CriticalDance Forum

Birmingham Royal Ballet 2009-10
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Author:  David [ Fri Oct 02, 2009 7:53 am ]
Post subject:  Birmingham Royal Ballet 2009-10

As I have reviewed both of Birmingham Royal Ballet's autumn programmes elsewhere, I can't say too much here.

But if you are near any of the autumn tour venues, do not miss the mixed programme. Garry Stewart's "The Centre and Its Opposite" is one of the best, most exciting new ballets I have seen from a British company in years.

David Bintley's new "E=mc2" is also worth a look. Don't be put off by the fact it is based around the Einstein formula about energy, mass and the speed of light. In fact, there is so much going on in the first section in particular I found it worth two looks. Bintley says it was an experiment. It will not be everyone's cup of tea, but some of it is certainly Bintley like you have rarely seen him. You can watch him talking about the ballet on a series of video diaries on the company website.

Author:  David [ Wed Dec 02, 2009 7:31 am ]
Post subject:  The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker
Birmingham Royal Ballet
Hippodrome Theatre, Birmingham; November 29, 2009

You might be able to buy your own nutcracker doll in Birmingham’s huge German-style Christmas market, but to see one come to life you have to head off to the Hippodrome. With Birmingham Royal Ballet about to start celebrating the 20th anniversary of their relocation, it’s good to see that Sir Peter Wright’s moving-in gift to the city and the company, his quite superb “Nutcracker”, is still as magical as it was all those Christmases ago.

This is a warm and inviting “Nutcracker”. The red interior décor of the Stahlbaum’s house soon made everyone forget the cold, damp December weather outside. It is a feast for the eyes and once again filled the Hippodrome Theatre with festive cheer. The audience mood was perfectly illustrated about ten seconds into the Act I overture when a very young voice in the stalls declared loudly, “It’s exciting isn’t it?” Everyone just laughed. And this was before the curtain had even risen, let alone before the huge growing Christmas tree, giant rats, toy soldiers come to life and flying swan.

The story is enchanting as it is, but even more so when you have such a delightful Clara as Momoko Hirata. Wide-eyed at the events unfolding round her, she looked like she was thoroughly enjoying every moment. Her best moment came in the deeply romantic pas de deux that follows the transformation scene. With Joseph Caley looking every inch like the Prince of her dreams, it seemed she was really in love. They made every step, catch and lift look so easy; Hirata quick and light, Caley rock solid.

At the heart of Wright’s ballet is Drosselmeyer, an iceberg of a character. He is definitely master of ceremonies, orchestrating Clara’s whole dream, her meeting with her Prince and trip to the Kingdom of the South/Sweets. Although Rory Mackay’s interpretation was not as mysterious as some, there was still the sense that we only see a small part of who he really is, and that beneath the surface lurks something or someone altogether darker, even menacing.

Everyone played their part. Wolfgang Stollwitzer almost stole the family party scene with his supremely elegant father, while David Morse was once again excellent as the grandfather, always with a twinkle in his eye. Morse, surely the best character artist around, was playing this role when the production first appeared. The rats, who remind me more of Caribbean pirates than vermin, get better each year. In Act II, the highlight of the divertissements was the Arabian dance featuring Andrea Tredinnick, Yasuo Atsuji, Robert Gravenor and Aaron Robison.

The only slight let down came with the grand pas de deux. Ambra Vallo looked every inch the Sugar Plum Fairy, but her gargoulliardes were rather less than noteworthy, and some of the partnering with didn’t quite sparkle as it should. The couple made the lifts, and especially the difficult shoulder lifts, looked hard work indeed.

But let’s put that aside. This is Christmas ballet just as it should be with plenty of fun and magic for the kids, including the grown-up ones, and enough darker moments for those who need them. I defy anyone to tire of this production, but just in case, make the most of this year’s performances, for in 2010 I understand David Bintley has something new and exciting planned.

The Royal Ballet Sinfonia was as glorious as ever, conducted by Barry Wordsworth.

A version of this review with images and taking in another cast will appear in the magazine in due course.

“The Nutcracker” continues at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Sunday 13 December 2009. See or for details.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Dec 04, 2009 3:47 pm ]
Post subject: 

Sarah Crompton also reviews the BRB Nutcracker in The Telegraph:

The Telegraph

Author:  David [ Wed Dec 09, 2009 3:06 am ]
Post subject: 

A few days later, I was fortunate enough to see another cast.

