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Last Updated: Saturday, 26 November 2005, 09:33 GMT
WMC is centre stage after a year
By Jon Gower
BBC Wales Arts and Media Correspondent

Diversions, the national dance company of Wales
The dance company, Diversions, is based at the arts centre
The visit of the Kirov Ballet from St. Petersburg in the spring was one of the undoubted highlights of the opening year.

The production came with a 250-strong company of dancers, musicians and technicians combining artistry and athleticism of the highest order.

Huw Tregelles Williams, a board member of the Wales Millennium Centre, said it had been a year full of memorable moments.

He remembers, "the Urdd Eisteddfod, the Mark Morris dance company - one of the best evenings I've ever spent in the theatre - and then some very popular musicals such as Miss Saigon and Thoroughly Modern Millie".

Almost a third of a million people have attended more than 250 performances at the Donald Gordon theatre and the WMC is on course to reach its target of 350,000 ticket sales by the new year.

Australian Ballet's production of Swan Lake
Australian Ballet helped the WMC's chief executive 'feel at home'

Half a million people have visited the building which has established itself as both a tourist magnet and architectural icon, many enjoying the free concerts and performances in the foyer.

Some of the attractions on the main stage would have been unfamiliar to many, such as the opening season's visit by Cirque Eloize from Montreal, with their production of "Rain".

The end of the performance, where dancers cavorted on a water-filled stage, showed off the technical possibilities of the space, while easily rivalling Gene Kelly.

Wales Millennium Centre
Almost a third of a million people have visited in the centre's first year

More traditional circus skills came in the form of Circus Oz, who, along with the Australian Ballet, made chief executive Judith Isherwood - who used to run the Sydney Opera House - feel more at home.

Writer and critic Mike Smith assesses the first year as "a little bit like the building - a compromise that has largely worked".

He's enjoyed the Kirov, Mark Morris and some of the operas that Welsh National Opera wouldn't have been able to stage were it not for the centre. He's also very much enjoyed some of the community productions by companies such as Hijinx.

Half a million people will have visited the centre by the end of the year, suggesting that the 103m Wales Millennium Centre, once feared as another white elephant, is rather a genuine stage for the nation.

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