CriticalDance Forum

Birmingham Royal Ballet 2005-2006
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Author:  David [ Mon May 02, 2005 3:34 am ]
Post subject:  Birmingham Royal Ballet 2005-2006

BRB have part-announced their 2005-6 programme.

The list below shows all performances (so far as I am aware) up to the end of 2005, then Birmingham performances only for 2006. I will add the other 2006 shows as soon as they are made public. My understanding is that all the 2006 Birmingham programmes will be touring.

It looks like a nicely varied programme and it's good to see Sunday matinees in Birmingham for both Beauty and the Beast and The Sleeping Beauty. We keep hearing about falling audiences so why not have shows when people want and can go. Sundays are especially great for families. American companies realised this ages ago and it's good to see one UK company moving in the same direction.

Note that matinee times are generally 2.30 in the week, 2.00 on Saturdays and 4.00 on Sundays.

Details as follows:

Birmingham Hippodrome
5-8 October: Solitaire (MacMillan), Checkmate (de Valois), Lady and the Fool (Cranko)
12-15 October: Hobson's Choice (Bintley)
Matinees on 6, 8, 13 and 15 October

Sunderland Empire
18-19 October: Solitaire, Checkmate, Lady and the Fool
20-22 October: Hobson's Choice
Matinees on 19 and 22 October

London, Sadler's Wells
25-26 October: Solitaire, The Rite of Spring (Nijinsky), Lady and the Fool
27-29 October: Hobson's Choice
Matinees on 26 and 29 October

Plymouth Theatre Royal
1-2 November: Solitaire, Checkmate, Lady and the Fool
3-5 November: Hobson's Choice
Matinees on 2 and 5 November

Edinburgh Festival Theatre
8-9 November: Solitaire, The Rite of Spring, Lady and the Fool
10-12 November: Hobson's Choice
Matinees on 9 and 12 November

Birmingham Hippodrome
8-15 December: Beauty and the Beast
Performances on 8 eve, 9 mat & eve, 10 mat & eve, 11 mat, 13 mat & eve, 14 mat & eve, 15 mat & eve

Birmingham Hippodrome
22-25 February: The seasons (Bintley), Carmina Burana (Bintley)
28 February-5 March: The Sleeping Beauty (Petipa/Wright)
Matinees on 23, 25 February; 2, 4, 5 March

Birmingham Hippodrome
3-6 May: All Stravinsky programme - Agon (Balanchine), Pulcinella (Brandstrup), The Firebird (Fokine)
10-13 May: La Fille mal gardee
Matinees on 4, 6, 11 and 13 May

Author:  David [ Sat Jun 04, 2005 10:36 am ]
Post subject: 

BRB have changed the repertory on the Autumn mixed programmes at Sadler's Wells and Edinburgh with Checkmate replacing The Rite of Spring.

Additionally, one new venue has been announced for early 2006.

The Lowry, Salford
18-21 January: The Sleeping Beauty
Matinees on 19 and 21 January

Further venues to follow as they are announced.

Author:  kurinuku [ Mon Oct 10, 2005 2:12 am ]
Post subject: 

Games for lovers and clowns
by MARK MONAHAN for the Daily Telegraph

Eleven years on, and some rocky fiscal waters negotiated, he now has the confidence and the nous to know that, even if your chief concern is modernity (and BRB's other programme is his own three-acter, Hobson's Choice), it does no harm to doff a cap to one's forebears - in this case, to the choreographers that, under RB founder Ninette de Valois's aegis, took British ballet from infancy to maturity.

published: October 7, 2005

Author:  David [ Mon Oct 10, 2005 2:15 am ]
Post subject: 

BRB have announced more dates for early 2006:

Theatre Royal, Plymouth
14-15 March: The Seasons, Carmina Burana
Matinee on 15
17-18 March: The Sleeping Beauty
Matinee on 18

New Theatre, Oxford
27-31 March: The Sleeping Beauty
Matinees on 28 and 31

More to follow as they are announced including the 2006 small-scale tour which I understand will include two new venues.