Lei Zhao gave a very different interpretation of Clara, and one that sits a little better with the darker side of the ballet. As good as Hirata was the previous week, Zhao appeared much more relaxed. All her reactions seemed perfectly natural. When the transformation scene began, she appeared genuinely scared and incredibly vulnerable, which is just as it should be. Drosselmeyer is a dark figure, and Clara does not know what is going to happen next. Her relief at the end of the battle and finding her prince, the excellent Tom Rogers, still alive, led to a pas de deux that simply oozed emotion. For me this is the best moment of the ballet.

Making her debut as the Sugar Plum Fairy was Delia Matthews. Taking a leading role for the first time, it was hardly surprising that she looked rather nervous. But it helps having a such an excellent partner as Rogers and she did manage to relax a little. Once again, the less said about the gargouilliardes the better, but her series of fouettés were excellent indeed.

Author:  David [ Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:06 am ]
Post subject: 

Bintley's Cinderella

I know this is really 2010-11 season, but as it's pertinent to Nutcracker...

Birmingham Royal Ballet has announced that a brand new production of Cinderella will be presented at the Birmingham Hippodrome during the company’s pre-Christmas season in 2010.

It will be choreographed by David Bintley, with designs by John Macfarlane, lighting by David Finn and music by Sergei Prokofiev. This is the same creative and design team behind The Nutcracker.

David Bintley, Director for Birmingham Royal Ballet said, ‘I am very excited to work on a new production of Cinderella. Not only am I delighted to be working with John Macfarlane, David Finn and the company’s new music director Koen Kessels but 2010 also marks Birmingham Royal Ballet’s 20th anniversary year in Birmingham. The announcement of a new production shows the company continues to go from strength to strength in this great city.’

Author:  David [ Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2009-10

Director David Bintley’s E=mc² wins ITV’s The South Bank Show Awards dance prize

David Bintley's "E=mc²" won the dance prize at ITV’s The South Bank Show Awards at London’s Dorchester Hotel on Tuesday 26 January 2010.

The work had its world premiere at the Birmingham Hippodrome in September 2009 as part of the "Quantum Leaps" triple bill. The ballet, in four very distinct sections, is set to a specially commissioned score by Australian composer Matthew Hindson with costumes by Kate Ford and lighting by Peter Mumford, and was inspired by the book "E=mc²: A Biography of the World’s Most Famous Equation" by David Bodanis. I thought it was one of Bintley's best pieces for a while - quite experimental and unusual in many ways.

Other nominees in the category were Wayne McGregor’s "Limen" and dance group Diversity, winners of ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent programme.

Sadly, with the demise of The South Bank Show (and arts programming on ITV generally), the 2010 ceremony was the last ever for the long-running and celebrated arts programme.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Mar 05, 2010 2:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2010-11

Reviews of Peter Wright's "The Sleeping Beauty."

Richard Edmonds in The Stage.

The Stage

Sarah Crompton in The Telegraph.

The Telegraph

Author:  Janet McNulty [ Sat Mar 06, 2010 5:33 pm ]

Tonight Momoko Hirata and Alexander Campbell made their debuts as Aurora and Florimund. They were both utterly magnificent and this was one of the most glorious performances of Sleeping Beauty I have ever seen.

Congratulations to Momoko and Alex and thanks to them both for being so wonderful.

Author:  David [ Tue Mar 09, 2010 12:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2009-10

Phil Preece reviews The Sleeping Beauty: ... hippodrome

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Mar 10, 2010 2:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2009-10

David Bellan reviews the 20th Anniversary Gala held at the Birmingham Hippodrome in the Oxford Times.

Oxford Times

A related article by Diane Parkes in the Birmingham Post.

Birmingham Post

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Mar 11, 2010 1:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2009-10

The Telegraph covers Prince Charles' attendance at the BRB 20th Anniversary Gala.

The Telegraph

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Mar 11, 2010 2:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2009-10

Susie Turner reviews the 20th Anniversary Gala in the Birmingham Post.

Birmingham Post

Author:  David [ Sun Mar 14, 2010 7:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2009-10

More reviews of BRB's 20th anniversary gala:

Ismene Brown for The Arts Desk:
The Arts Desk

Zoe Anderson for The Independent
The Independent

Judith Mackrell for The Guardian
The Guardian

and Donald Hutera for The Times
The Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Apr 21, 2010 4:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2009-10

BRB performs Peter Wright's "The Sleeping Beauty" at the London Coliseum, April 20-24, 2010. Some reviews of the opening night performance.

Judith Mackrell in The Guardian.

The Guardian

Debra Craine in The Times.

The Times

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sat Apr 24, 2010 5:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2009-10

Clement Crisp reviews "The Sleeping Beauty" in the Financial Times.

Financial Times

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