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Birmingham Royal Ballet 2011-12
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Author:  David [ Fri Mar 04, 2011 6:17 am ]
Post subject:  Birmingham Royal Ballet 2011-12

2011-12 Repertory

Advance notice of Birmingham Royal Ballet's 2011-12 season has been announced. According to the current season's programme the repertory includes:

Beauty and the Beast (Bintley)
Checkmate (de Valois), Symphonic Variations (Ashton), Pineapple Poll (Ashton)
The Nutcracker (Peter Wright production)
Hobson's Choice (Bintley)
The Two Pigeons (Ashton)
Far From the Madding Crowd (Bintley)

This looks like a programme that should pull in the crowds, especially Beauty and the Beast, NUtcracker, Hobson and the Two Pigeons. It's also good to see Far From the Madding Crowd back at long last. It's a cracking story and one of Bintley's best full length works.

Author:  David [ Fri Mar 18, 2011 8:02 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2011-12

2011-12 Birmingham dates

Full details of Birmingham Royal Ballet's 2011-12 repertory and the Birmingham performance schedule has now been released. It's a year that celebrates the English tradition with one English ballet after another.

Besides the return of many well loved Bintley and Ashton classics, the final Birmingham week sees a new ballet from David Bintley and the return of what I suspect for many is a long forgotten work. The latter is Joe Layton's 1971 creation for the old Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet "The Grand Tour." Recently danced by Margaret Barbieri's Sarasota Ballet in the US, the comic ballet focuses on a doughty American spinster setting off for Europe. She finds herself on board ship with various celebrities including Noël Coward, Gertrude Lawrence, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Gertrude Stein, all of whom are caricatured mercilessly; plus two gypsy stowaways, who she protects. With music by Noël Coward (orchestrated by Hershy Kay), it should be fun all the way.

Bintley's new ballet is "Faster, Higher, Stronger," a second collaboration with Australian composer Matthew Hindson. If it's amything like their first work, the award winning "e=mc2", it should be worth waiting for.

Full details as follows:

28 September-2 October 2011
Beauty and the Beast (ch. Bintley)

6-8 October 2011
"Autumn Glory"
Checkmate (ch. de Valois), Symphonic Variations (ch. Ashton), Pineapple Poll (ch. Ashton)

25 November-11 December 2011
The Nutcracker (ch. Wright, Redmon, Ivanov)

22-25 February 2012
Hobson's Choice (ch. Bintley)

29 February-3 March 2012
"Spring Passions"
Daphnis and Chloe (ch. Ashton), The Two Pigeons (ch. Ashton)

20-23 June 2012
Far From the Madding Crowd (ch. Bintley)

27-30 June 2012
"Summer Celebration"
The Grand Tour (ch. Layton), Faster, Higher, Stronger (ch. Bintley), The Dream (ch. Ashton)

Touring dates to follow.

Author:  David [ Thu Sep 29, 2011 12:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Ballet in Birmingham:

Ballet in Birmingham

To mark the start of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s new 2011-12 season, the company has joined forces with Birmingham-based photographer Richard Battye in a city-wide photographic campaign called 'Ballet in Birmingham'. The campaign celebrates the world-class ballet company in Birmingham, the city that has been its home for 21 years.

Battye captured images of the company's Principal dancers, Director David Bintley, Assistant Director Marion Tait and Chief Executive Christopher Barron in areas of Birmingham that mean something special to them, away from their work with the company.

Battye said: “It was especially interesting photographing the dancers and staff in their chosen Birmingham locations celebrating the City and all it has to offer. There is a wealth of culture and creativity within the city which is why I have based myself here. Birmingham Royal Ballet is known internationally and the City's name goes with them as they tour. My thanks to all the varied locations and venues that helped with this project”

Ballet in Birmingham website:

Birmingham Royal Ballet website:

Author:  David [ Mon Oct 03, 2011 1:16 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2011-12

'Beauty and the Beast’
Birmingham Royal Ballet
Hippodrome Theatre, Birmingham; September 29, 2011

David Mead

David Bintley’s ballet of the classic “Beauty and the Beast” story is a grand sight indeed. Philip Prowse’s glorious set, all burnished gold, red and black, rises over everything, opening and closing like a child’s fold-out book. It is all very Harry Potter. The stage converts cleverly from forest to castle interior, outside becoming inside in an instant. Once indoors, particularly near touches include self-lighting candles, a jug that magically rises to fill a goblet all on its own, and a chair that comes alive to cradle whoever is sleeping in it. Throw in Mark Jonathan’s glorious atmospheric lighting, even if it might be a little too dark for some, and you have a sumptuous ballet indeed.