Author:  David [ Mon Oct 10, 2005 2:17 am ]
Post subject:  Solitaire, Checkmate, Lady and the Fool

‘Solitaire’, ‘Checkmate’, ‘The Lady and the Fool’ - Birmingham Royal Ballet
Birmingham Hippodrome, 6th October 2005

To open BRB’s autumn season, David Bintley assembled a programme celebrating ‘English’ ballet, featuring three works by choreographers instrumental in its development.

At first sight, Kenneth MacMillan’s "Solitaire", sub-titled "A Kind of Game for One", appears a very un-MacMillan like ballet. One of his earlier works, it’s quite lyrical and seems very happy and whimsical but at a deeper level it’s about a lonely girl and full of melancholy. Like so many of his other works, the central character is an outsider, in this case not only reflecting MacMillan’s own life but also the experiences of Margaret Hill on whom the ballet was made.

As the curtain rises we see a girl, who MacMillan simply called’ The Girl’, seemingly deep in thought. Whether she is thinking of past pleasures, friends she has never had, or simply daydreaming, Alice in Wonderland-like, is not clear. As the ballet progresses in a series of short dances she meets various other characters who accept her to a lesser or greater degree. Many of these are based on childhood-games and danced mostly to Malcolm Arnold’s "English Dances". Like Alice, The Girl is always there. Sometimes the others let her join in, sometimes not. Although she’s never rejected as such, everyone else always disappears as quickly as they arrive, often without saying goodbye. At the end of the ballet she is alone with her thoughts once more.

"Solitaire" has everything going for it. It’s beautifully crafted, pleasant to watch and Arnold’s music fits the mood perfectly. The company looked on top form with Viktoria Walton was excellent as The Girl, showing just the right level of innocence and warmth.

"Checkmate" is Dame Ninette de Valois’ story of a power battle played out on a chessboard. With its expressionist designs, strong music and choreography, it remains a powerful piece of theatre. It can be seen as a warning as to what can happen if someone in such a struggle is weak and indecisive, maybe appropriate for 1937 when it was made. Here, it is the Red Knight who hesitates before being cut down by the Black Queen, danced aggressively and with real villainy by Nao Sakuma. This leaves the Red King at her mercy. Jonathan Payn showed us exactly what a weak, pathetic and contemptible figure the King was, before she finally decides to kill him and the game ends.

The evening concluded with John Cranko’s "The Lady and the Fool" danced to an assemblage of gushing music from Verdi operas. The story is essentially about two down at heel clowns, Moondog and Bootface, who are invited to a ball by a beautiful woman, La Capricciosa. She is courted by three admirers including a prince and an ambassador, but rejects them for Moondog who she first seems to have deep feelings for in one of those Romeo and Juliet ‘across the room’ moments. The moral is simple, love is more important than riches and power.

Jonathan Payn (Prince of Arroganza), Valentin Olovyannikov (Ambassador of Arroganza) and Chi Cao (Capitano Adoncino) all gave the necessary caricature like performances, full of affected gestures, but if anything needed to be even more ‘over the top’ than they were. Nao Sakuma was the gorgeous La Capricciosa, a role about as far from the Black Queen as you can get, while Robert Parker and Christopher Larsen gave us the perfect likeable and innocent clowns, especially in a comic dance with a rose.

Kate Ford succeeded in bringing the characters to life with her new costumes, the women’s ballgowns especially a riot of colour, although if anything, the set was too ‘over the top’ with it’s floor to ceiling pink silk drapes. It did tend to overpower the dance. "Lady" could be a very sentimental ballet, but Cranko’s trick was to not only to make caricatures of the characters but also to make us like them all. What would otherwise be only simple romantic nonsense thus becomes very humorous.

