Review: Birmingham Royal Ballet @ Crescent Theatre

Birmingham Royal Ballet director David Bintley’s a clever old thing – and what he doesn’t know about programming isn’t worth knowing.

Seizing on the opportunity to showcase BRB’s work for Birmingham’s International Dance Festival his genius is deciding to foreground the company’s fresh young dancers and choreographers while giving a tantalising glimpse of the treasure-house of dance that’s the Royal Ballet’s heritage.

So, opening the evening BRB first artist Kit Holder’s Quatrain was a festival of pure movement, set to tango music which in turn evoked Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Here eight young dancers at the top of their game attained postures some of which looked frankly impossible with a verve and joie de vivre that drew torrents of applause. The orchestra sounded amazing too, lodged invisibly in the pit of the Crescent’s main house, one of the midlands’ most intimate spaces.

Second offering Kin by ex-BRB dancer Alexander Whitley also gave the dancers opportunities to exhibit technical virtuosity, their incredible extensions and endlessly varied interactions reflecting abstract movement while rejigging ballet’s classical canon of steps.

But for me the evening’s final item, only 21 minutes long, showed why BRB is world class. Les Rendezvous, choreographed in 1933 by the former Royal Ballet Director Frederick Ashton exactly demonstrates the marvellous British flowering of the traditions Diaghilev brought from Russia to root in British soil. A simple scenario, young people meeting in a park, courting, playing games, simply enjoying life gives Ashton endless opportunities to show off his amazing choreographic imagination.

The result, through endless variations of solo parts, pas de deux and ensembles, is clever, funny and breath-takingly thrilling. The use of the company’s big guns, long time partners Nao Sakuma and Chi Cao as its figureheads showed Mr.Bintley meant business by saving the best till last.

A wonderful night. If you’d never seen ballet before, I reckon you’d be hooked for life after this.