Bintley has opted for a straight telling of the story of a prince who has been turned into a beast and cursed to live among the animals for being so heartless until he wins the love of a beautiful girl. The young lady duly arrives after a merchant picks a rose from the Beast’s castle thus incurring his anger, his life only being spared after he agrees that his daughter Belle should come to stay with him. Of course, she eventually falls in love with him and the spell is broken.

Bintley narrates it all with great clarity, any mime unfussy and kept to a minimum. Natasha Oughtred was delightful as Belle. While kind to the Beast, it was a very detached kindness, one not borne out of love, and certainly not one full of smiles. Things were very different at the end, though. Her face when the creature is reborn as the Prince was as sunny as the Indian Summer weather outside.

Tyrone Singleton was a noble Beast. He has the height and stature to carry the role well, even when covered head to toe by his costume. That can make it difficult to empathise with the character but his portrayal made clear that any outer aggression was always underpinned by tenderness and even despair at his situation.

The ensemble was outstanding, the group dance featuring all the animals and birds in the castle in Act II being one of the highlights of the ballet. I don’t care much for some of the human characters though. It’s all a little too caricature and pantomimic for my liking. I know Belle’s two sisters are not supposed to be pleasant, but do they really have to appear to be reprising Cinderella’s stepsisters? Marion Tait’s Grandmère was, as ever though, wonderfully amusing, and Angela Paul was perfect as the vixen turned into a wild girl.

The Royal Ballet Sinfonia under the baton of Paul Murphy gave a good account of Glen Buhr’s score, which certainly illustrates the dance well, even if it if fails to provide a single memorable tune and is perhaps a little too literal on occasions.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Tue Oct 04, 2011 11:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2011-12

Laura Thompson reviews "Beauty and the Beast" for The Telegraph.


Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Oct 07, 2011 1:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2011-12

In The Stage, Neil Norman reviews a triple bill at the Birmingham Hippodrome: Ninette de Valois' "Checkmate," Ashton's "Symphonic Variations" and Cranko's "Pineapple Poll."

The Stage

Another review in Lichfield Live.

Lichfield Live

Author:  David [ Mon Oct 10, 2011 9:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2011-12

Autumn Glory (‘Checkmate’, ‘Symphonic Variations’, ‘Pineapple Poll’)
Birmingham Royal Ballet
Hippodrome Theatre, Birmingham; October 7, 2011

David Mead

If there is one thing David Bintley is really good at, storytelling apart, it’s dipping into Birmingham Royal Ballet’s back catalogue and coming up with a gem for triple bills. And with his Autumn Glory programme of the dramatic Checkmate, the sublime Symphonic Variations, and the delightfully silly Pineapple Poll he’s found another three diamonds, and very British ones at that.

Checkmate is Ninette de Valois’ 1937 chess-inspired masterpiece in which Love and Death fight out a battle through chess. A contest between the red and black pieces (white was not chosen as a colour simply because it doesn’t look so good on stage), the ballet symbolises the state of Europe at the time, the Red King and Queen reflecting the weakness of those unwilling or unable to stand up to the rising forces of darkness. The Black Queen, meanwhile, takes cold, calculating ruthlessness to another level as she uses fair means and foul to achieve her ends.

It is full of impressively structured ensemble work. It was impressively danced too. The pawns speared their pointe shoes as they marched around, and the knights were full of bravura. Carabosse might scare the kids, but if you are looking for a really cold, hard villainess then it is de Valois’ Black Queen you are after. Samara Downs was perfect; icy yet still seductive. Her drawing in then calculated killing of the Michael O’Hare’s Red King sent a chill down the spine.

