CriticalDance Forum

Birmingham Royal Ballet 2009-10
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Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Apr 27, 2010 12:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2009-10

Jeffery Taylor reviews "The Sleeping Beauty" at the London Coliseum in the Daily Express.

Daily Express

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri May 28, 2010 2:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2009-10

In the Oxford Times, David Bellan reviews a performance of John Cranko's "Brouillards," David Bintley's "The Dance House" and Balanchine's "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham.

Oxford Times

Author:  David [ Mon May 31, 2010 6:03 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2009-10

Brouillards, The Dance House, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue
Birmingham Royal Ballet
Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham; May 26, 2010

Allegri diversi, Grosse Fuge, The Centre and its Opposite
Birmingham Royal Ballet
Theatre Royal, York; May 29, 2010

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s split-tour initiative, now in its seventh year, allows the company to present full-scale works with live orchestral accompaniment to audiences who might not otherwise get to see such high-quality classical dance. And there is a spin-off for the company too, since it gives younger dancers a chance to take on some more prominent roles.

This year’s programme for the south and west kicked off with John Cranko’s rather enigmatic “Brouillards.” Set to Debussy piano pieces, the ballet is a little like a series of impressionist sketches. Dancers come and go, often melting away into the wings at the end of each as if the mist of the title has swallowed them up, leaving nothing but memories. It is largely gentle and wistful with an air of sadness about it, not least in a most expressive duet between Viktoria Walton and Matthew Lawrence. But there is fun too. A bowler hated Rory Mackay was an excellent S. Pickwick Esq., while Robert Gravenor, Nathaniel Skelton and Oliver Till were nicely amusing in the “Cake Walk”.

David Bintley made “The Dance House” in memory of dancer and friend Nick Millington, who died in his mid-thirties. Inspired by Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No.1, Bintley’s choreography is not only intensely musical, but often quite moving, especially in the outstanding slow duet that is full of graceful lifts and elegant lines. The work is also full of colour though, helped along by Robert Heindel’s striking designs.

The afternoon was rounded off by a sparkling performance of George Balanchine’s “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue”, the purely danced finale to the Broadway musical “On Your Toes”, a backstage story of jealousy over a ballerina, and a total send-up of Russian ballet. Played out in a bar against a backdrop of skyscrapers that look like high-heeled boots, and with its gangsters, showgirls, laid back bartenders and stereotyped cops it’s a sure fire winner. The long main duet, between Alexander Campbell as the hoofer and a gorgeous, sexy Ambra Vallo was one to savour.

All in all, an extremely satisfying programme, and great work by all concerned to adapt to the Everyman Theatre’s tiny stage.

In the north and east, meanwhile, Artistic Director David Bintley constructed a programme that took audiences on a journey from pure classicism, through subtle dance modern dance, to brash out and out contemporary ballet. It opened with his own “Allegri diversi.” It may be a simple looking work for a lead couple and six other dancers, but it is one that is full of elegance, delightful invention and patterning, and is a joy to watch.

After a quiet opening establishes relationships between the dancers, Bintley’s purely classical choreography matches the tone and colour of the Rossini score. Given the steep rake of the stage the footwork and partnering was excellent. Everyone gets the chance to show off their technique. In York César Morales and Elisha Willis led the cast well, a particular highlight being a series of pirouettes by the latter that, despite the vicious rake on the stage, did not travel an inch.

Stravinsky once described Beethoven’s “Grosse Fuge” from the Op. 133 String Quartet as “an absolutely contemporary piece of music.” It certainly provides the perfect strong accompaniment for the opening of Hans van Manen’s work of the same name. The opening section is reminiscent of a mating ritual, the men in long black trouser-skirts aggressive with clenched fists and arms outstretched in a strong V-shape. It was not quite as strong and powerful as I recall in the past but the formality remains effective. The York cast really blossomed after the women had responded and the music changes to the Cavatina from the Op. 130 Quartet. With the men now only in shorts and a black belt, and the women hanging frequently on to the belt buckles, the formal lines of the choreography somehow serve only to emphasise further the sexuality and sensuality of the dance.

To close, the audience was brought right up to date with Garry Stewart’s loud and powerful “The Centre and its Opposite.” When this premiered a year ago I thought it was the most challenging work BRB had done in years. It still looks great. Stewart’s pulsating choreography set against Huey Benjamin’s throbbing score and Michael Mannion’s strip lighting gives the whole work a hard-edged, cold and powerful underworld feel. Especially outstanding was Dusty Button and Momoko Hirata.

