Yvette Knight and Tzu-Chao Chou dancing for laughs in The Alaskan Rag.

BRB Triple Bill

Birmingham Hippodrome


BRB’s triple bills are a chance to show the many different sides of ballet and dance, a chance to showcase talent, or perform party pieces, or just have fun.

So we start with Kenneth MacMillan’s Concerto, the music being Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No2, played quite beautifully by Jonathan Higgins.

This is a more classical piece with a lively pas de deux from Momoko Hirata and Tzu-Chao Chou and an impressive solo from Samara Downs, either side of a quite beautiful pas de deux in the piano solo second movement from Jenna Roberts and Tyrone Singleton.


Tyrone Singleton and Jenna Roberts in Concerto. Pictures: Andy Ross

The second act saw a return of David Bintley’s ‘Still Life’ at the Penguin Café, the still life in this case being more of a question, as in is there still life? in what is a quite serious theme about endangered species and our disregard of the planet – quite revolutionary when it was first performed in 1988.

The theme might be serious but the telling is not, as we open with Ruth Brill with a waddle as  The Great Auk, which, with her penguin waiters in a hoe down from composer Simon Jeffs brings in Samara Downs, again, as a Utah Longhorn Ram with Iain Mackay.

Next Tzu-Chao Chou is prancing about in dungarees as a Texas Kangaroo Rat before Laura day introduces the dancing fleas – who have a hint of Morris men, who end up tied in knots following her before Tyrone Singleton prances on stage rather well as a Southern Cape Zebra.

These have all been fun or noble vignettes but Brandon Lawrence and Céline Gittens as a rain forest couple and their child played with a lovely innocence by Elmhurst Ballet School year seven student Amber Cook, change the mood to one of serene tranquility.

With a slow rhythm, almost Morricone’s Mission-like there is also a sadness at an indigenous people with an uncertain future, with the mood lifted by Mathias Dingman’s Brazilian Woolly Monkey ending with everyone boarding two by two in to Noah’s Ark – everyone apart from Ruth Brill that is. The new ark came too late for her Great Auk which became extinct in 1844.

Which brings us to a fun finale with all the animals disembarking into, hopefully, a better world.

Delia Mathews in Calliope Rag

Delia Mathews in Calliope Rag

The final act is Elite Syncopations which is another short Kenneth MacMillan ballet, this time with much of the music taken from the works of the composing genius Scott Joplin – complete with a ragtime band under pianist conductor Matthew Drury.

This is a ballet full of light hearted fun with the comedy honours going to Yvette Knight and Tzu-Chao Chou in The Alaskan Rag, a piece by Joseph F Lamb rather than Joplin, incidentally. Chou’s character finds himself without a partner most of the time and when he finally gets one she is much taller, but the laughs don’t end there. The pair manage to get themselves into the most contorted positions seen in a pas de deux, or in this case pas de un et demi.

We have party pieces from Delia Mathews, Jenna Roberts and Chi Cao in a series of a fun dances guaranteed to send any audience home with a smile on their face.

As usual the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, under Philip Ellis, brought the music to life in a varied and enjoyable programme. To 30-09-17

Roger Clarke


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