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 Post subject: Coppelia
PostPosted: Sun Jun 10, 2007 1:48 am 
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Location: Rugby, UK / Taipei
‘Coppélia’ - Birmingham Royal Ballet
Hippodrome Theatre, Birmingham, UK; June 6, 2007


In some ways Coppélia is the perfect ballet. After all, there’s a touch of pantomime, some rather more subtle humour, folk dance, classical ballet, an easy to follow story, and for the kids among us, some great dancing toys and dolls. But perhaps what makes it complete is that it’s about real people; real people that have their darker side too. Think about it. Swanilda is usually seen as a happy, sunny girl in love with he fiancée Franz. But how quickly jealousy comes to the surface when she mistakes the Coppélia doll for a real-life, kiss-blowing rival. And what of Franz? He may be in love, but how easily his head is turned, whether by the doll or by the gypsy in Act I. Then there’s old Coppélius, eccentric and harmless, or something altogether more worrying?

What really makes Coppélia come to life are good artists. And that means more than good dancing. Nao Sakuma as Swanilda was the excellent neat, precise self we’ve come to expect, but it’s her all round artistry that’s really at the fore and makes ballets like these truly work. It’s not so much the traditional ballet mime or the shaking of her fist as Franz makes a big show of blowing kisses at the life-size Coppélia doll or dancing with the gypsy, it’s more the little looks, the visual asides. That little glance or the ‘I forgive you’ smile, the sorts of things ordinary people do and that we can relate to.

Chi Cao made for a competent and good-looking Franz. You wanted to believe in him, you really did. He danced and leapt and turned like we all know he can but somehow there was something missing. He really didn’t seem particularly eager for his girl or particularly impetuous in some of the other things he gets up to. Where was the sparkle, that little glint in the eye?

Although Franz and Swanilda take the leads, perhaps the character with potentially the most depth in the ballet is the Dr Coppélius himself. Michael O’Hare gave us the eccentric inventor version with the mad professor look, but with just enough depth to make sure he didn’t descend into cartoon character territory. He wasn’t sinister, just a proud old man who really believed in what he was doing and that he could make a doll come to life. A case of self-delusion. And again, who hasn’t been there?

The ballet has always suffered from a less than inspiring third act that is more an excuse for a series of enchainments than any real extension of the story, but this was where BRB produced the best ensemble dance. As a whole the company looked in good shape throughout, especially in the many symmetrical ensemble sections. The highlight though was undoubtedly the ‘Call to Arms’ where Kosuke Yamomoto gave us a series of turns and leaps that quite rightly got the loudest applause of the evening.

In most productions Coppélius barely gets a mention in the final act, but Peter Wright had a stroke of genius when he decided to give us two happy endings and the leave final scene to the good doctor. When everyone else is gone and old Coppélius is left with his doll, who can fail to feel for him when she really does come to life? Or is the old man just having another dream? But then that’s what a lot of ballet is about, isn’t it?

BRB’s “Coppélia” can also be seen in Salford on July 4 and 5.


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2007 3:40 am 
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‘The Four Seasons’, ‘Nine Sinatra Songs’, ‘Pineapple Poll’ - Birmingham Royal Ballet
Hippodrome Theatre, Birmingham, June 13, 2007


I’ll admit to never having been completely comfortable Oliver Hindle’s “The Four Seasons.” “Summer”, a section made much earlier than the rest still looks fabulous. Jenna Roberts, Victoria Marr and Elisha Willis were especially alluring in their blue swimsuits as they postured and posed on the poolside. The rest was well danced but the references to tennis (rather appropriate with Wimbledon on the horizon), gymnastics and skating always seem rather too literal.

