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PostPosted: Sat Apr 30, 2005 9:47 am 
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The challenges and rewards of intimacy
by ISMENE BROWN for the Daily Telegraph

The south-western tour seemed to be suffering more than the north-eastern in this regard. Although there are 31 dancers down south and 18 up north, the programme I saw in Bath had less substance and conviction than that in York.

published: April 25, 2005
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 Post subject: Revised Repertory - Birmingham in June
PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 3:44 am 
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BRB have revised and added to the repertory for Birmingham in June. It features a new Dumbarton Oaks by Michael Kopinski , who recently left the company, The Planets by various BRB dancers and Into the Ferment by BRB solist Jonathan Payn.

The programme is now:

8-11 June: Dumbarton Oaks (Kopinski), Duo Concertant (Balanchine), The Rite of Spring (Nijinsky), Scene de Ballet (Ashton)
15-16 June: The Planets (various), Into the Ferment (Payn)
17-18 June: Les Petits Riens (Bintley), Brouillards (Cranko), Elite Syncopations (MacMillan)

The company are also performing Scenes de Ballet, Dante Sonata and Enigma Variations at the Hamburg Ballet Festival on 28 and 29 June.


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PostPosted: Mon May 02, 2005 8:01 am 
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Thanks for this infomation, David. It's alway good to see ballet companies that encourage their dancers to make work and make the time and facilities available.


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 Post subject: Stravinsky: A Celebration!
PostPosted: Fri Jun 10, 2005 10:50 am 
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Stravinsky - A Celebration: Dumbarton Oaks, Duo Concertant, Scènes de Ballet, The Rite of Spring
Birmingham Hippodrome, 8th June 2005


The most eagerly awaited work of the evening was the first performance by a British company of Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer’s reconstruction of Nijinsky’s original Rite of Spring, based on the spring rituals of the ancestral peoples of north-east Europe. People can debate just how close to the original it might be, and it’s probably as near as anyone is going to get, but what matters is that it works as a spectacle even if choreographically it is perhaps not the masterpiece many would like us to believe.

BRB’s dancers certainly looked at home with the required exaggerated turned-in, strained posture. They gave their all and the energy came in abundance, especially in Act I as the young girls flirt and attract the men, who in turn chase them and fight. Act II however works less well. The dance in which the girls weave in and out of a circle until one, the victim, is selected, seems to go on forever. The energy did return however when the Chosen One (Molly Smolen) began the wild leaping, spinning and falling of the ritual tests that leads to her final denouement.

Archer’s costume reconstructions from Russian painter Nicholas Roerich’s designs are a feast for the eyes. The maidens in their vividly patterned scarlet smocks, the young women in blue and white and the older ones in mauve and white are a riot of colour.

Rite was preceded by Ashton’s Scènes de Ballet, about as far away in style and look as it is possible to get. This was his homage to Petipa, full of symmetry and patterns, yet occasionally daring to be different as when the corps frames the principals but facing away from them. It is very complex, full of intricacies and beautifully crafted. BRB carried it off superbly, led by Robert Parker and the ever-delightful Nao Sakuma.

Balanchine once described Duo Concertant as “nothing very unusual” but who else would have dared to open a ballet with two dancers simply standing, listening intently to the music being played by an onstage pianist and violinist. Unfortunately it was a little disappointing. Standing still must be one of the hardest tasks asked of a dancer on stage and Asta Bazeviciùte and Iain Mackay certainly looked far from comfortable, staring ahead, rarely taking note of what was happening around them. It was only when they began to dance that they seemed to relax and acknowledge the music and each other. The opening dance was not as crisp and sharp as it should have been but then, as the choreography becomes freer and the interaction between the two more spontaneous, things improved enormously. By the time we reached the lively Gigue and the final emotional, spotlighted scene, they seemed quite at home.

The evening opened with Dumbarton Oaks, BRB soloist Michael Kopinsky’s first work for the main company although he has made others as part of various choreographic projects. Asked to choreograph to the score by David Bintley, he felt the music conjured up images of moths and their self-destructive urge to fly towards the light and used this as his stimulus for his movement ideas. The ballet is a mix of bare-footed contemporary dance what might almost be termed post-Balanchine classical ballet on pointe. Kopinsky says that music has always provided the impetus for his creativity and he seems at his best when the choreography really does reflect what we are hearing, notably at the beginning and end of the central pas de deux, danced here by Elisha Willis and Robert Parker. It is when he switches from contemporary to classical and back again that things sometimes jar. Kopinsky certainly shows promise though and Bintley deserves great credit for not being afraid to expose such a young choreographer to such a large audience.

This celebration of Stravinsky was BRB’s first contribution to a project by Birmingham arts organisations to perform all of his works over a three-year period. It was certainly a varied programme and one that would have left most theatregoers satisfied and with plenty to talk about.


