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Birmingham Royal Ballet

A Celebration: 'Dumbarton Oaks', 'Duo Concertant', 'Scènes de Ballet', 'The Rite of Spring'

by Cassandra

June 11, 2005 evening -- Birmingham Hippodrome, Birmingham, England

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Stravinsky programme looked such an attractive prospect that I found myself getting straight off the plane from Copenhagen and being driven at speed up the M40. The timing was tight, but I did it and was very glad I made the effort.

“Dumbarton Oaks” is a gift for a choreographer with its strong rhythmic score and there have been a number of productions set to this music over the years. In this version, choreographer Michael Kopinski has set the ballet in a strange, mysterious dancing space with a long strip of horizontal dry ice in front of the dancers as the curtain rises. The backdrop resembles a magnified section of Victorian design wallpaper that changes colour from scene to scene with slender points of light suspended from above. The costuming was a little odd with all but one of the girls in wispy tutus, the exception being a full skirted evening gown. The male dancers fare less well in what appeared to be brief rubber bondage outfits, rather reminiscent of what Michael Clark used to wear at the beginning of his career. Kopinski was responsible for the design as well as the choreography.

The order of the ballet was basically ensemble – pas de deux – ensemble; with lively steps very much reflecting the impetus of the music in the group movements, but it was in the pas de deux that Kopinski touched on a vein of originality and I particularly admired a lift/throw that had members of the audience gasping. The ballet’s ending also worked well with the dancers disappearing in a puff of smoke. On the whole this was a sound work by an aspiring choreographer and one I would be happy to watch again.

Balanchine’s “Duo Concertant” came next danced by Asta Bazeviciúte and Iain Mackay. The three sections of this ballet could be described as listening, dancing and lighting and only the ‘listening’ didn’t quite work for me, as I found the dancers a little too self conscious as they stood behind the piano absorbing the mood, but as they moved on to the dancing they succeeded in capturing the sweet melancholy of the music so beautifully played by Robert Gibbs and Jonathan Higgins. The ballet ends with that unusual passage of isolated limbs in the spotlight giving it an almost eerie finale.

“Scènes de Ballet” is one of Ashton’s finest exercises in classical choreography – and one of his two favourite works. The twelve-girl corps de ballet was excellent as were the four male cavaliers (though the programme wasn’t totally accurate with their names). The leading couple were Elisha Willis and Robert Parker and although technically sound I didn’t feel that Willis caught the sharpness of movement that the ballerina role requires.

I had mixed feelings about seeing the reconstruction of Nijinsky’s “Rite of Spring” again after first seeing it danced by the Kirov a couple of years ago, but the under par performance I saw then bore no resemblance to the vibrant dancing of BRB. The company danced with vigour and commitment and Carol-Anne Millar as the Chosen Maiden gave the role a depth that seemed to elude the Russian girl I saw originally. I still have reservations about this version as so much music is used as overture and scene change, but performances of this calibre make this a far more meaningful work than I at first thought.

Edited by Staff.

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