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PostPosted: Sat Apr 05, 2008 2:19 am 
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An Evening of Music and Dance

The programme for Birmingham Royal Ballet's annual 'Evening of Music and Dance' on April 18 at the city's Symphony Hall has been announced. As usual, the proramme is a mix of orchestra concert and danced pieces. The works to be danced and casting are as follows:

Card Game (3rd deal) (ch Cranko) - Jamie Bond, Carol Anne-Millar.
Concerto pas de deux (ch MacMillan) - Jamie Bond, Jenna Roberts.
Giselle Act II pas de deux (ch Petipa) - Nao Sakuma, Matthew Lawrence
Raymonda Act III pas de trois and solos (ch Nureyev) - Elisha Willis, Gaylene Cummerfield and others
Spring Waters pas de deux (ch Messerer) - Elisha Willis, Dominic Antonucci.
Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux (ch Balanchine) - Momoko Hirata, Joseph Caley.


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 Post subject: Desmond Kelly
PostPosted: Wed Apr 16, 2008 6:06 am 
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Desmond Kelly to retire

Birmingham Royal Ballet has announced that after 38 years with the Royal Ballet companies, Assistant Director Desmond Kelly will retire this summer.

A gala to celebrate his career is being held on Saturday 28 June at 7.30pm, at the Birmingham Hippodrome. Guest artists so far confirmed include former company Principals Robert Parker, Joseph Cipolla and Miyako Yoshida.


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PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 9:27 am 
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Desmond Kelly moves to Elmhurst

Further to my previous post, Birmingham Royal Ballet has now confirmed the appointment of Desmond Kelly as the new Artistic Director of Elmhurst School for Dance. He will take up his new position at the School in September.

Desmond Kelly will replace Mary Goodhew who has accepted the post of Director at the Legat School of Dance in Sussex.

I think this can only serve to increase the links between the company and the school, and hopefully lead to more students graduating with the company's style.


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 Post subject: Giselle
PostPosted: Wed Jul 02, 2008 1:24 am 
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Birmingham Royal Ballet - ‘Giselle’
Hippodrome Theatre, Birmingham, UK; June 27, 2008


That “Giselle”, now 167 years old, remains one of the best loved ballets, says a great deal about the work, and perhaps about our own needs for romantic love, spiced with a touch of the mysterious and the supernatural. It is the epitome of romantic ballet, especially Act II, where the dancers are dressed in billowing white tutus, and who seem so pure. Look at them for too long and they vanish, just like the spirits they portray.

Galina Samsova’s production for Birmingham Royal Ballet production dates from 1999, and includes new designs by Hayden Griffin. The sets are excellent. The village of Act I is not too chocolate boxy, but the star is undoubtedly the spooky, ghostly graveyard and ruined church of Act II. With the moon casting shadows as it shines through the broken windows, it sends a shiver down the spine as soon as the curtain rises. It has to be said though, that some of the hunting party’s costumes look more like brightly coloured playing cards come to life than anything you will ever see in a forest. Most animals would spot the hideous mix of red and yellows a mile off.

Nao Sakuma was an ideal Giselle. In Act I she was full of life as she skipped around the stage. Her death scene was especially impressive. There may be no broken hearts here, but Giselle’s fragile character certainly came through loud and clear. Having realised Albrecht’s deception she runs herself through with his sword. With her hair down and a face that screamed passion, this was clearly a girl in torment. Martin Lawrence clearly comes from the cool, detached school of ballet nobility. Technically excellent, and a superb partner, while he may have loved Giselle, he always seemed rather cool, and perhaps even a little distant. Having said that, he did seem full of remorse in Act II.

The focus of the ballet is of course on the love triangle of Giselle, Albrecht and Hilarion. One of the highlights of Act I though was the joyous dancing of Momoko Hirata and Yosuke Yamomoto in the Harvest pas de deux. These two were beautifully matched and full of bounce. They showed just the sort of happy relationship you might have expected to see from Albrecht and Giselle. Elsewhere, Gaylene Cummerfield was a first rate Myrtha, as she orchestrated her army of Wilis in their pursuit of Albrecht and Hilarion.