More of “Nine Sinatra Songs” shortly, but the evening finished with a glorious revival of John Cranko’s “Pineapple Poll,” now over 50 years old. This is the sort of thing BRB do very well, and it showed as they gave it their all and danced it with great zest. Based on W.S. Gilbert’s “The Bumboat Woman’s Story”, it’s full of comedy, love interest and dancing, and really shows Cranko’s flair for storytelling. Dominic Antonucci made for a tall and handsome Captain Belaye, engaged to Blanche, given just the right level of dippyness by Viktoria Walton. Carol-Anne Millar as Poll danced neatly and precisely as she fluttered her eyelashes at the good captain, although of course she finished up with Jasper, the Pot Boy from the Steam Packet pub who somehow makes it to Captain himself at the end. All totally silly, and almost cartoon-like, but great fun, and like many of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas, that’s probably why it still works.

With all the variants of ballroom dancing competitions on TV these days it’s not surprising that Twyla Tharp’s “Nine Sinatra Songs” should go down well. As the meat in the sandwich of the programme, the Birmingham audience certainly gulped it down. Some of the couples could have done with loosening up a little, but on the whole it was well danced, and it certainly looked better on the large Hippodrome stage than it did in the smaller venues that made up last summer’s split tour. Best of the first bunch of duets was undoubtedly Victoria Marr and Tyrone Singleton in “One for my baby”. When Singleton sauntered on, looking wonderfully laid back and with his bow tie undone just hanging round his neck, you knew instantly he was at ease with the situation. And they certainly gave us a dance to remember, coping well with some very difficult lifts.

An awful lot of attention has been focused recently on Darcey Bussell’s goodbye at Covent Garden; and quite right too. While her merits as a classicist can be debated, she has certainly given them a lot over the past 20 years. But BRB are in the throws of saying a goodbye of their own too, as Robert Parker, 31, leaves the company this summer after 13 years. Parker already has a private pilot’s licence and, in a total change of direction, is off to train as a commercial airline pilot. Over the years he has developed from a showman into a fine dancer, and more importantly, a fine performer who knows how to bring roles to life, to put the real human being into them. This was his final week on stage in Birmingham, and perform he and Angela Paul certainly did in the final “Sinatra Songs” duet, “That’s Life.” To say they went at it full pelt would be an understatement as they pushed and pulled each other around the stage. A couple clearly in love but with their fair share of disagreements too. Yes, that's’life! And then, of course, the finale. The words of “My Way” seemed incredibly apt, and when everyone exited at the end, it was rather appropriate that Parker and Paul were the last two left on the stage. Thanks, Robert.

“Nine Sinatra Songs” can be seen in Salford this July, then as part of BRB’s autumn mixed programme in Birmingham and on tour around the UK.

Robert Parker’s final performances will be at Salford from June 4 to 7.


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 Post subject: Leavers and joiners
PostPosted: Wed Jul 04, 2007 8:12 am 
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Location: Rugby, UK / Taipei
Leavers and Joiners

Leaving BRB at the end of the 2006-7 season are dancers Clara Blanco, Annie Carroll, Candice Fotheringham, Virginia de Gersigny, Maia Makhateli and Robert Parker.

Joining the company as Artists for next season are Callie Roberts, Yvette Knight, Christopher Rodgers Wilson and Oliver Till, all from The Royal Ballet School; and Laura-Jane Gibson from the Elmhurst School for Dance. Natasha Oughtred joins from The Royal Ballet as a Soloist.


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 Post subject: Promotions
PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 7:10 am 
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Location: Rugby, UK / Taipei
Promotions

BRB has announced the following promotions with effect from the end of the 2006-7 season:

Jamie Bond, Alexander Campbell, Joseph Caley, Jenna Roberts and Tyrone Singleton are promoted from First Artists to Soloists.

Arancha Baselga, Jonathan Caguioa and Valentine Olovyannikov are promoted from Artists to First Artists.

I am especially pleased to see Roberts and Singleton moving up. They really have stood out in almost everything they've done this past year.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 7:19 am 
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Joined: Sat Nov 06, 2004 12:01 am
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Location: Paris
Would anyone know which company Clara Blanco has joined? interesting dancer.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 7:45 am 
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Joined: Mon Nov 27, 2000 12:01 am
Posts: 3376
Location: Canada
She has rejoined the corps of the San Francisco Ballet, where she danced from 2001 to 2006.

Kate


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