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Birmingham Royal Ballet

'Allegti diversi', 'Carina burana'

by David Mead

June 22, 2011 -- Hippodrome Theatre, Birmingham, UK

David Bintley may have still been something of an emerging choreographer back in 1987 when he made “Allegri diversi”, but it is full of the musicality for which he is now known. It also shows the influence of Ashton on the young choreographer. Apart from the fact it brings back memories of “Symphonic Variations”, it is packed with so many of the things that make English ballet what it is.

It is a pleasing piece, full of elegant classicism and delightful invention and patterning. Although there is no story, it is impossible to escape the feeling of friends dancing together. The opening with the six performers dancing in a circle appears to draw heavily on English country dancing. It is quite simple yet elegant and quite sublime. The pas de deux is more dynamic. Nao Sakuma and Joseph Caley were excellent, both showing impressive speed and footwork in several series of small jumps and turns that flickered across the stage. There are plenty of surprises too as Bintley interposes unexpected lifts and poses into the dance, before bringing everyone together for a gentler finale.

“Allegri diversi” does not have the over the top effervescence of champagne. But it’s not supposed to. It is more like an outstanding lightly sparkling wine that should be savoured. It is poetry in motion and a real joy to watch.

“Carmina burana”, made in 1996, was David Bintley’s first work as artistic director of Birmingham Royal Ballet. It still ranks as one of his best, and is certainly his most theatrical.

Packed with references to the medieval poem that opens and closed the piece, the ballet follows three seminarians and the lessons they get in the fickle and capricious nature of fate as they give up their studies and succumb to forbidden pleasures. Victoria Marr was effective as Fortuna, the goddess of fate who oversees matters, even if her opening solo lacked a little force. It should be a strong, dramatic statement that leaves everyone in no doubt about who is in charge, but it was…well, a bit too…nice. Marr grew into the role though, and by the end was quite the manipulative yet uninvolved force we expect, as she dealt unceremoniously with Iain Mackay.

Alexander Campbell was perfect as the wide-eyed, innocent and naïve first seminarian, stumbling across the young mothers or mums to be (Fortuna was originally the goddess of fertility), and who later falls foul of a group of yobs when he dares to pick up the gorgeously seductive Ambra Vallo. Jamie Bond’s second seminarian, though, lacked some of the expected energy and urgency that Robert Parker in particular used to bring to the role.

“Carmina burana” just gets more dramatic as it goes along, and as ever it was the Court of Love that provided the highlight. Only here does a seminarian get to meet Fortuna. Led on by her, Iain Mackay loses his clothes as well as his faith. No doubt he thought he was on to a winner. Little did he know what was coming as he is toyed with before being tossed to one side like an unwanted plaything.

Helped along by Carl Orff’s stirring music played by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, the wonderful Ex Cathedra Choir, and Philip Prowse’s magnificent designs the performance created an enormous buzz. I haven’t heard such excited chatter as people left the theatre for a long time.

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