Postscript:

A second viewing of the programme later in the week saw the lead couples switched for Duo Concertant and Dumbarton Oaks. Both were much improved on the first night.

Dumbarton Oaks, led by Asta Bazeviciùte and Iain Mackay but with a different corps too, seemed to flow much more smoothly. Bazeviciùte and Mackay were excellent but mention must also be made of Tyrone Singleton who appears very precise in his movement and has a presence on stage. He could be one to watch for the future.

Duo Concertant could almost have been a different ballet. Elisha Willis and Robert Parker were quite superb. Both not only looked happy from the very beginning, but were so obviously comfortable with the crispness of movement, the music, musicians and each other. From their dancing, quite playful at times, and their facial expressions it was quite clear they were having a good time, and so were we.


Last edited by David on Sun Jun 12, 2005 1:51 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Genius of infinite wit and wonder
PostPosted: Fri Jun 10, 2005 1:07 pm 
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Quote:
Genius of infinite wit and wonder
by ISMENE BROWN for the Daily Telegraph

The Birmingham Royal Ballet complete their tribute to the choreographer's centenary by performing his own favourite of his ballets, Scènes de ballet, and the Royal Ballet spends its final week performing Symphonic Variations and A Month in the Country.


published:10 Jun 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 10, 2005 10:21 pm 
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Thank a lot David for your detailed and clear review. I saw the Kirov production of the Hodgson/Archer reconstruction and was very pleased to see it. Somehow, I couldn't avoid the thought that the original had something more going for it to cause such a strong reaction. Several of the Diaghilev dancer said it was the most remarkable work they ever saw. I can believe that Molly Smolen gave it all she had.

Good to see Bintley bringing on a young home-grown choreographer.

All in all, it sounds like a fine and varied programme.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 14, 2005 11:50 am 
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Stravinsky! A Celebration:
Dumbarton Oaks, Duo Concertant, Scènes de Ballet, The Rite of Spring
Birmingham Royal Ballet
Hippodrome
Birmingham
11th June 2005 (eve)


Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Stravinsky programme looked such an attractive prospect that I found myself getting straight off the plane from Copenhagen and being driven at speed up the M40. The timing was tight, but I did it and was very glad I made the effort.

“Dumbarton Oaks” is a gift for a choreographer with its strong rhythmic score and there have been a number of productions set to this music over the years. In this version choreographer Michael Kopinski has set the ballet in a strange, mysterious dancing space with a long strip of horizontal dry ice in front of the dancers as the curtain rises. The backdrop resembles a magnified section of Victorian design wallpaper that changes colour from scene to scene with slender points of light suspended from above. The costuming was a little odd with all but one of the girls in wispy tutus, the exception being a full skirted evening gown. The male dancers fare less well in what appeared to be brief rubber bondage outfits, rather reminiscent of what Michael Clark used to wear at the beginning of his career. Mr Kopinski was responsible for the design as well as the choreography.

The order of the ballet was basically ensemble – pas de deux – ensemble; with lively steps very much reflecting the impetus of the music in the group movements, but it was in the pas de deux that Kopinski touched on a vein of originality and I particularly admired a lift/throw that had members of the audience gasping. The ballet’s ending also worked well with the dancers disappearing in a puff of smoke. On the whole this was a sound work by an aspiring choreographer and one I would be happy to watch again.

Balanchine’s “Duo Concertant” came next danced by Asta Bazeviciúte and Iain Mackay. The three sections of this ballet could be described as listening, dancing and lighting and only the ‘listening’ didn’t quite work for me, as I found the dancers a little too self conscious as they stood behind the piano absorbing the mood, but as they moved on to the dancing they succeeded in capturing the sweet melancholy of the music so beautifully played by Robert Gibbs and Jonathan Higgins. The ballet ends with that unusual passage of isolated limbs in the spotlight giving it an almost eerie finale.

“Scènes de Ballet” is one of Ashton’s finest exercises in classical choreography – and one of his two favourite works. The twelve-girl corps de ballet was excellent as were the four male cavaliers (though the programme wasn’t totally accurate with their names). The leading couple were Elisha Willis and Robert Parker and although technically sound I didn’t feel that Ms Ellis caught the sharpness of movement that the ballerina role requires.

