Birmingham Royal Ballet

Production: Birmingham Royal Ballet
Venue: York Theatre Royal
Date: 19/05/09
Rating: *****

The Birmingham Royal Ballet’s (BRB) annual British tour is always a treat –
world class dancers performing on the intimacy of a York stage. The BRB are
renown for being a progressive dance company. Artistic director David
Bintley continues to hold to the philosophy of the company’s founder,
Ninette de Valois, that the best choreography ‘must have one foot in the
future and one in the past’. Similar to last year’s arrangement, the night
consisted of three short twenty-five minute ballets leading the audience
though the strictly classical to a more avant-garde style, delightfully
showcasing the diverse styles of dance that can be developed from a
traditional foundation.

The night opened with Bintley’s wonderful lyrical interpretation of
Mozart’s Galanteries. With each move mirroring the swell and fall of the
live orchestra the company of eight female and four male dancers seamlessly
glided in and out of strict geometric formations, which were particularly
well observed from the height of the gallery level. Paralleling the light
and graceful style of the musical composition the dancers moved with
joyful, at times even playful, exuberance. It was only a shame that the set
(a scruffy graphite grid that looked like it had been constructed in a
hurry) did not match the exquisite finish of the dancers.

Bintley’s second piece, entitled Dance House¸ used the music of Dmitri
Shostakovich to create a haunting “Dance of Death”, fusing classical dance
with echoes of more contemporary Thriller-esque zombie cycles. Dedicated to
Bintley’s old dancing colleague Nicholas Millington, who died abruptly of
an AIDS-related disease, the narrative production explores the nuances
between the beauty and tragedy of death. Set in a dance school the curtain
rises to a row of female dancers stretching at the bar. Yet even at the
beginning their innocent movement seems marked as each dancer wears an
ominous red line down the front of their leotard. A poignant pas de deux is
interrupted as “Death” himself enters energetically prowling across the
stage, taking control of the dancers, until his chosen victim is lured to the

The final performance, Elite Syncopations choreographed by the
much-celebrated Kenneth MacMillan, burst into life with wonderful energy as
both dancers and orchestra were on stage in brilliantly coloured costumes
reminiscent of the circus. Set as dancers gathered for a dance competition,
this lively spectacle consisted of eleven mini dances set to Scott Joplin’s
upbeat Ragtime music. Japanese dancer, Koauke Yamamoto, stole the show here
with his especially comic performance along to The Alsatian Rag. Playing on
his small height, dwarfed by a prima ballerina en pointe the duo
hilariously revered the roles of a traditional adage with tiny Yamamoto
being amusingly pushed around the stage by his towering partner.

The BRB’s reputation can only continue to grow as they perform such
technically excellent and diverse arrangements.

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