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Fun and frivolity at the ballet
This trio of dance routines is a bit like seeing Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) let its hair down and get breezy. It's fun, frivolous and a fantastic creative journey into imaginative scenes.
A trio of short ballets to wet the taste buds
First of all, there is Card Game - an energetic routine where the dancers are a pack of cards. The choreography is breathtaking and their lithe bodies really do look like they are being shuffled, laid out and piled up.
While the steadfast strong men of 'hearts' and sturdy 'spade' couples provide a masterclass in syncopated routines, the twinkle in our eye comes from the quirky, rebellious characters. Among these are the sprightly, childlike Two of Diamonds (a vibrant Laura Day), who is treated as an outsider by the cards around her, and the wonderful Joker (dancer Jamie Bond), whose make-up makes him look more like the Joker from the early Batman films.
Dealing us through 24 minutes of dancing to a Stravinsky soundtrack there are even huge human-sized playing cards that sweep on to stage between each hand of the game. By the end, you will feel as though you have been dealt a full house.
Following a brief interval, the show continues with the second section - Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.
Dazzling costumes in Birmingham Royal Ballet's Three of a Kind
In a rare moment, some of the dancers speak to set the scene of murder and mayhem in a New York-type gangster world. We see a bad guy hire an assassin to go to a theatre and shoot a rival dancer in the final scene of a show, when he is supposed to act out shooting himself. This plot however is overheard by another dancer.
Adding to the fun, our gunman appears among the audience, in the balcony seats, to watch our "show within a show" with his handgun in place.
As the curtain rises, we are transported to a bustling striptease club where seductive and sensuous dancer (Celine Gittens) attracts the attention of a love struck customer, to the annoyance of her gun-toting boss.
Amid the tongue-in-cheek drama are dim-witted keystone cops jumping around and long-suffering bartenders who diligently sweep up bodies on the club floor.
Gittens' dancing is impeccable and she stands out with her effortless moves and unwavering control while balancing repeatedly on one leg.
It is once the show approaches its finale that a dancer who overheard the murder plot gets a message to the potential victim - who must keep on tap dancing to avoid being shot. I won't give away the ending, but it is all great fun with plenty of flair.
Dance fans may be interested to know that the original Slaughter on Tenth Avenue routine dates back to the 1930s, when it was created by famed choreographer George Balanchine to music by Rogers of Rogers and Hammerstein, and has since been updated.
Three of a Kind is part of Birmingham Royal Ballet's Spring Season
The final dance routine of the trio is alive with colour and ragtime. Elite Syncopations sees the Royal Ballet Sinfonia move up from the orchestra pit to the stage to become a band playing Scott Joplin music for a group of the most brightly-costumed dancers you are likely to ever see.
Adorned with rainbow coloured hats and dressed top to toe in painted body stockings of stripes and dots (reminiscent of something Queen frontman Freddie Mercury would have worn), the company of dancers take it in turns to dazzle in this light-hearted piece.
There's plenty of humour too with the "bad" dancers obviously working very hard to make their choreographed mistakes come across so well - something that is harder to do than perform a normal routine.
Jenna Roberts and Yasuo Atsuji are excellent as the leading lights in this section of the show with their exceptional pas du deux. They are both strong and exact and the whole routine, like Joplin's music, is light, jolly and makes you feel good.
Three of a Kind - Birmingham Royal Ballet
Birmingham Hippodrome - Until Saturday February 22 - 2.30pm and 7.30pm.