Frederick Ashton’s Symphonic Variations is equally full of intricacies, only here they are lyrical, genteel and more subtle. It’s a ballet where stillness, or at least a sense of peace, is as important as motion; budding choreographers take note. Leading the three couples, Iain Mackay and Jenna Roberts were always at one with the music. It was a newcomer to the company who constantly caught the eye though, the always smiling Taiwanese-born Chou Tzu-chao, recently joined from the Australian Ballet, showing exemplary light, neat footwork, some excellent allegro, and impressive understanding of the essence of the piece. A shame, then, that the performance was partly spoiled by some very noisy pointe shoes, something rarely heard in Birmingham.

Natasha Oughtred and Cesar Morales in Symphonic Variations. Photo Roy Smiljanic.JPG
Natasha Oughtred and Cesar Morales in Symphonic Variations. Photo Roy Smiljanic.JPG [ 55.16 KiB | Viewed 15763 times ]

Another change of mood took us to Portsmouth and the good ship H.M.S. Hot Cross Bun for the Gibert and Sullivan inspired “Pineapple Poll”. With designs by Osbert Lancaster, music by Sullivan, mostly I think from “Trial by Jury”, and John Cranko’s heady mix of folk-inspired dances, downtrodden sailors, and cross-dressing girls all chasing the same handsome hero, it’s always a sure fire hit with audiences.

Martin Lawrence’s Captain Belaye could never be described as jolly, but he was certainly suave and handsome. Part of the humour comes from the fact that he is so full of himself, so sure of himself, that he is totally oblivious to all the ludicrous things going on around him, not least when the women take over crewing his ship. Alongside him, Angela Paul was a delightfully sunny Poll. Maureya Lebowitz, another newcomer, this time from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, was a delightfully daffy Blanche, a sort of super-dumb blonde in pointe shoes, while Victoria Marr as her mother was nicely bossy and domineering.

Robert Parker as Captain Belaye in Pineapple Poll. Photo Roy Smiljanic.JPG
Robert Parker as Captain Belaye in Pineapple Poll. Photo Roy Smiljanic.JPG [ 55.76 KiB | Viewed 15763 times ]

The Royal Ballet Sinfonia was conducted by Philip Ellis. Jonathan Higgins’ piano playing of César Franck’s “Symphonic Variations” was a particular delight to the ear.

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s “Autumn Glory” programme continues on tour to London (Sadler’s Wells) and Plymouth (Theatre Royal).

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Oct 19, 2011 1:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2011-12

Mark Monahan reviews the "Autumn Glory" triple bill at Sadler's Wells for The Telegraph.

The Telegraph

Clifford Bishop for the London Evening Standard.

Evening Standard

Neil Norman for the Daily Express.

Daily Express

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Sun Oct 23, 2011 9:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2011-12

G. J. Dowler reviews the "Autumn Glory" triple bill for ClassicalSource.


Author:  David [ Sun Nov 27, 2011 1:32 pm ]
Post subject:  The Nutcracker

'The Nutcracker’
Birmingham Royal Ballet
Hippodrome Theatre, Birmingham; November 25, 2011

David Mead

The Nutcracker; Jamie Bond as the Prince; photo Bill Cooper.JPG
The Nutcracker; Jamie Bond as the Prince; photo Bill Cooper.JPG [ 24.59 KiB | Viewed 15357 times ]

There were celebrations a plenty at the Hippodrome on the opening night of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Christmas season. It was not only the 21st anniversary of the first performance of what is regarded widely as the most magical and sumptuous “Nutcracker” of them all, but the following evening would see its 400th performance. On top of that, in the audience and celebrating his 85th birthday was creator Sir Peter Wright, who received a rousing pre-show rendition of “Happy Birthday”.

