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Birmingham Royal Ballet 2010-11
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Author:  David [ Sat Jan 16, 2010 2:39 am ]
Post subject:  Birmingham Royal Ballet 2010-11

2010-11 Repertory

Birmingham Royal Ballet has released early news of the 2010-11 season repertory.

The season will open in Birmingham with a triple bill under the title Pointes of view (who dreams these dreadful titles up?) featuring MacMillan's "Concerto", Cranko's "The Lady and the Fool" and Twyla Tharp's "In the Upper Room" (22 to 25 Sepetember). This is followed by MacMillan's "Romeo and Juliet" from 29 September to 2 October.

After a regional tour (details to be announced), the company returns to Birmingham from 24 November to 12 December with David Bintley's new "Cinderella".

Further dates and repertory to be announced.

Author:  David [ Mon Feb 22, 2010 8:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2010-11


Birmingham Royal Ballet has announced full details of the company's repertory 2010/11 season, which includes the world premiere of David Bintley’s new version of "Cinderella".

As already noted, in September the company will open its season with a triple bill named "Pointes of View" featuring Kenneth Macmillan’s "Concerto", John Cranko's "The Lady and the Fool", and the always hugely popular "In the Upper Room" by Twyla Tharp.

The second week of the autumn season in the city sees the welcome return of MacMillan's "Romeo and Juliet", probably the all-time classic love story.

But what should be the highlight of the year comes at the end of the year. Created for the City of Birmingham in the company’s 20th anniversary year, David Bintley's brand new production of "Cinderella" receives its world premiere at the Hippodrome on 24 November 2010. With designs by John Macfarlane, designer of BRB’s "The Nutcracker" and, more recently, "Le Baiser de la fée", and using Prokofiev's well-known score, this should be a Christmas winner.

There is sadly no triple bill in the Spring, but March sees the return of what must be the sunniest ballet ever - Ashton's "La fille mal gardée".

The popular full-lengths keep coming. In June, Peter Wright's production of "Coppélia" returns with its tale of magic, mayhem and the original living doll.

The season then closes with a double bill called "Passion and Ecstasy", featuring two two ballets by David Bintley. The show will open with "Allegri diversi", an energetic ballet set to Rossini’s score full of jumps. Second up is "Carmina burana", once described to me by former BRB principal Catherine Batchellor as "Bintley's best ever ballet". It's certainly thrilling, large-scale and emotioanlly charged. It's good to see it back.

Hippodrome performance diary:

Pointes of View (Concerto / The Lady and the Fool / In the Upper Room)
22 – 25 September 2010

Romeo and Juliet
29 September – 2 October 2010

Cinderella (World Premiere)
24 November – 12 December 2010

La Fille mal gardée
2- 5 March 2011

15 – 18 June 2011

Passion and Ecstasy (Allegri diversi / Carmina burana)
22 - 25 June 2011

All programmes will also tour.

For more information visit

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Sep 24, 2010 1:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2010-11

In The Telegraph, Laura Thompson reviews the "Pointes of View" triple bill.

The Telegraph

Lorne Jackson in the Birmingham Post.

Birmingham Post

Author:  David [ Sun Sep 26, 2010 9:55 am ]
Post subject:  Concerto, The Lady and the Fool, In the Upper Room

Concerto, The Lady and the Fool, In the Upper Room
Birmingham Royal Ballet
Hippodrome Theatre, Birmingham; September 22, 2010

by David Mead

Exuberant, and energetic, tender and melancholic, optimistic yet reflective…all adjectives that could be used to describe Kenneth MacMillan’s “Concerto,” and all qualities that Birmingham Royal Ballet more than brought to the stage.

In the first and third movements BRB’s dancers showed all the light-hearted energy that runs through the Shostakovich score. The opening lead pairing of Ambra Vallo and Jospeh Caley, and especially Gaylene Cummerfield in the jaunty third movement captured perfectly the eager and brisk nature of the piece. All were more than ably backed up by the corps, especially in the third movement, full of MacMillan’s inventive take on military drill that sometimes makes the work resemble a precision military tattoo.

