AWARD-WINNING company Ballet Cymru is set to present an extraordinary vision at Newport Riverfront next weekend – two stories from the mind of the most popular storyteller in the world, Roald Dahl.
Roald Dahl was born and grew up in Cardiff, and to celebrate the centenary of this famous author, two of his hugely popular stories are coming home to Wales in ballet adaptations. Ballet Cymru has been granted permission from The Dahl Foundation to produce two works based on sections of the wonderful Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs. This outstanding classical ballet was choreographed by Darius James and Amy Doughty, inspired by the outstanding and internationally recognised musical scores by composer Paul Patterson.
Gwen Davies of Ballet Cymru, Photograph: Sian Trenberth Photography
Cardiff born Gwen Davies is one of the newest members of Ballet Cymru and recently answered questions put to her by Seren Howells.
How long have you been dancing?
I started dancing when I was 4 years old so that’s 14 years!
Have you always been passionate about ballet and what inspired you to become a dancer?
When I was younger I always used to love dancing around to music and a nursery teacher suggested to take me to ballet classes. I started and never looked back from there! I don’t think I really understood that it can actually be a career properly until I was in full time training at Elmhurst and then I was more inspired by the dancing that you are constantly immersed in from older students to professional dancers. I think it’s then you see performances and think that one day you would really like to be doing those parts on stage.
How did you get involved with Ballet Cymru?
I got to know the company through the summer schools they run in the Riverfront in Newport. I’ve been going since I was 8 years old and have been every year up until now! When I was 15 I also started to dance in company classes and then this year auditioned for the company as I was in my graduate year in school.
A Scene from Red Riding Hood, Photograph: John Bishop
Where did you train as a dancer and how long have you been on point?
I started training locally in Cardiff with the Mandy and Shirley Morris school of dance. When I was 8 I auditioned for The Royal Ballet’s Junior Associates in Bristol and was successful, so I also took fortnightly classes there too. At ten I started dancing on pointe and the same year I auditioned for Elmhurst in association with Birmingham Royal Ballet for their associate program, so I also took fortnightly classes here, alternating between all three! When I was 11, I auditioned for Elmhurst vocational school and was offered a scholarship so I started training full time in Birmingham. I stayed here until March of this year when I moved to Ballet Cymru.
Do you do any other styles apart from ballet and if so, which ones do you enjoy?
I have trained in many different styles like contemporary, jazz, flamenco, a bit of tap and recently have learnt a bit of Welsh clog dancing for Ballet Cymru’s production of Romeo and Juliet. I enjoy trying a bit of everything really, but out of those other than ballet my favourite is contemporary and we use a lot in the productions we are performing at the moment. It’s also been really useful to have tried lots of different styles as the different skills often come in handy in choreography!
Who are you playing in the forthcoming Ballet Cymru presentation?
At the moment in Red Riding Hood and the Three Little Pigs I’m playing a sheep, a grandma and a forest sprite. In Romeo and Juliet.
I’m performing Lady Capulet. You couldn’t really get much more of a contrast between the two! Having said that I’m learning pretty much all the roles, just in case of any injuries or change of casts.
Are you a fan of the work of Roald Dahl and is it exciting presenting the medium of his work through ballet?
Yes, I’ve always been a fan of his writing from a very young age and I think I’ve read all his works! Its definitely a change to Romeo and Juliet which is obviously a lot more serious. His storyline and characters are so much fun to perform and play.
Ballet Cymru’s Red Riding Hood
What piece of work has given you the most joy as a performer?
Most recently I performed Sugar Plum Fairy in various competitions but also in a performance where I returned to my old dance school so I have really fond memories of the piece. It’s also such an iconic piece, which is pretty tough to do well the whole way without getting tired, but you get a real sense of achievement from doing it. For me I think it’s also the pieces I’ve performed with a live orchestra like
Romeo and Juliet
with Birmingham Royal Ballet. The sound is just incredible you can almost feel your hair stand on end! It allows you to really lose yourself in the performance and it doesn’t really feel like your acting.
What advice would you give to aspiring young dancers who are thinking of becoming professional?
Lots and lots of hard work and determination! It’s always important to enjoy what you’re doing but also to be strong enough to keep going through any setbacks. Also try as many different styles and also other art-forms as possible and to watch as many professional dancers as you can and learn from them!
- Catch Ballet Cymru at Newport Riverfront on May 20 and 21. Visit welshballet.co.uk for further details.