Uncertainty and Delays Affect Performance by Birmingham Royal Ballet

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Hindson, E=mc2; Walton, Tombeaux; Jeffes, ‘Still Life’ at the Penguin Café: Birmingham Royal Ballet, Royal Ballet Sinfonia/Paul Murphy (conductor), Sadler’s Wells, London, 15.10.2013 (JO’D)



Elisha Willis, Joseph Caley, James Barton, William Bracewell, Jonathan Caguioa, Kit Holder, Rory Mackay, Oliver Till, Ana Albutashvili, Arancha Baselga, Laura Day, Samara Downs, Reina Fuchigami, Laura-Jane Gibson, Delia Matthews, Miki Mizutani, Mariko Sasaki, Yaoqian Shang, Alys Shee, Emily Smith, Yvette Knight, Jenna Roberts, Yijing Zhang, Feargus Campbell, Brandon Lawrence, Iain Mackay, Steven Monteith, Tom Rogers, Tyrone Singleton, Maureya Lebowitz, Mathias Dingman


Choreography:David Bintley; Costumes: Kate Ford; Lighting:Peter Mumford




Momoko Hirata, Joseph Caley, William Bracewell, Feargus Campbell, Steven Monteith, Oliver Till, Arancha Baselga, Ruth Brill, Karla Doorbar, Samara Downs, Reina Fuchigami, Laura-Jane Gibson, Yvette Knight, Delia Matthews, Emily Smith, Yijing Zhang


Choreography: David Bintley; Design: Jaspar Conran; Lighting: John B. Read


‘Still Life’ at the Penguin Café


Air à danser: Ruth Brill; Prelude and Yodel: Angela Paul,  Iain Mackay; Long Distance: Tzu-Chao Chou; The Ecstasy of Dancing Fleas: Laura Day, Feargus Campbell, Kit Holder, Rory Mackay, Nathanael Skelton, Oliver Til; White Mischief: Chi Cao, Ana Albutashvili, Arancha Baselga, Laura-Jane Gibson, Yvette Knight, Delia Matthews, Anna Monleon, Angela Paul, Callie Roberts; Now Nothing: Céline Gittens, Tyrone Singleton, Eva Davies; Music By Numbers: Jamie Bond, Karla Doorbar, Reina Fuchigami


Choreography: David Bintley; Designs: Hayden Griffin; Lighting: John B. Read

Presenting three works by choreographer and Birmingham Royal Ballet Director, David Bintley, in reverse chronological order, this programme starts with E=mc2 from 2009. The first section of the piece, ‘Energy’, refers to the Big Bang, but there is a crepuscular quality to the light that glints on the dancers’ bare arms and legs as they move, energetically, to the clashing brass, xylophone and drums of Matthew Hindson’s commissioned score. In the second section, ‘Mass’, the dancers crouch in a group and raise an arm that waves then curls over on itself, like coral. The third and perhaps most difficult section, ‘Manhattan Project’, found some of them struggling to achieve and maintain the lines that the choreography demands. In the fourth, Celeritas2, they looked uncomfortable as they ran backwards on to the stage in pairs (one holding the other by the waist), but Maureya Lebowitz appeared engagingly relaxed and confident in her duet with Mathias Dingman. It was in this section, too, that music, choreography and dancers combined for the first time to produce a moment that ‘electrified’ the audience.

The uncertainty demonstrated in this opening work may have been due to the twenty-five minute delay (because of technical problems) to which dancers, orchestra and audience had been subjected. The evening did not begin properly until after the first interval, when the curtain went up (smoothly and to programme) on Tombeaux. In 1993, Bintley was The Royal Ballet’s Resident Choreographer, but the title refers to what he saw then as ‘the end of British ballet as I had dreamt it to be’. William Walton’s ‘Variations on a Theme by Hindemith’ was chosen as the music for this elegiac piece in which the women wear tutus in sombre shades, the men body suits of dark blue. The choreography traces a line through Frederick Ashton and Michel Fokine to Marius Petipa (Aurora is there with her four suitors). Momoko Hirata was both technically accomplished and emotionally sensitive in the principal role which leaves her turning, rather shockingly unsupported and alone, on pointes. As the partner who (for whatever reason) leaves, Joseph Caley has all the demeanour of the danseur noble. Never more so, perhaps, than in the gesture of his wave to the audience during the curtain call.

‘Still Life’ at the Penguin Café, from 1988, shows that decade’s fascination with the 1930s in the bias-cut evening gowns and dinner jackets worn by the social dancing couples of its opening section. The ecological concerns of the piece (at a time when the outlook for ecology was considered less bleak than it is now) are reflected in the ram’s head that one of the women has. Brightly-coloured and danced to the ‘catchy’, upbeat, cabaret rhythms of Simon Jeffes’ score, the piece delights in its own, animal-headed surprises, but it is perhaps the highly-stylised, black-and-white, ‘White Mischief’ section that resonates most today. The movements that Chi Cao made in his Southern Cape Zebra costume sent murmurs of appreciation through the audience. The women sharing the stage with him were constrained by high heels, but compensated for this through the intricate, Eighties patterning of their black-gloved arms.

John O’Dwyer