An evening of fantasy and fun

Diana and Eros

A laid-back Eros, Diana and the man-powered horse

Sylvia

Birmingham Royal Ballet

*****

DAVID Bintley has created a delightfully whimsical ballet to Léo Delibes sumptuous score which gives us everything from a dapper white linen suited Eros to a Tarzan figure who seems to hunt and gather mainly women.

Throw in a dancing peg-leg pirate and his scurvy crew, Jim lad, Diana, Goddess of the hunt, being pushed around the stage on an equestrian statue and a blinded servant in search of his love and there is enough to keep the evening ticking along at a rather relaxed, pleasant pace.

It all starts at a rather posh evening garden party, no charred beefburgers or pink chicken here, with fancy dress provided by the oh so gay duo Gilberto and Giorgio, danced with great humour by Kit Holder and Lachlan Monaghan.

The party has infidelity in the air, or at least the hope of it, whenever the host, Count Guiccioli, danced by Tyrone Singleton, is around, hoping to have his wicked way with . . . well anyone in a skirt really with Ruth Brill as a guest who has perhaps tasted a little too much fruit of the vine an early candidate.

But it all comes to a head when he tries it on with his children’s governess, danced by Momoko Hirata.

Eros, danced by Mathias Dingman, has retired from the dating business and is passing his time as the count’s gardener until he sees love is all around and rapidly going pear shaped for the straying Count and Contessa, danced by Céline Gittens, and for the burgeoning relationship between the governess and the count’s valet danced by Joseph Caley.

So Eros comes out of retirement and sends everyone off on a fantasyCaley and Hirata adventure to learn a lesson about love. And in this fantasy world he creates The Contessa becomes Diana with Gittens giving a powerful, Amazonian performance as the goddess of hunting in charge of her gang of chaste and virginal nymphs, who produce a couple of stunning ensemble numbers.

The valet, who has become Amynta, makes the mistake of stumbling upon this picture of unsullied maidenhood so Diana blinds him, as you would, leaving him to stumble around bumping into scenery and dancing and leaping into the unknown for much of the evening.

The Governess has been transformed into Sylvia who has perhaps the most interesting evening, first being caught by caveman hunter Orion, the count’s Me Tarzan role in this fantasy where he dances full of macho athleticism.

Momoko Hirata as Sylvia and Joseph Caley as Amynta. Photo: Bill Cooper

Sylvia escapes though after she teaches Gilberto and Giorgio, now Gog and Magog, to make wine in a very funny dance, leaving Orion and his two cohorts tired and emotional as newts.

Not that that is the end of her trials though, out of the frying pan and all that, as she next turns up among a bunch of slave girls on offer to Diana by the peg leg pirate captain, who it turns out is Eros in disguise.

Which gives us a remarkable performance by Dingman as a sort of Long John Silver minus Captain Flint, dancing on one good leg and a peg, with his missing leg sticking out uncomfortably behind him; and we are not talking a dad’s dance at a wedding here, this is real, often complex steps and movement which shows a high degree of balance and skill – and no doubt a sore knee and aching muscles.

In a crowded finale with Orion being slain by Diana on her man-powered horse surrounded by gods and nymphs, Amynta’s sight is restored by Eros and he is reunited with Sylvia to produce a charming pas de deux. Caley has that Peter Pan quality, always looking like a sixth former who had to ask the head’s permission to appear, and he seems to get better each time he appears with some powerful, wonderful dancing and confident lifts while Japan’s Momoko Hirata really is an enchanting dancer, so delicate and precise with lovely, quick feet.

Sue Blane’s set design provides three impressive Arcadian scenes of gardens and grottoes, with ruins of ancient Greek statues and columns; particularly impressive is the waterfall at the rear of the stage with stage fog flowing down over the rocks giving a realistic impression of a ranging torrent, a very clever touch aided by Mark Jonathan’s sympathetic lighting.

As always the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, under Koen Kessels, are the hidden stars of the show with leader Robert Gibbs earning his corn with some very exacting violin solos with high notes often ending up somewhere amid the gods themselves.

It is a wonderful score and Kessels and the Sinfonia presented it beautifully.

As a ballet Sylvia, which first appeared in 1876, never managed to set the world alight until Sir Frederick Ashton choreographed a new ballet to showcase the talents of Dame Margo Fonteyn in 1952.

Bintley’s version, which added more humour and satire, was premiered in 1993 and this revised version was first seen in 2009 and appears this year is part of his body of work for the company in a season celebrating Bintley’s 20th year as BRB director.

Sylvia runs to Saturday 27, June. BOOK

Roger Clarke

24-06-15

And a view from the terrace

*****

NOW here’s a an entertaining ballet with a real difference, beautifully performed by BRB.

The fantasy story includes a randy Count, a lecherous caveman, a peg-legged pirate who can dance joyfully, and a life-sized model horse on wheels.

And just for good measure the corps de ballet are a delight as a group of chaste nymphs in the latest performance marking legendary choreographer David Bintley’s 20th anniversary as the company’s director.

It is also blessed with spells of sparkling humour, especially delivered by the athletic Kit Holder (Gilberto and Gog) and Lachlan Monaghan (Giorgio and Magog).

But the stars of the show are without doubt Momoko Hirata, Joseph Caley and Tyrone Singleton in the tale of how a Count’s infidelities endanger the developing romance between servants Sylvia and Amynta.

Hirata (Sylvia) and Caley (Amynta) dance superbly, particularly in the final scenes, while Singleton excels as Count Guiccioli and the lusty caveman, Orion.

Celine Gittens impresses as the Countess and Diana, Goddess of the hunt, while Mathias Dingman has some wonderful moments as the rather well dressed gardener and later the peg-leg pirate chief who turns out to be Eros, the God of Love, ensuring it all ends happily.

The Royal Ballet Sinfonia, conducted by Koen Kessels, perform Delibes music superbly.

Paul Marston

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