It is though the achingly sublime pas de deux of the slow second movement that lingers in the memory. From its subdued, almost sorrowful opening the duet develops almost imperceptibly. But before you know what has happened it has grabbed you and is not letting go. Accompanied by Jonathan Higgins’ tender and lyrical piano playing, Jenna Roberts and Tyrone Singleton were utterly beguiling. It may be a duet without fireworks, but it is so packed full of emotion. It left everyone emotionally drained.

While “The Lady and the Fool” had a few genuine moments of wistfulness and was nicely danced, it lacked much in the way of emotion or passion. This is not entirely the dancers’ fault. Cranko’s tale of a lady who is courted by three rich or famous suitors, but who rejects them all for a down-at-heel clown, Moondog, is dreadfully shallow. It is supposed to have comedy moments, and while I’m sure was a time when the ballet looked fresh and funny, today the humour in particular seems very dated. The music and décor do not help. While Charles Mackerras’ arrangement of selections from Verdi’s operas is lively and tuneful, all are almost instantly forgettable. Kate Ford’s costumes might be largely fine, but oh those tasteless pink drapes that envelop the action. I can’t think of anything less likely in a grand lady’s house.

It is hardly surprising that Nao Sakuma as La Capricciosa (the ‘Lady’) fell for Iain Mackay’s Moondog. Her three main suitors at the ball are so lacking in character they might as well be cardboard cut-outs. Best performance of all though came from César Morales as Bootface, the only dancer who made us care what happens, especially as we worry whether he will be left all alone as the happy lovers exit.

Twyla Tharp’s ballet meets modern dance classic “In the Upper Room” is a favourite with Birmingham audiences. As ever they lapped it up, roaring at the end, and calling the breathless cast back again and again. It’s easy to see why it is so liked. It is full of invention and like a roller-coaster with moments of soaring movement and music that occasionally reach a point of suspension before rushing at breakneck speed into the next section. Tharp had just choreographed the Mikhail Baryshnikov/Gregory Hines movie “White Nights” when she made this and it’s impossible not to see connections in some of the movement.

Despite the overall audience reaction, and this says a lot about the extremely high standard to which BRB usually dance the work, I found this performance disappointing. The dancers should surf their way through the piece, riding the breakers, swept along by Glass’ wonderful music. There were some excellent performances, notably by the trainer-wearing Elisha Willis, Carol-Anne Millar and Robert Parker, and Ambra Vallo and Natasha Oughtred as the recurring couple in red pointe shoes, but one or two of the others seemed to be struggling with the piece rather than going with it. It is a work that allows for some individual stylistic interpretation within limits (who can ever forget the Bolshoi’s dire attempt at this a few years ago?), but it is also one where the energy, joy and freedom of the piece should be communicated to the audience. That is not going to happen if you perform with a totally expressionless face and body as one individual did. There were also a few slips, out of kilter unison moments and other glitches. I feel sure it was a one-off, but they did make it seem very odd at times, and very un-BRB.

“Concerto” and “In the Upper Room” can be seen during October in London (Sadler’s Wells) and Plymouth, in a triple bill alongside George Balanchine’s “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.” See for details.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Sep 27, 2010 12:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2010-11

In the Birmingham Post, Diane Parkes interviews Matthew Lawrence and Gaylene Cummerfield who will be performing Kenneth MacMillan's "Romeo and Juliet" for the first time together at the Birmingham Hippodrome, September 28 through October 2, 2010.

Birmingham Post

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Mon Sep 27, 2010 2:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2010-11

Luke Jennings reviews the "Pointes of View" triple bill in The Observer.

The Observer

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Sep 30, 2010 12:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2010-11

Ismene Brown reviews "Pointes of View" for The Arts Desk.

The Arts Desk

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Sep 30, 2010 1:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2010-11

Richard Edmonds reviews "Romeo and Juliet" for The Stage.

The Stage

Alan Poole in The Coventry Telegraph.

Coventry Telegraph

Author:  David [ Sat Oct 02, 2010 3:58 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2010-11

Romeo and Juliet
Birmingham Royal Ballet
Hippodrome Theatre, Birmingham; September 28, 2010

by David Mead

Romeo and Juliet is a classic of twentieth century ballet. It is certainly a rich and gripping story. And with Paul Andrews’ renaissance inspired designs, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production of Kenneth MacMillan’s version has long been an audience favourite. So much so, that for this season an extra performance was added to the schedule.