They say you should never appear with children or animals. The Birmingham hunting party arrives complete with Bathilde on a large white horse, and two hunting dogs, one of which seemed determined to steal the show as Sakuma danced a solo. After much looking around and a large yawn, rather an undeserved comment on proceedings, I thought, it proceeded to stretch with its back end stuck in the air towards the audience, then demanded stroking and talking to by its handler. Maybe he or she is just not a ballet fan. I’m not sure why you have to have real animals anyway, but if you’re going to, you have to have all live animals. Although the horse and dogs were real enough, the hunting bird was decidedly stuffed.

But that’s a minor aside and shouldn’t take away from what was a highly enjoyable performance, told with great clarity. And after the relatively poor houses for the recent visit of the Kirov, it was great to see the huge Hippodrome auditorium almost full for ballet once again.

The Royal Ballet Sinfonia was conducted by Paul Murphy.


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 Post subject: Baiser de la fee
PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 1:42 am 
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Birmingham Royal Ballet - ‘Petrushka’, ‘Le Baiser de la fée’, ‘Card Game’
Hippodrome Theatre, Birmingham, UK; July 3, 2008


Over the past few years, June at Birmingham Royal Ballet has come to mean one thing - Stravinsky. For the final programme of ballets to this most influential of composer’s music, artistic director David Bintley gave three works spanning a century of dance: Fokine’s “Petrushka”, now almost 100 years old; John Cranko’s “Card Game” from the 1960s; and bringing us right up to date, a new production of Le Baiser de la fée from Michael Corder.

Over the years, “Le Baiser de la fée” has been something of a problem ballet. Following Nijinska’s original, Ashton, MacMillan (twice), Hynd, Balanchine, and many others have attempted it. Not only is there no definitive version, but none have even remained in the repertory.

The problem, I suspect, stems from Stravinsky’s scenario. “Baiser” may be based on the Hans Christian Andersen story “The Ice Maiden”, but Stravinsky rather dipped in and out of it, giving us scenes from the narrative, rather than the full work. The result is a ballet that, even though often presented as a straightforward narrative, has never quite told a story. Corder has tried to make more sense of some things, for example, the bride doesn’t quite disappear from matters without explanation as she does in the scenario, but its still not quite the full works. The problems start to multiply when you consider that none of the characters in the scenario are named or have a history, and there is a twenty year gap to account for between the prologue and scene 1. All this has left choreographers with a conundrum: try and give the story substance, or stick with the music - or I guess, do what Balanchine when he remade it as “Divertimento from Basier de la fée”, and drop all pretence of a narrative completely.

Michael Corder went with the music, and not surprisingly, the result is a ballet that while apparently dramatic, never really tells a story. The characters are not delineated and have no depth. What Corder has produced though is forty-five minutes of hugely enjoyable and very well crafted dance. From the opening desolate, wintry landscape, to the wedding preparations, and back to the cold outdoors, it is extremely watchable. It must also be truly stamina sapping, especially for the Young Man, danced here by Alexander Campbell, who seems to be on stage for most of the work. The dance never seems to stop. Indeed, Corder has even choreographed a pas de deux in the section to music originally scored to cover a scene change.

While dramatically, it can be argued things should have been stronger, technically the whole cast were outstanding. Campbell was amazingly light in his footwork and solid in his partnering. Jenna Roberts was a deliciously icy fairy, although a touch more evil might have been nice. And Natasha Oughtred, again featuring in a major role after her move from London, made for a delightful happy, soft and carefree bride.

That there are references to other works is hardly surprising. After all, the score itself is loosely based on snippets of Tchaikovsky, and the story definitely has parallels with “Swan Lake”, with the fairy and bride as Odette and Odile respectively. The most visual reference though is to “The Sleeping Beauty”, and comes right at the denouement, as the Young Man is lifted high by the fairy’s sprites, to once more receive her kiss.

