An Lanntair – meaning ‘The Lantern’ or ‘The Beacon’ in Gaelic – is the multi-purpose arts centre serving the Scottish islands of Lewis and Harris.
It’s where I’ve seen plays by local writers and danced around at gigs. It’s where I sit with a coffee and write blog posts, and where I stop by on my lunch break to see the latest exhibition or make a wish list in the gift shop.
And this month, it was where I went to the ballet for the first time.
For one night only, performers from the Moscow State Ballet (including a number of international award winners) were in town, taking to the stage on December 9th. As part of an ongoing link between An Lanntair and the Moscow Caledonian Society, the ballet gala was the second Russian performance to result from the relationship, after Bolshoi opera singer Oksana Lesnichaya sang in Stornoway earlier this year.
At the arts centre there’s an interesting intersection between the local and the global. An Lanntair might be on an island off the coast of Scotland, but that doesn’t mean it’s at ‘the edge’ of anything – in fact it’s at the centre of a cultural crossroads in art, music, performance, and film.
That’s why the presence of some of the world’s best ballet dancers in Stornoway on a Monday night was no surprise to anyone who knows what An Lanntair can offer. I, however, who had never experienced ballet before, was surprised – surprised that I had missed out on this magical medium for so long.
From the moment the dancers slid on stage I was in awe, utterly mesmerized by every movement. There were ten tasters from classical and contemporary ballets. Accompanied by music – Stravinsky, Chopin, Tchaikovsky – the dance moves became a dialogue. The sheer strength and emotion of the performances made it more engaging and heart-wrenching than watching an especially excellent film. It was acting, dancing, feeling, living – all rolled into the bend of a body or the twirl of a foot.
In Dying Swan, the dancer’s foot movements were so fast and fluid it was as if she was gliding through water; her arm waves so smooth that they appeared as wings aiding flight. In Sleeping Beauty, the princess was like a delicate doll, twirling again and again and again in the arms of her partner. In the final performance, Albinoni – a love scene, where both dancers were dressed in flesh coloured leotards – every emotion was evident. It was stunningly beautiful, drawing you in and forcing you to forget where you were.
That night, I fell head over heels in love with ballet. Thanks, An Lanntair!