It is a rich and gripping story, with Prokofiev’s sometimes lyrical, sometimes soaring and sometimes foreboding score simply adding to the mood. Even putting aside MacMillan’s propensity to pad the crowd scenes, especially in Act I when there are times when there is often a lot going on without much actually happening, this was often an oddly flat evening. A ballet that should be have been bursting with emotion and action was too often decidedly tepid. Nao Sakuma tried and tried again to light the touch paper, but although the flames flickered from time to time, the evening never truly crackled into life.

Sakuma, who has developed into quite a dancer-actor was outstanding as Juliet, whether as the young girl, the typical bolshie teenager full of mixed up feelings and emotions, a young woman in love not quite knowing how to react to Romeo’s advances, and finally, having grown up too fast, in grief and death. She is great at the pauses, small movements and sideways glances, the little things that can speak much more than multiple pirouettes and the like. Mind you, technically she’s excellent too. But getting back to the acting, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a Juliet dance the balcony scene really looking nervous, especially the opening where her body language was telling us that while she wanted to look at Romeo, she was almost frightened to do so. That is how it should be After all, she hardly knows him. And in the duet in the crypt, where all too often the ballerina ‘helps’ rather too much, she really did convince us that Romeo was dancing with a lifeless body.

But Juliet needs her Romeo. Chi Cao is an excellent partner. All the big overhead lifts, large jumps circling the stage and the Juliet ‘flying’ moment, none of which are easy were, in one sense, danced perfectly. But the meetings between the couple should be intense and emotionally charged. Here the temperature was decidedly tepid. Where were the passion and the sense of yearning? This Romeo seemed enigmatic and happy to hide his emotions. He never really convinced us he was a happy go lucky extrovert, reckless or smitten with love. I started to wonder why Juliet ever fell for him. Perhaps it was just the looks. Maybe Rosaline had the best idea when she turned him down early on. Only at the end in the crypt, and even then only when Juliet awoke, did the spine start tingling as it should.

There were no such problems knowing Lady Capulet’s feelings. In her younger days Marion Tait was an outstanding Juliet and still manages to steal the scenes as Lady Capulet. Her display of grief at Tybalt’s death, all thrashing arms and silent screams, was dramatic acting at its best. And if looks could kill…

Elsewhere, Robert Parker gave us an interesting Tybalt rather less belligerent and less consumed with hate than is the norm. This was a more haughty figure, initially full of nothing more than utter distain for the Capulets. Only later did the anger burst through, but even then, it was a little more restrained than usual. His two friends were both lively and full of fun, especially Alexander Campbell’s Mercutio. Tyrone Singleton’s Paris was suitably confused by Juliet’s constant rejections. On this occasion I can’t help feeling she made the wrong choice!

Romeo and Juliet continues on tour to Plymouth, Sunderland and London. See for details.

A version of this review, with photographs, will appear later in the magazine.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sat Oct 02, 2010 12:07 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2010-11

Hi, David. Thank you for the review of "Romeo and Juliet." Was Marion Tait the Lady Capulet? (You gave her a great review, but didn't tell us her name.)

Author:  David [ Sun Oct 03, 2010 6:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2010-11

Well spotted, Francis! Yes it was Marion Tait. And I've amended the piece above.

Author:  David [ Tue Oct 19, 2010 2:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2010-11

Pointes of View
(Concerto, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, In the Upper Room)
Birmingham Royal Ballet
Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London; October 16, 2010

by David Mead

On paper this was a programme guaranteed to give everyone a good time. And Birmingham Royal Ballet certainly delivered, putting absolutely everything into all three works and sending everyone home breathless and more than happy.

The heart and soul of Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No.2 is the deeply romantic second movement. It’s the heart of Kenneth MacMillan’s ballet too. The opening port de bras and stretching was inspired by his watching Lynn Seymour warming up. It is such a simple idea, yet right from the long, lingering entrances, is dance packed with emotion. Natasha Oughtred, with her beautifully pliant upper body and hugely expressive back was near perfect. And in the tall, rock solid and elegant Tyrone Singleton she had the ideal partner. When Oughtred stands on pointe and he lifts her a little off the floor and turns her to face the opposite direction together, they make it look as if she is weightless and lifted by nothing more than her breath. Equally effortless were the later overhead lifts.