“Brouillards”, “The Dance House” and “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” continues on tour to Truro (June 4 and 5). “Allegri diversi”, “Grosse Fuge” and “The Centre and its Opposite” continues to Durham (June 1 and 2) and Kings Lynn (June 4 and 5). See for details.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Jun 02, 2010 2:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2009-10

Martin Dreyer reviews David Bintley's "Allegri Diversi," Hans van Manen's "Grossse Fuge" and Garry Stewart's "The Centre And Its Opposite" in York on Friday, May 28 in The Press.

The Press

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Jun 17, 2010 1:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2009-10

Pat Ashworth reviews a triple bill of Balanchine's "Theme and Variations," Hans van Manen's "Grosse Fuge" and Balanchine's "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" at the Hippodrome in Birmingham, June 16-19, in The Stage.

The Stage

Lorne Jackson reviews the same program in the Birmingham Post.

Birmingham Post

Author:  David [ Fri Jun 18, 2010 1:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2009-10

On Their Toes!
(Theme and Variations, Grosse Fuge, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue)
Birmingham Royal Ballet
Hippodrome Theatre, Birmingham, UK; June 16, 2010

Who cares about the World Cup when there are live evenings like this to be had right on your doorstep. Three ballets, three styles, but five stars, that was Birmingham Royal Ballet’s latest sparkling offering.

The jewels on the costumes certainly glittered in Balanchine’s “Theme and Variations,” the dancers looking just like they had stepped off a music box. As the final section of his Tchaikovsky Suite No.3 (and danced to the music of the same title), it was designed to showcase the stunning and spectacular technique of Alicia Alonso and Igor Youskevitch. It looks deceptively simple, but in fact is so difficult that dancers tend to concentrate solely on the steps. While Chi Cao and Nao Sakuma were technically textbook and outstanding with everything inch perfect, there was no sense of thrill, no moments that took your breath away. The fireworks looked good, but where was the bang? Balanchine said that when you put a man and a woman on stage you immediately have a story. It was well-hidden here. There seemed to be little feeling or spark between the dancers, and certainly little between dancers and audience.

“Grosse Fuge”, Hans van Manen’s take on a mating ritual, looked as good on the small stages of the north during the company’s split scale tour, but benefitted hugely from the extra space afforded by the huge Hippodrome stage. Featuring four men in long, black skirts (at least to begin with), and four women leotards that cleverly highlight the womb, the message is clear from the beginning. The men strut, the women respond. When the men remove their skirts and the women hang one-handed from their belt buckles, there’s not too much imagination needed. The women were suitably demure, but I still think the men could be bolder and more forceful. It will be interesting to see how Dutch National Ballet, more used to van Manen’s choreography, tackle it when they visit London next May.

And so to “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” - nigh on half an hour of great music and dance guaranteed to put a smile on anyone’s face. It has gangsters, a hoofer, comedy policemen, and in Céline Gittens the sassiest, slinkiest, sexiest striptease girl I have ever seen - and I’ve seen a few. Most of the audience may have been waiting to see Robert Parker, and he was certainly full of his usual easy-going charm, but it was Gittens who stole the show. From her first entrance, she didn’t just light up the stage, she lit up the whole theatre. She has an amazingly bendy and loose-limbed body, her first backbend in the pas de deux was so deep her head nearly touched the floor, but better still she oozed personality. I’m not surprised Parker was smitten. I think every man in the theatre was too. As conductor Paul Murphy said when he was brought on stage by Gittens at the end, "Wow!"

The Royal Ballet Sinfonia, conducted by Philip Ellis for "Grosse Fuge", and Murphy for "Theme and Variations" and "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue", sounded like they were having a ball too.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sun Jun 20, 2010 8:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2009-10

Neil Norman reviews the triple bill of "Theme and Variations," "Grosse Fuge" and "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" in the Daily Express.

Daily Express

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Jun 23, 2010 2:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2009-10

Richard Edmonds reviews Peter Wright's "Swan Lake" at the Birmingham Hippodrome in The Stage.

The Stage

Author:  David [ Thu Jun 24, 2010 1:33 am ]
Post subject:  Swan Lake

Swan Lake
Birmingham Royal Ballet
Hippodrome Theatre, Birmingham; June 22, 2010

For many “Swan Lake” is the perfect ballet. For over a century it has drawn audiences and kept them enthralled with its romantic and tragic story of a handsome prince who falls in love with a magical, other-worldly heroine; the glorious Tchaikovsky music that goes with it; and, of course, that iconic flock of swans, perfect in their identical white tutus and moving often as one. In Birmingham this season it has proved so popular that the company added an extra performance to the schedule. Not bad in these recession-hit times.

