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Moving Stateside - Birmingham Royal Ballet Review

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by Alison Brinkworth (subscribe)
Freelance journalist in Birmingham with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
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Trio Of Ballets And Modern Dance With American Theme
With America the inspiration behind Birmingham Royal Ballet's latest offering, it's no wonder the selection of dances in this performance is a diverse melting pot of creativity.

Moving Stateside is a 2hr 30mins production featuring a trio of short dances that were choreographed in the US over the past century. There's George Balanchine's earliest American creation to one of the ballet company's most recent commissions.

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Beautiful scenes with ballerina Elisha Willis in Serenade in Birmingham Royal Ballet's Moving Stateside


While the three works - Serenade, Lyric Pieces and In the Upper Room - have been performed in the past by dancers at Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB), it's interesting to see them side by side in this US-themed show that moves from elegant traditional ballet to avant-garde frenzied scenes.

First off, there's Balanchine's romantic and traditional ballet Serenade performed to a soundtrack of Tchaikovsky. It's a dreamy epic in shades of blue. Ballerinas in sheer pastel blue gracefully glide in front of a midnight blue backdrop on a bare stage.

But the performance has many layers as it moves between romance and anguish to depict the transformation of a ballerina into a goddess. Wonderful BRB Prima ballerina Elisha Willis, who transcended to dancing goddess many years ago, is the epitome of elegance as well as accuracy in her fine performance.

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Moving Stateside features a trio of ballet productions including Lyric Pieces


The second performance of the evening is Lyric Pieces, which premiered in Birmingham in 2012 after it was commissioned for that year's International Dance Festival Birmingham.

Award-winning American choreographer Jessica Lang is behind this work, which is set to the music of Edvard Grieg and combines classical and modern dance.

It innovately uses folded paper that is constantly moved and transformed around the dancers on stage, who have a delightful light friskiness in their steps. There's a cheeky, fun element to this ballet and visually it's very stylish with female dancers wearing satin grey dresses.

The real scene-stealer, however, needs no paper diversions when Jenna Roberts and Iain Mackay come together for a tender yet passionate pas de deux, pictured below.

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An American theme for Birmingham Royal Ballet


While the first two productions gently ease the audience into this pleasant evening of dance, the finale of In The Upper Room is an energetic, experimental journey into modern dance.

It's a feat of athletism as well as dance with the performers swapping ballet shoes for trainers, striped jumpsuits and striking red pointe shoes as they run, jump and keep the frenzy of energy going for around 40 breathless minutes.

American dance choreographer Twyla Tharp has used the throbbing, at times jarring, music of Philip Glass, which has a repetitive defiant beat for the dancers to keep up with.

This section couldn't be more opposite to the graceful ballet shown in first dance Serenade, but the stark contrast of unusual shapes, clunky running movements and full force energy makes for interesting viewing.

The addition of heavy smoke across the stage is particularly effective as the dancers emerge suddenly through the haze and then disappear just as dramatically. At one point, the three male leads dramatically appear with sweat glistening on bare, muscular torsos, while the female leads show impressive endurance.

It's an avant garde production that won't suit everyone, but still has to be admired.

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Elegant dancing by Birmingham Royal Ballet


Moving Stateside is part of BRB's Spring Season which is being performed at Birmingham Hippodrome until February 21, and continues on tour to Plymouth. It's a taster of American-influenced dances that is a pleasant collection for BRB's growing list of productions.

Rating: 7/10

Moving Stateside - Birmingham Royal Ballet
Birmingham Hippodrome
18 - 21 February
Prices from 16. Tickets are available by calling 0844 338 5000 or visiting the Birmingham Hippodrome website.
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Why? Three ballet performances with an American choreography theme
When: February 18 - 21, 2015
Phone: 0844 338 5000
Where: Birmingham Hippodrome
Cost: Tickets from 16
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