I had mixed feelings about seeing the reconstruction of Nijinsky’s “Rite of Spring” again after first seeing it danced by the Kirov a couple of years ago, but the under par performance I saw then bore no resemblance to the vibrant dancing of BRB. The company danced with vigour and commitment and Carol-Anne Millar as the Chosen Maiden gave the role a depth that seemed to elude the Russian girl I saw originally. I still have reservations about this version as so much music is used as overture and scene change, but performances of this calibre make this a far more meaningful work than I at first thought.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 15, 2005 3:03 pm 
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Quote:
Stravinsky stripped of spirit
by Ismene Brown for the Daily Telegraph

Birmingham Royal Ballet has been looking revived this season. Its director David Bintley has covered a spirited range of past goodies while opening doors to novelty.

published:15 Jun 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 16, 2005 6:00 am 
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Birmingham Royal Ballet
By Allen Robertson for The Times


THERE is no protoplasmic pipeline connecting her to the shade of Vaslav Nijinsky. Even so, Millicent Hodson’s reconstruction of his radical epic The Rite of Spring is probably as close as anyone is going to get to his fascinating 1913 original.

Some pedants dispute this. Though what they are actually reacting to is the fact that the ballet may not have been as great as legend has it. In other words, they’re blaming Hodson for Nijinsky’s at times chaotic response to Stravinsky’s monumental score. Nearly a century on, it continues to look disjointed and at times just plain odd.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 18, 2005 12:35 am 
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Stravinsky! A Celebration
Dumbarton Oaks/Duo Concertant/Scènes de Ballet/The Rite of Spring. By Pat Ashworth for The Stage


Stravinsky’s concerto Dumbarton Oaks inspired in Michael Kopinsky images of moths drawn to the light. Against a background of magnified floral wallpaper motifs, Asta Bazaviciute and Iain Mackay capture the fragility, strength, impudence and recklessness of that insect’s movement, sometimes dazed and stilled by the light and eventually destroyed by it. It is a fine performance from all seven dancers.

Elisha Willis and Robert Parker explore the music of the Balanchine ballet, Duo Concertant, with a deep intensity and in studied and thoughtful movement.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 19, 2005 5:20 am 
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It’s all double
Birmingham Royal Ballet are on the dull side. Oh dear, says David Dougill


IgorFest is the title of a big three-year project in which the leading musical and dance forces in Birmingham — the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the Birmingham Royal Ballet, with the Royal Ballet Sinfonia — are to perform the complete works of Stravinsky. BRB will combine revivals of existing choreographies to the ballet scores with new interpre-tations, and they led off the series with a quadruple bill at the Hippodrome entitled Stravinsky! A Celebration.

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 Post subject: Les Petits Riens, Brouillards, Elite Synchopations
PostPosted: Sun Jun 19, 2005 5:42 am 
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Les Petits Riens, Brouillards, Elite Synchopations
Birmingham Hippodrome, 17th June 2005

After the previous week’s rather more serious Stravinsky programme, this was bite-sized ballet with all three works featuring a series of short dances. It also had something for everyone, a tutu ballet, something more modern and a jazzy finale.

Les Petits Riens is a light piece, originally made by David Bintley in 1991 for the students of the Royal Ballet School. Although Bintley has reworked parts of it for BRB, in some ways its origins show, the steps for example rarely being especially challenging. Where he does score is in his use of Mozart’s music, reflected precisely in the dance, and in creating the atmosphere of mid-18th century court dance. He uses the corps well to make some interesting and pleasing patterns, seen very clearly against a green or blue cyclorama framed only by a black curtain. The costumes too were simple but effective, the ladies in pastel-coloured tutus, and the men in tights and tunics. The cast was well led by Molly Smollen and Tiit Helimets, with Laura Ellis, a student at Elmhurst, BRB’s associate school, also getting her chance in a duet.

For some reason, John Cranko’s work is rarely seen in Britain these days and it was a delight to see Brouillards returning to the company repertory after some twenty years absence. It is danced to nine Debussy preludes, here played by Kate Shipway, the opening one being repeated at the end, Cranko taking his inspiration from the music and Debussy’s own titles.

The ballet opens with the whole ensemble swirling and gathering, before separating and leaving in the Brouillards (Fog) of the title. This is followed by a series of eight quirky dances, masterpieces of human observation. The most humorous, enjoyed enormously by the audience, is General Levine eccentric, danced here by Kit Holder, Christopher Larsen and Kosuke Yamomoto, a comic turn which immortalises a vaudeville artist Debussy saw in Paris. Hommage a S Pickwick Esq. is a tribute to the quintessential Englishman, complete with bowler hat and umbrella. Others are subtler. In Bruyeres (Heather), Tiit Helimets was the boy dancing so passionately for his ‘sleeping beauty’ on a nearby bench. When he kisses her and she awakes however, she coolly walks off. The most effective however is the passionate adagio, Feuille mortes (Dead leaves). Rachel Peppin and Dominic Antonucci nicely portrayed the couple, in love yet with the doubts and hesitations we all have. Finally, Tiit Helimets and Tom Rogers were the two men in pursuit of the alluring Silvia Jiminez in Des pas sur la neige (Footsteps in the snow), before once again the mist descends and the opening is repeated.