"Solitaire", "Checkmate" and "The Lady and the Fool" can all be seen on BRB’s autumn tour to Sunderland, Sadler’s Wells, Plymouth and Edinburgh. See above for dates.

Author:  David [ Thu Oct 13, 2005 4:45 am ]
Post subject: 

One more venue...

Empire, Sunderland
21-25 March: The Sleeping Beauty
Matinees 22 and 25 March

I also understand that BRB’s 2006 small-scale tour to the North-East will feature performances in Grimsby, Sheffield, York and Durham. The South-West tour looks like being Truro, Exeter and Poole. Speaking at a BRB Friends event, David Bintley said “you can probably expect ballets by George Balanchine, myself and Twyla Tharp.” Dates and details to follow when available.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Oct 14, 2005 7:19 am ]
Post subject: 

Hobson’s Choice
By Pat Ashworth for The Stage

This is a warm and tender ballet that just radiates with David Bintley’s mischievous sense of fun and his great love of British dance. The essentially northern quality of the story suits him too and the personalities he creates here are as flesh and blood as Harold Brighouse’s stage characters.

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Solitaire/Checkmate/The Lady and the Fool
By Pat Ashworth for The Stage

Birmingham Royal Ballet pays tribute to the founders of modern British ballet with this triple bill of one-act pieces made for Sadler’s Wells companies in the pre and post-war years.

It opens with Solitaire, an early work by Kenneth MacMillan, pensively and playfully danced by Jenna Roberts as The Girl.

click for more

Author:  David [ Sun Oct 16, 2005 9:46 am ]
Post subject:  Hobson's Choice

‘Hobson’s Choice’ - Birmingham Royal Ballet
Hippodrome Theatre, Birmingham, England; 12th October 2005

There may have been something of a deluge going on outside, but inside the Hippodrome it was all sunshine and warmth as David Bintley’s ever-popular “Hobson’s Choice” returned to the repertory. This heart-warming northern tale of stubborn, domineering Henry Hobson and his daughter Maggie’s unfolding love for boot maker Will, was the ideal full-length for BRB’s season celebrating ‘English’ ballet.

The lead roles were taken by the irrepressible Robert Parker and guest dancer Isabel McMeekan, making a welcome return to the Hippodrome stage. Parker makes an ideal Will Mossop. Not only was his dancing was sparkling and full of the joy of youth, but the role really seems to suit his personality. His characterisation and expression as Will moves from shy, seemingly immature apprentice, through bashful suitor, to confident husband and businessman, was near perfect.

McMeekan, meanwhile, might have been a down-to-earth businesswoman, all stern-faced, prim and proper, but she never let us forget that love was always just beneath the surface. Indeed, so happy was she at the wedding party that she managed to hurl her wedding bouquet as far as row H in the stalls. Carol-Anne Millar as Vickey Hobson, who was expecting to catch it, gave the poor audience member a look that could have killed!

The supporting cast were on good form too. David Morse is surely one of the best character artists around. His portrayal of Henry Hobson was a delight as was Jonathan Payn’s occasionally goofy Albert Prosser. Special mention too for the Salvation Army in the park. They may have been campaigning to ‘drive out the demon drink’ but there was no sense of abstinence or holding back in their dancing, especially the men led by Joseph Caley.

The ballet also demonstrated what a talent was lost with Paul Reade’s early death in 1997 aged only 54. A Lancastrian by birth, his score for “Hobson”, full of the sound of brass and references to well-known songs, really gives a sense of time and place. In a scene featuring a drunken Hobson we hear the strains of “Ten Green Bottles” but perhaps most appropriate of all is “Lily of Laguna” at Will and Maggie’s wedding party, when Will realises she really is his ‘lady love’. Bintley and Reade certainly seemed to have something going, but they only had time for one other joint effort, “Far From the Madding Crowd”. One can’t help wondering what else might have been.

“Hobson’s Choice” continues through the autumn on tour to Sunderland, London, Edinburgh and Plymouth.

