Review: Birmingham Royal Ballet @ Birmingham Hippodrome

Oct 5, 2013 by Phil Preece

Coming to ballet as a novice I’ve found Birmingham Royal Ballet’s intriguing triple bills a real education over the years. They always surprise with new, sometimes challenging experiences and this set featuring the choreography of BRB Director David Bintley was no exception, demonstrating clearly that their greatest strength is having a leader who is an artist first, administrator second.

This high octane programme showed just how versatile a creator he is. The first offering was the 2009 work E=mc2 based on Einstein’s theories which saw a host of fit young dancers zinging about to Matthew Hindsons’s evocative minimalist score like so many positive and negative electrons. Plotless, nice to look at, modern, with plenty of BRB’s excellent technique.

Second up was a 1993 work, Tombeaux, Bintley’s homage to the Royal Ballet’s tradition of de Valois and especially Ashton in which every variation of classical steps is presented in a series of lovely variations, partners Nao Sakuma and Cesar Morales standing out against an elegant Jasper Conran costumed ensemble.

But the real high point of the evening was his ‘Still Life’ at the Penguin Café from 1988 about the extinction of species which has assumed an iconic significance. Set to Simon Jeffes’ amazing score which ranges from the jaunty to the apocalyptic, funny yet thought-provoking, poignant and profoundly disturbing, as seen here it is a masterpiece which was greeted by excited cheers from a packed young audience and ended to prolonged curtain calls.

The crackerjack elasticity of Joseph Caley’s on-the-brink Texan Kangaroo Rat had a heart-in-mouth urgency, the comedy of the last female Skunk Flea among the routine-obsessed morris dancing males has never seemed more poignant than in Laura Day’s carefree performance, while the heartbreaking elegance of the female Southern Cape Zebras consigned to history by the shooting of their last male (the one and only Chi Cao) has never seemed more perfectly realised.

A brilliant night all round.

Next week fans will be flocking to see BRB’s spectacular production of Tchaikovsky’s lavish blockbuster The Sleeping Beauty, pinnacle of 19th Century Imperial Russian ballet.

Looking ahead, booking’s already underway for BRB’s Christmas Nutcracker, acknowledged by critics to be the best in Britain which runs from November 22 until December 12. To book phone 0844 38 5000 or go online at www.birminghamhippdrome.com.

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