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Last updated: October 16, 2013 6:20 pm
Birmingham Royal Ballet returned this week to its ancestral home in Islington, London, scene of its birth in 1946 as part of Ninette de Valois’ scheme for a national ballet. (We used to sit at the back of the stalls for two shillings and watch Nadia Nerina and Elaine Fifield and the earliest MacMillan and Cranko creations, those young dancers and choreographers who helped shape our balletic future.) Looking at the troupe on Tuesday in a triple bill of works by its director, David Bintley, I knew that this was far more credible as a realisation of Dame Ninette’s ideals than the present activities of the Covent Garden troupe.
Here was a programme of works by a choreographer sprung from the traditions of our national ensemble, part of a season that will also feature The Sleeping Beauty, greatest of the old Russian “classics”. Compare and contrast, ask the examiners, with such recent Royal Ballet miscalculations as the alien fatuities of Raven Girl or the pallid ineptitudes of the new Don Quixote . Bintley proposes a lively trio of choreographies: E=mc2 is a fizzing realisation of a vivid score by Matthew Hindson; Tombeaux, a neo-classic display of real felicity, uses an important Walton composition and boasts elegantly stylish design by Jasper Conran; Still Life at the Penguin Café offers garrulous music by Simon Jeffes and a theme about endangered animal species, and I loathe its message, but it is popular and ends the evening with an earnestly predictable warning about things ecological.
In everything, the programme is a logical and honourable continuation of the traditions of our national ballet. Standards of dancing may be less gleaming than at Covent Garden – though without imported artists neither troupe seems able to cope with its repertory – yet, watching BRB, I sensed the essential links with those historic and inevitable ideals that should distinguish our national troupe (which I have watched and deeply loved for much of its existence) and increasingly seem forgotten or ignored at Covent Garden.
The evening suffered stage disasters from fire and imbecile computers, but went admirably on, with splendid playing from the Royal Ballet Sinfonia under Paul Murphy. Hurrah for Brum.
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