Author:  kurinuku [ Fri Oct 28, 2005 5:00 am ]
Post subject: 

Birmingham Royal Ballet
by JUDITH MACKRELL for the Guardian

Yet the programme provides a vivid slice of history, and, in theory, ought to give us a powerful snapshot of three British choreographers establishing their identity.

published: October 28, 2005

Author:  kurinuku [ Fri Oct 28, 2005 5:23 am ]
Post subject: 

Birmingham Royal Ballet, Sadler's Wells, London
by CLEMENT CRISP for the Financial Times

It [Solitaire] had a somewhat claustrophobic air on Tuesday night - owed in part to patchy lighting - and costuming slightly too knowing in its "clowns are fun" decoration. It is agreeably done, but MacMillan's bright steps were, surely, once brighter still.

published: October 27, 2005

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Oct 30, 2005 12:24 am ]
Post subject: 

"Solitaire" triple bill
By David Dougill for The Sunday Times

Also touring, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s triple bill, which came to Sadler’s Wells last Tuesday, has revived three ballets from its heritage repertory by MacMillan, Ninette de Valois and John Cranko. The lyrical, poignant and witty Solitaire of 1956, to Malcolm Arnold’s two suites of English Dances, was one of MacMillan’s early creations — full of invention and happy dancing. He called it “A kind of game for one ... ”, the “one” being a wistful girl alone who finds herself, for a time, adopted by an enchanting tribe of new friends.

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Backward steps

Birmingham Royal Ballet's homage to past masters is upstaged by a revival of Sleeping Beauty. By Jann Parry for The Observer.

This month, while Dance Umbrella has been offering the latest in contemporary dance, ballet directors have behaved like museum curators, bringing old works out of storage, some of them masterpieces, some mere curiosities.

David Bintley, Birmingham Royal Ballet's artistic director, has put together a triple bill of early works by choreographers who helped mould modern British ballet: Ninette de Valois, John Cranko and Kenneth MacMillan.

click for more

Author:  kurinuku [ Tue Nov 01, 2005 1:33 am ]
Post subject: 

Birmingham Royal Ballet, Sadler's Wells, London fourstar
by ZOE ANDERSON for the Independent

There's more geometry in the costumes, quartered body tights with capes, skirts, elaborate chess-piece headdresses. The use of colour is superb, with contrasting and closely-matched tones - black against grey and silver, crimson with flame orange.

published: October 31, 2005

Author:  AnaM [ Tue Nov 01, 2005 12:14 pm ]
Post subject: 

Birmingham Royal Ballet presented David Bintley’s “Hobson’s Choice” at Sadler’s Wells on Thursday 27th October.

“Hobson’s Choice” was created by Bintley in 1989 for the then Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet as a homage to Dame Ninette de Valois. It was an English ballet from beginning to end: the story, music, designs and of course choreography. I was lucky to see the work when it was first premiered and I remembered it fondly, mainly due to the outstanding performance of its opening cast. Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet was at the time a company that excelled in dramatic ballets, thanks to the unfailing stage presence and dramatic qualities of its principals and soloists.

One of the things that surprised me when looking at the programme is how young the company is at present. This of course has got good and bad things about it. A young company has freshness in their approach to their work and that is always welcome. However, it also has side effects, such as the loss of points of reference that can help provide with more mature interpretations, as well as role models for the younger generation to take on.

BRB gave “Hobson’s Choice” freshness, without any doubt. The audience loved it and the ballet flowed effortlessly thanks to its theatricality and humour. However, I could not help missing some of the original performers of the work, not because of some sort of nostalgia attack, but because they filled their roles with more faceted interpretations and therefore provided the work with more substantial characterisations.

Robert Parker as Will Mossop had the youth and the technical accomplishment that the choreography required. However, he was just a little too accomplished and irresistibly charming from the beginning to manage to make his transition from shy and apparently dumb boot maker to brilliant entrepeneur work effectively.

