Review: Birmingham Royal Ballet Summer Syncopations 10th Anniversary Gala at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre

The Royal Ballet School’s Gala opened with a bang proving that thanks to Royal Ballet School Elmhurst the Midlands is home to a powerhouse of dance training young people to the highest level of excellence in this exacting medium.

Almost like offering the best course first at a rich banquet, the show opened with a huge cast of future principals in Royal Ballet genius Kenneth Macmillan’s jaunty and very funny Elite Syncopations filled with jokes about dance in which dexterity mingled with endearing artistry. Set to the bouncy ragtime music of Scott Joplin and others, played by an onstage band appearing by permission of the Birmingham Conservatoire this delightful work was absolutely tailor-made for the young performers, and before our very eyes new stars were being born with every number launching an unforgettable night that spanned a whole range of dance styles.

And this was the biggest surprise, because not only was the expected classical ballet amply displayed by all age groups but also a whole range of other dance disciplines were on show from rock’n’roll to flamenco, even fusing the latter with classical eastern dance, making it very clear these students follow no narrow curriculum, rather one drawn from a widely inclusive world of dance. The marvellous result was that this was no rarefied exhibition – these fresh dancers are being trained to work, and the evening demonstrated loud and clear that they are young professionals who can tackle any style challenge or dance opportunity that comes there way big time.

I loved the excursions into modern dance but began to get a little anxious we might be missing out on that pinnacle of all dance, classical ballet.

Right on cue the evening’s third section gave us Concerto Allegretto set to Tchaikovsky’s marvellous Piano Concerto No.2 and featuring a huge cast of highly disciplined Years 12 and 13 students (and it really was hard to remember these were still students) and finally Paquita, music by Minkus, choreography by Petipa performed by graduate students – pure classicism which literally stopped the show. The final Grand Defile of all performers brought a well-deserved storm of applause.

On this showing in the future we shall be seeing these young dancers on prestigious stages again and again

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