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Birmingham Royal Ballet

'Les Petits Riens', 'Brouillards', 'Elite Syncopations'

by David Mead

June 17, 2005 -- Birmingham Hippodrome, Birmingham

After the previous week’s rather more serious Stravinsky programme, this was bite-sized ballet with all three works featuring a series of short dances. It also had something for everyone: a tutu ballet, something more modern and a jazzy finale.

"Les Petits Riens" is a light piece, originally made by David Bintley in 1991 for the students of the Royal Ballet School. Although Bintley has reworked parts of it for the Birmingham Royal Ballet, in some ways its origins show - the steps, for example, rarely being especially challenging. Where Bintley does score is in his use of Mozart’s music, reflected precisely in the dance, and in creating the atmosphere of mid-18th century court dance. He uses the corps well to make some interesting and pleasing patterns, seen very clearly against a green or blue cyclorama framed only by a black curtain. The costumes too were simple but effective, the ladies in pastel-coloured tutus and the men in tights and tunics. The cast was well led by Molly Smollen and Tiit Helimets, with Laura Ellis, a student at Elmhurst, BRB’s associate school, also getting her chance in a duet.

For some reason, John Cranko’s work is rarely seen in Britain these days and it was a delight to see "Brouillards" returning to the company repertory after some twenty years' absence. It is danced to nine Debussy preludes, here played by Kate Shipway, the opening one being repeated at the end, Cranko taking his inspiration from the music and Debussy’s own titles.

The ballet opens with the whole ensemble swirling and gathering, before separating and leaving in the brouillards (fog) of the title. This is followed by a series of eight quirky dances, masterpieces of human observation. The most humorous, enjoyed enormously by the audience, is 'General Levine eccentric', danced here by Kit Holder, Christopher Larsen and Kosuke Yamomoto, a comic turn which immortalises a vaudeville artist Debussy saw in Paris. 'Hommage a S Pickwick Esq.' is a tribute to the quintessential Englishman, complete with bowler hat and umbrella.

Others are subtler. In 'Bruyeres (Heather)', Tiit Helimets is a boy dancing so passionately for his ‘sleeping beauty’ on a nearby bench. When he kisses her and she awakens, however, she coolly walks off. The most effective however is the passionate adagio, 'Feuille mortes (Dead leaves)'. Rachel Peppin and Dominic Antonucci nicely portrayed the couple, in love yet with the doubts and hesitations we all have. Finally, Tiit Helimets and Tom Rogers were the two men in pursuit of the alluring Silvia Jiminez in 'Des pas sur la neige (Footsteps in the snow)', before once again the mist descends and the opening is repeated.

All in all a beautiful work to watch with the dances in all white with simple lighting to match. There is never anything to see except the dancers on stage, but it is so captivating that this is all we want to see. For Cranko-lovers, the good news is that BRB is continuing to rediscover him this autumn when they dance "The Lady and the Fool".

The programme was completed by MacMillan’s perennial crowd-pleaser, "Elite Syncopations". Bright, colourful and upbeat, this was everyone’s chance to let their hair down and to send the audience home happy.


Edited by Staff.

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