Isabelle McMeekan was a good and determined Maggie Hobson. She showed a command of the role and an understanding of Maggie’s interpretation that was very powerful and made the audience sympathise with her immediately.

David Morse had the maturity and stage presence to make Henry Hobson’s character both funny and touching at times.

The rest of the cast sailed through the choreography quite effortlessly, especially Carol-Anne Miller as Vickey Hobson and Jonathan Payn as Albert Prosser. Of course, the entrance of Marion Tait as Mrs Hepworth was a lesson in stage presence and perfect character interpretation.

As for the choreography, it is effortless and musical. The Salvation Army number provides the ballet with an interesting twist in humour and inventiveness and the dancers obviously enjoyed the steps assigned to them. The pas de deux though, suffer from constant interruptions when the dancers are required to stop dancing and start miming. I have never understood the need for this narrative device within the framework of a pas de deux and it becomes frustrating to see the choreographic climax of the duet being substituted by unnecessary passages of mime. But that may well be my personal taste.

Overall, it was a very good performance and, as I said before, the audience really loved the work, which, it must be said, had survived the passing of time in very good condition.

Author:  ksneds [ Tue Nov 08, 2005 7:13 pm ]
Post subject: 

(Note: I'm not sure which Red Knight did the pdd with the queen, so it may be Dominic Antonucci, not Robert Parker)

Birmingham Royal Ballet
Edinburgh Festival Theatre
November 8, 2005
“Solitaire”, “Checkmate”, “The Lady and the Fool”

Edinburgh is home to diverse range of contemporary dance performances, but aside from the Scottish Ballet’s semiannual appearances and Northern Ballet Theatre’s yearly ballet-theatre production, there is little classical ballet outside of the International Festival. Thus, the appearance of the Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre was a welcome treat for Scottish balletomanes. The company presented two programs - a trio of ballets by Sadler’s Wells choreographers of years past – Kenneth MacMillan, Ninette de Valois and John Cranko and David Bintley’s full-length ballet, “Hobson’s Choice”.

‘Solitaire”, ‘A kind of game for one…’, is one of Kenneth Macmillan’s earlier ballets, and
is a whirlwind tour through the daydreams of a lonely young girl. In the dreary confines of an anonymous city park, she conjures up a circus of sorts – ladies in bright red dresses, acrobats in harlequin-diamond unitards, and, perhaps, the men of her dreams. Malcolm Arnold’s score delivers plenty of brassy marches, but there’s a melancholic undertone; a constant reminder that it’s all a dream and the girl must eventually return to her lonely reality. Viktoria Walton was a sweet-faced girl, bringing a tinge of winsomeness to her role. She was partnered by Tyrone Singleton, Kosuke Yamamoto, and the standout, Chi Cao, who stood out for the clarity and power in his solo. Lei Zhao was also of note. Though energetic and enthusiastic, the corps appeared a bit under-rehearsed; the men notably out of synchronization in several sections. Kim Beresford’s colorful costumes were attractive, but the harsh chain link fence in the backdrop seemed at odds with the girl’s frilly pink tutu.

It was none other than a young Kenneth MacMillan who danced as one of the black nights in Ninette de Valois’ “Checkmate” when it (last?) was performed at the Festival Theatre back in 1951. And, on this evening, more than fifty years later, there was also a native Scot under one of the black night’s horse-head masks, the Glasgow born Rory MacKay.

In this darkly melodramatic ballet, de Valois brings to life a chess game between Love and Death. The action takes place on E. McKnight Kauffer’s stage-floor chessboard, which stretches from wing to wing. Armies of red and black pawns prances onto the stage, the sheer size of the chessboard and their conical headgear combining to give the women’s pointe-shoe clad feet a delicate, but razor sharp look. Following them are two muscular, strutting red knights, Robert Parker and Dominic Antonucci.