The party mood continued into what turned out to be a sparkling performance of Birmingham’s favourite ballet. The Act I house party is enchanting. The children were delightful, with Henry Brereton a very natural, and very expressive Fritz, who pulled all manner of faces and stomped his feet when he couldn’t get his way. Robert Parker was a handsome Drosselmeyer and David Morse was a comic delight as his usual understated but rather short-sighted Grandfather.

Wright places the late teenage Clara at the heart of his “Nutcracker” and Carol-Anne Millar was perfect as the young girl whose dream comes to life. She was nicely bubbly as she danced with Joseph Caley at the party, then in turn afraid, awestruck and most definitely in love with her Prince (Jamie Bond). The transformation scene in which Clara shrinks to the size of the toys under the tree remains as magical as ever, all conjured up by a now darker and slightly scary Drosselmeyer. Everyone focuses on the grand pas de deux at the end of Act II, but for the romantics among us, that which follows the battle wins hands down every time. Millar and Bond were the perfect match as the danced their love for each other.
The Nutcracker; Celine Gittens as The Rose Fairy with Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet; photo Graeme Braidwood.JPG
The Nutcracker; Celine Gittens as The Rose Fairy with Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet; photo Graeme Braidwood.JPG [ 30.03 KiB | Viewed 15357 times ]

It’s all a dream of course, something no-one sits by and watches, but that he or she is in for real. Wright emphasises the point by having Clara join in with most of the Act II dances, gently prompted by Drosselmeyer. It also neatly sidesteps the problem of having them appear as little more than a series of unconnected party pieces. The company all looked in top form here, although I wish something could be done about the Chinese dance which relies on terribly old-fashioned stereotypes and is decidedly unfunny. How about a Chinese folk-dance influenced replacement or even a version of a lion dance? The Act II highlight was undoubtedly Céline Gittens’ Rose Fairy, not so much a soft pastel coloured bloom as one that was vibrant, sparky and full of attack. The magic continued as Millar’s Clara transformed into Nao Sakuma’s Sugar Plum Fairy. Along with Bond she made the pas de deux look easy, if a little lacking in feeling. All dreams end though, and as the feast of dance reaches its climax Clara wakes up and her world returns to normal. Like us, though, she has her wonderful memories.

There seems to be more versions of the ballet around than ever this year, but this is a “Nutcracker” not to be missed.

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” continues at the Birmingham Hippodrome to Sunday, December 11 (see This year, London audiences can then catch it at the O2 from December 27-30 (see

Author:  David [ Mon Nov 28, 2011 10:27 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2011-12

Barry Wordsworth appointed Music Director Laureate

Barry Wordsworth has been appointed Music Director Laureate of Birmingham Royal Ballet with immediate effect.

Wordsworth, Music Director of The Royal Ballet, has an extensive association with the company, having joined the conducting staff of the then Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet 40 years ago. Wordsworth’s long relationship with both The Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet, alongside an illustrious concert career, has made him one of the most notable Music Directors working in the ballet arena today.

Wordsworth is also Conductor Laureate of the BBC Concert Orchestra and Principal Conductor of the Brighton Philharmonic.

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Thu Dec 22, 2011 1:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2011-12

BRB's filmed version of David Bintley's "Cinderella" will be shown at the Vancity Theatre in Vancouver, British Columbia beginning on Friday, December 23, 2011. Janet Smith previews the film for the Georgia Straight.

Georgia Straight

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Wed Jan 25, 2012 12:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2011-12

Glenn Meads reviews the January 25, 2012 performance of David Bintley's "Beauty and the Beast" at the Lowry in Salford for What's On Stage.

What's On Stage

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Mar 16, 2012 12:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2011-12

Ismene Brown reviews "Hobson's Choice" at the Birmingham Hippodrome for The Arts Desk.

Arts Desk

Author:  Francis Timlin [ Fri Mar 16, 2012 12:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Birmingham Royal Ballet 2011-12

Clifford Bishop reviews Ashton's "Daphnis and Chloe" and "The Two Pigeons" at the Coliseum for the Evening Standard.

Evening Standard

Clement Crisp reviews the same program for the Financial Times.

Financial Times

Judith Mackrell reviews the same program for the Guardian.


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