dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Socially distanced ballet
Birmingham Royal Ballet's new triple bill is an extra special evening as it's the first time the company has performed in a theatre since lockdown nearly seven months ago. And director Carlos Acosta has been ambitious with the programme – featuring all three works which are new to the company.
The performances, of which there are just five in Birmingham, five in London plus an online stream, have all been as carefully choreographed as the dances. Performed at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, audiences are socially distanced in seating and are allocated a time to enter the auditorium. Ticket holders are temperature checked, required to wear masks (unless exempt) and asked not to leave their seats during the performance or eat or drink. It all works incredibly well so the experience feels safe, well managed and as comfortable as it can be.
But back to the dance. The headline of the triple bill is a world premiere by choreographer Will Tuckett, Lazuli Sky. Created during lockdown it has been inspired by nature and wide-open skies – the lazuli of the title referring to lapis lazuli, the precious pigment used by Renaissance artists to paint translucent blue sky.
Set to music by John Adams, the piece is charged with energy but with an undertow of longing – as dancers reach for the skies and yet are bound to the earth. Solidly corporeal, the dancers throng together to move as one body but also break apart for solos and duets. And in a reminder of social distancing, there are moments where performers are kept apart by costumes two metres long – whose touch of slow spirituality is reminiscent of the whirling Dervishes.
Beginning the programme is Vicente Nebrada's Our Waltzes which sees a series of couples performing a series of duets heavily influenced by both ballroom and Latin dance. Packed full of romance, it's performed to brightly coloured backdrops which sometimes contrast and sometimes match the dancers. The piece also gives BRB pianist Jonathan Higgins a chance to be centre stage with some fantastic playing of a series of pieces by Latin composers.
Sandwiched in between is an eight-minute gem of a piece – Liebestod. Created by Valery Panov and performed to Wagner's beautiful finale to Tristan and Isolde, the piece is a solo for a male artist. Performed on 22 Oct by BRB principal Brandon Lawrence, it's a concentrated and dynamic performance in which every muscle movement is picked up by Peter Teigen's tenebrous lighting.
Lawrence is impeccable – strong yet sensitive, athletic but also minute in detail. It may be short but Liebestod certainly hits hard and demands a lot from its performer. You could watch it countless times and see something different on each occasion. During this Birmingham run, three different dancers will perform the work, and it would be fascinating to see how each interprets it.
After Birmingham, Lazuli Sky moves to London's Sadler's Wells on October 29-31. Tickets for all theatre dates for Lazuli Sky are sold out but the online performance will be streamed from 1 November. Seehttps://www.brb.org.uk/whats-on/event/lazuli-sky for details.