Battle comes when the black queen, the sizzling Elisha Willis, strides out on stage, her long, lean legs slicing though the air. Kauffer’s black and white costume, with half skirt and tall, razor edged crown, gives the queen a steely, confident look. With castles, bishops, pawns, knights and the red king assembled, the action begins, and eventually Antonucci’s red knight has the queen pinned. But this is a battle between love and death, and the knight, sucked in by the queen’s allure, cannot bring himself to make the fatal stab. His weakness revealed, the queen pounces on him and finished the deed he could not. Now the king is without protection, and easy prey for the queen. His ritual death at her hands is projected onto the abstract backdrop by unseen lights, creating a monstrous, eerie shadow version of his final moments.

Propelled by Arthur Bliss’ music, the company was in good form, the slight spacing and timing problems in the women’s corps minimalised by the force and precision of their dancing. Robert Parker, as the first red knight, look a little underpowered in his solo, but came into his own during the showdown with the queen. The emotion of the moment is not easily portrayed when the dancers’ head is completely entombed in the horse-head mask, but Parker skillfully used the tension and release in his arms and body to show the knight’s change of heart towards the queen. Elisha Willis was a venomous queen – the chess version of George Balanchine’s “Prodigal Son” siren.

If the first two ballets seemed a bit under-rehearsed, and thus revealed some of the weaknesses in the dancers, John Cranko’s “The Lady and the Fool” showed the company at its cohesive finest. Bound together by Giuseppe Verdi’s poignant score, the ballet tells the story of La Capricciosa, a beauty’, who finds love in the unlikeliest of men – a clown by the name of Moondog. The woman sees the Moondog and his pal sleeping on her way to a party, and invites them in. Hidden behind a mask, she is wooed by the host, an army captain and a prince, but it is Moondog who finally sees her sad face and wins her heart. The guests try to run him off, but true love prevails in the end.

Framed by the silk-draped walls and sweeping double staircase of Kate Ford’s ballroom set, the dancers gracefully glide and swoop through a series of dances, the women clad in a rainbow of gorgeous full-skirted gowns. There was not a foot out of place in the corps even during the trickiest of moves; the men were attentive and elegant partners.

But it was the lead cast that really brought the ballet together. Grundy as Moondog and Alexander Campbell as Bootface were superb – two clowns of the old school, mixing humour with a gentle pathos. In their tricky duos, the timing was spot on, their rapport heartwarming and utterly believable. This was dancing rehearsed to the point of gloriously sheer spontaneity, down to the intricate interactions between dancing dancers and bumbling clowns.

Grundy was especially moving in his courtship – as it were – with Ambra Vallo’s wonderfully danced La Capricciosa. Unlike La Capricciosa’s high-class suitors - the prince, soldier and host, who strut their stuff in solos full of high jumps and elegant choreography, Moondog’s dancing is earthbound, with rounded edges, characterised by raised, gently bent arms with palms turned out. It’s a welcoming, uncomplicated gesture, as simple and as pure as his love for La Capricciosa.

Chi Cao was again impressive, this time as Capitano Adoncino, with Dominic Antonucci in fine form as the social host. The tall Tom Rogers was an elegant Prince of Arroganza, but his dancing would benefit from more attention to detail – such as feet pointed as nicely in the air as they are in tendu.

A happy ending on the stage and for the audience, there could have been no better end to the evening than the “The Lady and the Fool”. The company has seen a lot of roster changes in the last year, but this ballet was proof of the talent within, and leaves one with high hopes for future performances.

Author:  kurinuku [ Thu Nov 10, 2005 2:52 am ]
Post subject: 

Birmingham Royal Ballet, Edinburgh Festival Theatre
by MARY BRENNAN for the Scotlad Herald

The emphasis throughout is on story-telling, on dramatic interaction between characters, on the kind of allegorical treatments that aren't fashionable any more but which are a pleasure to watch.

published: November 10, 2005

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