Making a pointe in dance 

Birmingham Royal Ballet's In the Upper Room. Photo by Bill Cooper

Pointes of view

Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Hippodrome

***
POINTES OF VIEW, sees the Birmingham Royal Ballet perform a programme of three one-act ballet: Concerto,  The Lady and the Fool  (Birmingham only – other venues stage Slaughter on Tenth Avenue) and In the Upper Room.

Whether this be deemed a plus or minus, the programme revels in not having a tutu in sight. The lack of tutus is seen as a way of engaging with newcomers to ballet as well as provoking comment from those more aux fait with ballet. Who knew that tutus had so much influence.

Far more interesting is the deliberately clashing styles of music, staging and choreography. There literally is something for every taste – as long as they like ballet.

With the night segmented into three it means that the audience does not have the opportunity to be bored by the show. Alas, this also means that sometimes a successful segment ends too soon, but better to be left wanting more rather than gently nodding off.

Opening with Concerto, a piece created by the much lauded Kenneth MacMillan (Choreographer of BRB's forthcoming Romeo and Juliet). Whilst lacking the traditional linear plot structure, the dancers and orchestra almost afford the audience the opportunity of imagining their own. The only fault being that the slower portions of the piece have nothing to tie themselves to and, as a result they can drag a touch.  

The second, romantic, movement was the highlight of the piece with Jenna Roberts and Tyrone Singleton captivating the audience.

NARRATIVE MODE

The second piece, The Lady and the Fool is ballet in the more traditional, narrative mode. Providing a welcome contrast, the characters and plot engaged the audience in a completely different way. The scene stealing Cesar Morales, as Bootface, providing pathos to the piece. Filled with comedy, romance and conflict it is a shame that only Birmingham will get to see this treat as it provided a suitable bridge between the styles of the two acts, either side.

The final act was Twyla Tharp's In the Upper Room, a piece of such energy that it truly took the night towards a fitting crescendo. Filled with a fusion of dance styles the piece took classical ballet and then shook it up.

Dressed in trainers and bright red pointe shoes, the dancers moved at such a pace, with such grace, that the audience is literally pinned to their seat as they process what's going on. 

With nine movements it literally is a non-stop rollercoaster ride and the glistening torsos of the bare-chested male dancers ably demonstrates the sheer effort such a piece requires.

Pointes of View provides the perfect taster session for those who want to experience ballet, as well as providing an enjoyable experience for bona fide ballet fans.

COMING SOON

With this in mind the Hippodrome has provided the perfect entree to an excellent dance programme over the next month.

If traditional ballet floats your boat then from Tuesday 28th September – 2nd October the Birmingham Royal Ballet is performing Romeo & Juliet, again with the choreography by Kenneth Macmillan. This looks to be a real stonker of a production so book your tickets now!

If you're more interested in non-traditional dance then there are two upcoming performances that should fit the bill.

Tuesday 5th October & Wednesday 6th October see the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. The chance to see what some view as the most successful modern dance company on the planet is one not to be missed.

If streetdance is more up your erm . . . street then Thursday 7th October – Saturday 9th, Blaze – The Streetdance Sensation is in town.

Featuring 16 of the best street dancers, DJs and breakers in the world, including So You Think You Can Dance finalists Lizzie Gough and Tommy Franzen the night promises to be essential for fans of Streetdance.  

Pointes on View runs to 25-09-10.

Theo Clarke

Concerto:  Natasha Oughtred and Jamie Bond in unison. Photo by Bill Cooper

Another pointe of view

**** 

THIS latest triple bill by the BRB included the usual cocktail of exquisite dancing by a cast who, it seems, can do no wrong.

On opening night there was a surprise appearance by director David Bintley who announced before curtain up that one of the principal dancers, Elisha Willis, had injured a foot and would be replaced in the second piece - The Lady and the Fool - by Nao Sakuma.

But if the audience noticed that Elisha was still down to dance in the final number, In the Upper Room, that was because she and other dancers would be wearing trainer-style shoes, Bintley explained.

Well, Sakuma was excellent in the role of La Capricciosa, a famous beauty courted by three admirers representing wealth, gallantry and rank, played by Matthew Lawrence (Signor Midas), Chi Cao (Capitano Andoncino) and Jonathan Caguioa (The Prince of Arroganza).

She eventually spurns the likely trio for a shabby clown, Moondog (Iain Mackay) who had been invited with his pal, Bootface (Cesar Morales) to entertain guests at a ball. The dancing to Verdi's music was a delight.

The programme had opened with the impressive Concerto, music by Shostakovich, in which Kenneth MacMillan's choreography was stunning and the dancing of Tyrone Singleton and Jenna Roberts, in particular, outstanding.

The excellent Royal Ballet Sinfonia played for the first two pieces, with rather repetitive recorded music taking over for the final contribution, In the Upper Room, which was certainly full of action and clearly suited the taste of some sections of the audience, although I found it hard going.

Pointes of View closed on Saturday night (Sep 25), and next week the BRB return to the Hippodrome with the classic story, Romeo and Juliet (Sep 28 - October 2).

Paul Marston

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