Those who made their way to the Hippodrome were not disappointed, giving the company a loud and enthusiastic ovation at the end. And why not, for Peter Wright’s intense, dramatic, and sometimes dark and moody production is grand in every sense of the word. He also succeeds in setting the scene and making sense of subsequent actions and attitudes by inserting a short prologue featuring the funeral procession of the king, Siegfried’s father.

Birmingham Royal Ballet also filled the evening with some memorable dance. Nao Sakuma and Iain Mackay made for an almost perfect leading couple, as one throughout. Their emotions seemed perfectly matched, and in many ways that is how it should be. After all, the one thing they have in common is a desire to escape the hand that fate has dealt them. Their partnering was so smooth with not a single hesitation or wobble. Mackay’s lifting was notably clean and effortless.

Mackay’s acting showed great sensitivity throughout. He recognises that it is not necessary to constantly smile, be on the move or otherwise prowl around the stage to make a point. In Act I he displayed perfectly the angst Siegfried was going through. The last thing he wants to do is get married, and his accession to the throne doesn’t exactly fill him with glee either. Here was a man we really believed was full of melancholy, expressed in his face, his manner and his dance through great sustained balances and turns. At the ball his near-vacant looks into the middle distance and little more than cursory acknowledgment of the Hungarian, Polish, and Italian princesses spoke volumes, even though he barely moved a muscle.

Odette is one of Sakuma’s strong suits. It’s a role that seems to suit her character. She was completely mesmerising as the imprisoned heroine, smooth, sure and perfectly demure, yet slowly gathering in confidence as she started to believe, mistakenly, that this might just be a way out of her situation. Her first entrance as Odile was fiery and strong, almost aggressive. But although less mannered, she never seemed to quite capture fully the nature of this other woman. She didn’t come across as overly alluring or calculating, although she was clearly hot enough for the besotted Siegfried and, it has to be said, from their reaction most of the audience..

Elsewhere, Alexander Campbell, Momoko Hirata and Nastasha Oughtred were lively in the pas de trois, and Marion Tait was dominant as the distraught yet still powerful queen. At the ball all three princesses sparkled, even if Siegfried didn’t care for them. And the swans made their patterns with regimented, yet beautiful, precision.

Wright’s production is class. His sense of the dramatic extends to the very end, when Benno returns to carry Siegfried’s lifeless body from the lake - although I could do without the chocolate box image of the two lovers above the lake.

The Royal Ballet Sinfonia, which quite rightly received one of the loudest ovations of the evening for an outstanding rendition of the score, was conducted by Philip Ellis.

Swan Lake continues at the Birmingham Hippodrome to June 26. Book at

Author:  David [ Thu Jun 24, 2010 1:41 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2009-10

Phil Preece reviews BRB's "Swan Lake" for the Lichfield blog:

Lichfield Blog

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sat Jun 26, 2010 1:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2009-10

Neil Norman reviews "Swan Lake" in the Daily Express.

Daily Express

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Jul 01, 2010 1:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2009-10

In the Telegraph, Mark Brown reviews BRB's production of MacMillan's "Romeo and Juliet" at The Lowry in Salford.

The Telegraph

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Jul 08, 2010 1:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2009-10

Jenny Longhurst reviews "Romeo and Juliet" at the Wales Millennium Centre through Saturday, July 10, in Wales Online.

Wales Online

Author:  David [ Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:22 am ]
Post subject:  Promotions

Birmingham Royal Ballet has announced the following promotions, to take effect at the end of the 2009/2010 Season:

Momoko Hirata from Soloist to First Soloist.
Steven Monteith from First Artist to Soloist.
Mathias Dingman from Artist to First Artist.

All well-deserved, especially Hirata who has been outstanding in everything and who simply gets better and better.

Also, William Bracewell and Machi Moritaka from the Royal Ballet School, and Lewis Turner from Elmhurst School for Dance (BRB's associate school) will join the Company as Artists for next season.

Turner was awarded a Prix de Lausanne scholarship in January 2010 and has chosen to take up his year-long apprenticeship prize with Birmingham Royal Ballet. Lewis also won the Contemporary Dance prize at the competition held in Switzerland earlier in the year.

During the 2009/2010 season the following dancers left BRB:

Christopher Larsen returned to his native Canada to purse other career opportunities.
Kosuke Yamamoto returned to his native Japan to guest with other companies.
James Grundy leaves Birmingham Royal Ballet to pursue a teaching career in dance.

Author:  Janet McNulty [ Mon Jul 12, 2010 1:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2009-10

Congratulations to all the promotees!

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