Birmingham Royal Ballet; Triple Bill
Theme and Variations (George Balanchine), Kin. (Alexander Whitley), Enigma Variations (Frederick Ashton)
Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB)
Runs: 2h, 15m, two intervals
Birmingham Hippodrome: 9 and 10 October 2015
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 10 10 15
A fascinating snapshot of change.
Birmingham Royal Ballet has put together a fascinating triple bill here; each of the pieces is danced with great skill and beauty, but more than this, taken together they give a fascinating sense of change, both in dance and in society as a whole.
Balanchine’s THEME AND VARIATIONS (music Tchaikovsky) was created in 1947. He based this work on the pre-revolution Russian classical style. The mark of the work is in its purity—shining white costumes, fluid lines moving elegantly towards static pictures. The dance appears effortless, particularly in the work of Nao Sakuma and Cesar Morales, both of whom perform in the increasingly difficult roles with consummate expertise. Morales, while strong, is incredibly light, almost, it seems, flying from time to time.
Although divides (solo, principal, corps) are observed, you sense Balanchine pushing forward from his known conventions. Beauty and grace are to the fore, strength is implicit.
Alexander Whitley’s KIN. (music Phil Kline) would seem at the opposite and of the scale; but it is not. Whitley created the piece in 2014; his classical roots and contemporary experience merge to give us a 21st century understanding of grace and beauty. Yijing Zhang and William Bracewell expertly and warmly lead, but the dance is more democratic; it is about the dancers and their relationships. The beauty in this piece is more hard-edged, it is built upon a platform of strength. While the THEME is easy on the eye, we must work to gain the pleasure from KIN..
My only concern with this piece is in the stage presentation—the performance space is too gloomy for us to fully see what is going on.
Ashton’s ENIGMA (music Elgar) is a firm favourite from BRB. The classical tradition is clearly here, but the piece is character led. Created in 1968, Ashton is revitalising the English classical tradition and a 1960s wit and exuberance is evident. For all its mood swings, this work about friendship communicates joy to us.
Dominic Antonucci (Elgar) guides us through the shifting emotions, we are able to empathise all the way. In the photograph sequence at the end, do we see Elgar saying goodbye to his friends, Ashton saying goodbye to the Edwardian era swept away by the swinging 60s, or do we say goodbye to Ashton and the spirit of 60s hope for a happier world? From THEME AND VARIONS to KIN..
THEME AND VARIOUS: Music Tchaikovsky, Choreographed George Balanchine
KIN. Music Phil Kline, Choreographed Alexander Whitley
ENIGMA VARIATIONS: Music Elgar, Choreographed Frederick Ashton