The more upbeat first and third movements always pale in comparison, although Laëtitia Lo Sardo and Mathias Dingeman neatly nailed all the tricky footwork in the first, while Carol-Anne Millar zipped through her solo in the third. A special mention for the three background couples and the corps who marched with gusto and were always absolutely together, something essential in MacMillan’s military tattoo like formations and pattern making.

Balanchine’s “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” is a fun all the way parody of Broadway, Russian ballet, and the mob. With its heady mix of ballet, tap and jazz, the story of a stripper in a tacky club, a customer who falls for her and the boss’ attempts to eliminate his competition, and a second plot to kill the hoofer by an assassin hired by a jealous dancer, is always popular.

Ambra Vallo was all sensuous charm and delicious as the The Striptease Girl as she wowed Alexander Campbell’s likeable Hoofer, especially after she (literally) let her hair down. The whole cast, complete with dance hall girls, laid back bartenders and inept policemen, played it for the musical comedy it is supposed to be. Everything was nicely exaggerated without going too far. Vallo may have shown plenty of glamour and high extensions, but she was never vulgar, and while the pas de deux never quite reached the sexy heights, there was genuine passion. The fun even continued into the curtain calls as Viktoria Walton, whose final performance this was before leaving the company to become a mother, was ‘arrested’ and handcuffed during the bows by the policemen, before being presented with flowers.

In Birmingham Twyla Tharp’s usually exciting and energetic “In the Upper Room” seemed oddly muted. Not here! Even at the beginning, as the two women stompers start their almost perpetual jogging, this looked like it was going to be something special. The thrilling fireworks soon started. Everyone pushed the dance right to the limits. The leaps were huge, head over heels lifts done at top speed, precarious balances held as long as possible, and the pointework was razor sharp.

The stompers always seem to have the more exciting choreography, and all six were exceptional. Standing out, even among all this excellence, was Carol-Anne Millar, one of the two opening dancers. The electricity ramped up several notches every time she exploded onto the stage. She danced not only with great daring and speed, but seemed to be revelling in it. Her duet with Matthew Lawrence in Dance No.6 was thrilling. Elsewhere, among the ballet dancers Natasha Oughtred threw off her porcelain exterior and Ambra Vallo continued the great verve shown in “Slaughter”, with Chi Cao also catching the eye.

The Royal Ballet Sinfonia conducted by Philip Ellis was on form too. Like the dancers they gave the Richard Rogers score for “Slaughter” everything they had. A special mention though for Jonathan Higgins, whose beautifully delicate playing of the Shostakovich was top notch indeed.

Birmingham Royal Ballet next dance Kenneth MacMillan’s “Romeo and Juliet” and this “Pointes of View” programme at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth from October 19th-23rd.

David Bintley’s brand new “Cinderella” opens on November 24th at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sat Oct 23, 2010 7:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2010-11

Ismene Brown reviews MacMillan's "Romeo and Juliet" in The Arts Desk.

The Arts Desk

Author:  David [ Sat Nov 27, 2010 1:38 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2010-11


A full review will follow shortly, but David Bintley's new version of Cinderella, premiered in Brimingham on November 24th is an absolute triumph. It's somewhat darker than your average Cinders story. The stepmother and stepsisters' treatement of Cinders is close to child abuse. Marion Tait's stepmother in particular is one of the nastiest women you are ever likely to see in a ballet - she makes Carabosse look like a real sweetie.

And oh what designs! John Macfarlane (who also did BRB's Nutcracker) has excelled himself once again. From the bleak, inky-coloured opening prologue (a master stroke that makes the ballet make sense) through the grim subterranean ******* full of grime and peeling paint, to the ballroom and the final starlight scene, the ballet is a feast for the eyes.

This is a ballet that is going to be around a very long time.

The Birmingham run is almost sold out, but Cinderella is touring - including to London (Coliseum) in March. If you get a chance, go!

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sat Nov 27, 2010 2:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2010-11

See the linked topic for other reviews of the BRB's new production of "Cinderella," located in the Holiday Performances forum.

Cinderella for the 2010 Holidays in the U.K.

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