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After decades of emoting at and applauding fantastic performances by Birmingham Royal Ballet, I was finally accorded a unique treat – an invitation to see a matinee performance of the end of year Sixth Form Summer Show performed by the students of Elmhurst, BRB’s very own prestigious school situated slap bang next to Birmingham University and King Edward’s on the Bristol Road. You won’t be surprised to learn it was absolutely brilliant.
Ruddock Hall, King Edward VI School’s new purpose built theatre, a miracle of blonde wood and plate glass that’s a sort of miniature Symphony Hall made the perfect setting.
The afternoon’s first offering was excerpts from Swan Lake, danced entirely by these young students and I’m not ashamed to admit it had me in tears. The dancers were so young, but so good, and now ready to disappear off to all the corners of the world where ballet is prized for their first professional jobs. Playing for them and doing an excellent job was the cracking King Edward VI School Orchestra. I have no idea now why I was so surprised at the degree of excellence on display – after all, it is a prestigious ballet school, but it was all just so good.
After Swan Lake, among other treats was a marvellous Flamenco sequence complete with Catalan musicians and tour de force solos for the boys, and Proud Mary a sort of hip hop spectacular in a contemporary vein.
The second half featured several episodes from David Bintley’s tragic and moving ballet about the extinction of species – Still Life at the Penguin Café – with a marvellous score by Simon Jeffes. This sophisticated work would tax the most experienced dancers but these young ‘uns took it all in their stride.
Particularly effective was Isaac Cohen as the comically playful Texas Kangaroo rat whose cuteness ironically masked the plight of species pressurised into disappearance. For the same reason the last but one sequence, White Mischief, was almost unbearably poignant, depicting the mating ritual of the Southern Cape Zebra featuring the marvellous Alexander Drew as the last remaining male of the species.
If these are the young people about to take their place in the demanding world of ballet, all I can say is, we’re in very good hands.
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