Review: Ballet British Colombia @ Birmingham Hippodrome

This year’s brilliantly wide-ranging Birmingham Dance Festival has zipped by in a headlong rush filled with inspired programming that’s brought a heady mix of dance styles from right around the world to the Midlands, with the overall emphasis quite rightly on the new.

We’re almost at the very end of it now but just in time I caught up with the UK premiere of Ballet British Colombia’s dark programme by three female choreographers, filled with strange, restless movement and impassioned gesture that screamed out alienation on a global scale.

Ballet British Columbia

Ballet British Columbia

In this company’s vision humans seem doomed to perform the same repetitive tropes and gestures, endlessly grouping and regrouping but nevertheless forced by pressures greater than the individual into mass movements that rarely see resolution or reach personally satisfying goals.

The evening’s first offering, Emily Molnar’s 16 + A Room featured yes, 16 dancers, the men in dark t-shirts and All Saints jeans, their passing and repassing, massing and separating suggesting organic crowds at say, railway stations but with everyone bent on a different destination, often using beautifully soft, slow enigmatic gestures, calming and ultimately mesmerising.

Bill, the second piece by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar featured a video backdrop of falling water, rain or waterfall, of severe beauty. The action of the ballet recalled Arnold’s Dover beach, where “ignorant armies clash by night” as rivalries alternated with temporary alliances.

The evening’s final offering Solo Echo by Crystal Pite danced to a pair of Brahms Cello Sonatas featured nude suits for the second time in the Festival (do I detect a trend that might end in total full frontal soon? There was partial at the Crescent the other evening) as the whole ensemble moved convulsively, obsessively, independently over and over to the music of two Brahms cello sonatas

For myself I must admit I love a narrative line, in other words a good old-fashioned story, but there is something very persuasive about the passionate commitment of dancers engaged in this tightly constructed, highly pressured kind of performance that is very impressive.

This year has given the midlands (and beyond) a marvellous opportunity to see modern dance in its many current forms. Bring on next year’s festival I say!

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