dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Ballet dancers take on the glitter ball
Birmingham Royal Ballet's triple bills are a real treat for dance fans – featuring a wide range of productions which demonstrate the versatility of the company all in one evening. This Autumn Triple Bill has the added bonus that, for the first time, the programme sees another company performing one of its own works when Ballet Black takes to the stage with The Suit.
Sandwiched between BRB performing the world premiere of A Brief Nostalgia and Twyla Tharp's Nine Sinatra Songs, it is an evening of contrast at Birmingham Hippodrome.
Choreographed by 25-year-old Jack Lister as a co-production with Queensland Ballet, A Brief Nostalgia is inspired by those vague memories of the past for which we feel an undefined and often shadowy longing. Designed by Thomas Mika and lit by Alexander Berlage, the production makes ample use of shadows with dancers strongly highlighted to create their own life shadows with which they dance and interact. Eerily questioning just who we are, and how real are our experiences, the production is beautiful, dramatic but also wistful.
Tom Harrold's music takes us from brash to incredibly gentle and there are some stunning performances from Brandon Lawrence and Delia Mathews as they step out of the shadows. The production is part of BRB's Ballet Now programme in which the company committed to commissioning ten new ballets from ten new choreographers, designers and composers. When it was announced by former artistic director David Bintley, Ballet Now was wildly ambitious and it has resulted in some really exciting new work being premiered in Birmingham.
Ballet Black has become a company to watch since being formed by Cassa Pancho in 2001 with their work The Suit is an award-winner - and it's easy to see why. A narrative ballet, The Suit tells the story of a love triangle and how, when the deceived husband discovers his wife's infidelity, he forces her to recognise her lover's discarded suit as the third person in the family, carrying it with her everywhere she goes – until she can no longer face the guilt and shame.
It's a bleak story of ruptured love, revenge and despair and yet in Cathy Marston's choreography there is a surprising amount of joy. José Alves delights as the husband Philemon. His energy and enthusiasm at waking in the morning is captured in lots of fun as he goes about washing and dressing – taking time every now and then to kiss his beloved wife. Sayaka Ichikawa is also wonderful as Matilda, she's sexy and powerful in the arms of her lover Simon (Mthuthuzeli November) but also vulnerable when being punished. The rest of the seven-strong company provide a narrative, taking on the role of alarm clocks and wash basins, passers-by and an audience to Matilda's shame.
This is a fantastic opportunity for Birmingham audiences to see Ballet Black in all their glory on the main stage at the city's biggest theatre. Full credit to Birmingham Royal Ballet for taking the chance on this collaboration – and we look forward to seeing more joint working in the future.
Finally the evening concludes with Tharp's Nine Sinatra Songs in which company dancers swap their ballet pumps for high heels and glitzy dresses as they tango, cha cha and waltz around the floor. It's a timely performance bearing in mind we are just hitting Strictly Come Dancing season and shows the versatility of the ballet company. Light-hearted and charming, there is humour, drama and a good many lifts to well-known tunes like 'Strangers in the Night' and 'My Way'.
It always surprises me that BRB's full works like Swan Lake and Giselle can draw such larger audiences than the triple bills when these mixed programmes feature so many fantastic short works and offer such a variety of technique. The Autumn Mixed Bill is a perfect example of this and well worth catching.
The Autumn Triple Bill plays until Sept 21 with BRB performing Giselle between Sept 25-28.