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Ashton Double Bill Ballet - Birmingham Hippodrome Review

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Dream Of A Show From Birmingham Royal Ballet
It's set to be an exciting year with Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) as the dance company performs seven different ballets in 10 theatres -all inspired by Shakespeare's writings, to honour 400 years since the playwright's death.

This double bill, featuring exquisite works from famed choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton, heralded the start of that season at Birmingham Hippodrome.

Ashton Double Bill, The Dream, A Month In The Country, Birmingham Royal Ballet
The Dream ballet is based upon Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream

Opening with Ashton's The Dream, based on Midsummer Night's Dream, the audience is transported into a gloriously green forest scene where fairies and mortals mingle for a night of mayhem.

It's a magical and humorous production that dates back to 1964 and is bursting with the strong characterisations that helped Ashton make his name.

His choreography manages to translate Shakespeare's complex tale into an easily understood ballet of mischievous fairy tricks and romantic escapades.

Everything about this Birmingham Royal Ballet show is enchanting , including the dreamy music by Felix Mendelssohn (which includes the famous Nocturne and Wedding March).

There's even a lovely recreation of a drugged Titania falling for Bottom with a donkey's head with dancer Jonathan Caguioa dancing magnificently not only en-pointe - unusual for a male dance - but with full horse's head.

Ashton Double Bill, The Dream, A Month In The Country, Birmingham Royal Ballet
The dreamy production is from work choreographed by Frederick Ashton

Joseph Caley and Nao Sakuma also make a delightful pairing as the King and Queen of the Fairies, Oberon and Titania, and convey plenty of emotion in their romantic pas de deux.

Leaping into everyone's hearts, however, is the impressively lithe Mathias Dingman as sprightly Puck, who meddles in the love lives of locals Hermia, Lysander, Helena and Demetrius.

Despite being just a one act ballet, it has all the ingredients of some of the longer, more famous dance productions, especially when the troupe of fairies circle their queen, shimmering in the ethereal set.

Ashton Double Bill, The Dream, A Month In The Country, Birmingham Royal Ballet
Ashton's version of A Month In The Country also featured in the Double Bill show.

After the interval, the atmosphere takes on a more serious tone as it moves to Russia for another Ashton one act ballet.

Rather than Shakespeare, Ashton looks to another fine piece of literature - A Month in the Country, a tragic romance inspired by Turgenev's play.

This dance production was created in 1976 and is akin with the romantic liaisons seen in the recent TV version of War And Peace.

Set in a grand Russian mansion, the dancing gives the characters real depth as a bored housewife falls in love with a charming young man visiting her home.

This was one of the last works by Ashton and originally made for The Royal Ballet. It is set to stirring piano-led music by Chopin.

Dancer Iain Mackay is a dominant presence as the charming Beliaev, who carries out a series of intense pas de deux with his female admirers in the house.

Delia Mathews is believably morose as the lovelorn housewife Natalia and dances impeccably. There's also strong support from Karla Doorbar as her ward Vera, who is also vying for Beliaev's attentions.

It's a wonderfully dreamy start to the BRB season and is a mouth-watering taster of more Shakespeare dance performances yet to come.

Rating: 9/10

Ashton Double Bill - The Dream and A Month In The Country
Birmingham Royal Ballet
Birmingham Hippodrome
Ashton Double Bill
Wednesday 17 February Saturday 20 February 2016
Wed Sat eves 7.30pm, Thu mat 2pm, Sat mat 2.30pm

Tickets cost 10 - 26 from the Birmingham Hippodrome website.
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Why? See Ballet By One Of UK's Best Choreographers
When: Until Feb 20
Where: Birmingham Hippodrome
Cost: From 10
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