless and compelling urban style.

There are no further performances of Made in Wales announced as yet, but Ballet Cymru are touring their impressive, new, modern take on Giselle. Visit for dates and venues.