The whole is helped along enormously by John Macfarlane’s incredibly evocative sets. The outdoor scenes simply scream ice and cold. Cleverly, the sides of the stage are left as black flats, which simply add to the sense of space. The sets shift from wilderness, to forest, to indoors with such amazing ease. You almost don’t notice it happening. Having said that, I’m not quite so sure about the indoor scenery itself, which looked rather more like the inside of a big house than the villager’s cottage you might expect. The red colours certainly emphasised the difference from the outdoors though.

“Petrushka”, Fokine’s story of a simple-minded puppet in love with a ballerina-doll, is a busy and colourful ballet. Alexandre Benoit’s designs certainly radiate the atmosphere of a nineteenth-century winter fair. Alexander Campbell, who had a busy evening, was very expressive as he brought human emotions to his straw-filled being. Ambra Vallo, the object of his desires, was as graceful as a doll can be, while Dominic Antonucci swaggered menacingly as the Moor. After all the fun, the sight of the spirit of Putrushka on the roof is touching indeed.

“Card Game”, which concluded the evening, has its moments, but it’s far from being the comedy ballet it’s billed as. Some of the imagery is good though, such as the way each of the three deals is dealt, and the moment when five dancers fan out like cards in the hand. Jamie Bond was excellent as the Joker, a sly and scheming master of ceremonies.

As always, The Royal Ballet Sinfonia guided us through the programme, with Barry Wordsworth, conducting for “Petrushka” and “Card Game”, and Nicholas Kok for “Baiser”.

And so Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Stravinsky-fest comes to an end. “Card Game” was not the best ballet to go out on, and the composer might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there have been some wonderful triple bills over the past few seasons. Highlight was undoubtedly last year’s superb all-Balanchine evening. From this programme it will be interesting to see how Corder’s “Baiser” develops, and whether the dancers will start to add depth to their characters, or whether it remains, a little like the original scenario, a curiously semi-narrative work.


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 Post subject: Bintley in Tokyo
PostPosted: Fri Jul 11, 2008 10:15 am 
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Location: Rugby, UK / Taipei
David Bintley appointed Artistic Director of New National Theatre Ballet Company, Tokyo

Birmingham Royal Ballet has announced that David Bintley, in addition to his post with the Company, is to be appointed Artistic Director of the New National Theatre Ballet Company, Tokyo. The appointment is for an initial three-year period commencing in 2010, until then he will become Artistic Advisor to the Company.

The press release goes on, "This will further enhance the existing relationship between the two Companies and follows the hugely successful staging of Bintley's Carmina Burana (Tokyo 2005) and his current work with the company, the creation of a new full length ballet Aladdin, due to premiere at the New National Theatre on 15th November 2008." Birmingham Royal Ballet also successfully toured Japan with "Coppelia" and "Beauty and the Beast" in early 2008.

Christopher Barron, Chief Executive of Birmingham Royal Ballet said:

'We are thrilled that David will be able to combine both posts, which we believe will create many opportunities for cooperation between the two Companies, both on, and off stage. It provides an even larger arena to showcase David, the Company and what is excellent about The City of Birmingham and those people who live and work within it'

In a statement, the New National Theatre said:

'David Bintley brings his excellent experience as an Artistic Director, his extraordinary talent which is acknowledged throughout the world and a deep respect from the dancers and the theatre. We look forward to him bringing more of his works into the Company whilst making full use of his skills and knowledge as an artistic programme. Under his direction, we look forward to seeing individuals at all levels of the Company grow as they face new and exciting challenges.'


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 03, 2008 9:45 am 
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Company promotions and arrivals

Birmingham Royal Ballet has announced the following promotions:

Jamie Bond, Natasha Oughtred, Jenna Roberts and Lei Zhao from Soloist to First Soloist.
Momoko Hirata from First Artist to Soloist.
Aaron Robison from Artist to First Artist.

...and joing the company for 2008-9 are:

César Morales from English National Ballet as Principal Dancer.
Laura Davenport from Elmhurst School for Dance as Artist.
Dusty Button, Delia Mathews and Nicki Moffatt, from The Royal Ballet School as Artists.
Zhang Yi-jing (China) from the Hamburg Ballet School as Artist.


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