All in all a beautiful work to watch with the dances in all white with simple lighting to match. There is never anything to see except the dancers on stage but it is so captivating that this is all we want to see. For Cranko-lovers the good news is that BRB are continuing to rediscover him this autumn when they dance The Lady and the Fool.

The programme was completed by MacMillan’s perennial crowd-pleaser, Elite Syncopations. Bright, colourful and upbeat, this was everyone’s chance to let their hair down and to send the audience home happy.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 24, 2005 2:20 am 
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Into the Ferment/The Planets
By Pat Ashworth for The Stage


Young choreographers from BRB get a chance to exhibit their work in two stunning world premieres, a feast for the Birmingham audience at just £10 a ticket.

Exuberance and impishness mark Jonathan Payn’s first ballet, the tale of three Scottish lads taking refuge in an empty house in a storm and appropriating the whisky.

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 Post subject: BRB Leavers
PostPosted: Wed Jun 29, 2005 7:43 am 
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BRB Principals Tiit Helimets and Molly Smolen are leaving the company this summer. Tiit has a contract with San Francisco Ballet.

According to BRB Freinds magazine Entrechat, also leaving or already left are Rachel Peppin (to train as a Pilates instructor), Sergiu Pobereznic (to take the RAD Teachers' Course and then go to Australia), Julie Comte, Lee Fisher (although Lee will continue with BRB's Education team), Nadia Frolich (returning to South Africa), Pierpaolo Ghirotto (hoping to train as a doctor), Michael Kopinsky, Michael Revie, Andy Rietschel (returning to Sweden), Andrea Scuderi and Dorcas Walters.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 17, 2005 8:21 pm 
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Getting back to the Stravinsky programme for a moment.....I have been meaning to say how wonderful I find the Nijinsky Rite of Spring and all congratulations to Bintley for taking it into the repertoire. I had been desperate to see it again after the impact it had originally made on me with the Kirov, and I strongly feel the company should have stuck with its original intention to include this work in the triple bill at Sadler's Wells in October.

There is so much I love about this version, which to me connects so closely with the intentions in the music and the original concept. Although MacMillan's version is a stunning piece of choreography I never feel any sympathy for the chosen maiden because none of the performers come across as human, they are abstract, alien like creatures. In Nijinsky however we are faced with real people, real peasants and therefore the implications of the drama hit home. The choosing of the maiden is presented with an increasing build up of tension, contrary to Cassandra complaining about the use of too much music as an overture to the second half, it is the image on the frontcloth of a spotlit lonely maiden on a rock being approached by the arbiters of her impending doom during that overture that builds the tension even before the curtain rises on the second scene.

When the curtain does go up we are confronted by the long repeating circle of maidens, they know that one of them will be chosen.We the audience do NOT know who will be chosen as all are costumed the same (unlike in MacMillan where there is no drama in the choice because we can already see who she is from the different colour costume).For me this moment is heart stopping, and its very length adds to the suspense and builds up tremendous tension leading up to the moment of selection, so much as that by the time she falls into the circle and is identified the ritual feels totally barbaric and your sympathy is totally with the chosen one. Carol-Anne Millar as the Chosen Maiden was absolutely fantastic in the sacrificial dances that follow her selection - she threw herself into the role totally, transformed and transfixed on her journey and totally absorbing the Stravinsky score with impecable musical timing. A really stunning performance.

There is so much choreographic symbolism in Nijinsky, the way for example the peasants in scene one constantly shuffle their feet on the ground in an attempt to raise the souls of their dead ancestors, the way the maidens raise their hands upwards as if reaching for a higher goal to have the honour of being chosen as the sacrificial victim, such are they all programmed with an inner understanding that for one of them this will be a duty. Everything is here in the movement and I found myself seeing so much in it, the richness of symbolism through movement does for me make this version a masterpiece of choreography, however close or not to the original the reconstruction might be.

Critics of this version seem very often to miss the point. For example some have said the choosing sequence of the maiden is too long and repetitive.........well that actually is the whole point of it.There girls have been waiting for a very long time since they were born to see if they would be chosen, for them it has been a very long constantly moving circle, simply waiting for it to happen, or not as the case may be for each individual. It's almost like they remain trapped in a continuous circle for many years until it becomes apparent whether they will be sacrificed or not. Only after this decision is made can they become truly free from this circle which binds them all together until the choice is made.

I highly recomend this version for all to see if you have the chance. It is the closest of all the versions I have seen to the harsh and unforgiving spirit in the music, it is the one where the characters are truly human, and therefore one feels genuine sympathy for them and for the plight of the chosen maiden.


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