Pan and the three nymphs in Atena Ameri's stylised setting of Ruth Brill's Arcadia

Three Short Ballets

Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Hippodrome


Birmingham Royal Ballet’s triple bills are a bit of a pick and mix affairs, a ballet variety show with a chance to show different styles of dance with, in this offering, the added bonus of a world premiere in Arcadia.

The public first saw BRB dancer Ruth Brill’s emerging talents as a choreographer with the short ballet she created to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in An Evening of Music and Dance at Symphony Hall three years ago with another to Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite No 2, Matryoshka the following year.

But Arcadia is her first commission and confirms her growing maturity and promise with a well told tale of Pan, the god of Arcadia, athletically danced on Press night by Brandon Lawrence, who expects everyone in the kingdom to worship him, so is less than chuffed when nymphs, danced by Brooke Ray, Yijing Zhang and Delia Mathews, reject his advances and he is left rejected and dejected as night falls and Selene, Goddess of the Moon, danced by Céline Gittens, appears and shows him the errors of his ways.

She teaches him to be a better man and better leader so by morning his a good guy and everyone can live happily ever after.

selene and pan

Selene, Goddess of the Moon, with Pan

The story is well told and well danced to original music by renowned composer and saxophonist John Harle who also plays solo soprano sax in the performance. The jazz inspired score has hints of Arabia and even hoe down, although I confess it is not the sort of music to stir my emotions or get my pulse racing, being more of a symphonic score sort of bloke, happiest with themes and melodies. Here, at times, it seemed we had a mixing of contemporary music with classical ballet which took some getting used to, but the score did provide the vehicle for some fine dancing in Brill’s latest piece.

Next up came Le Baiser de la fée with music by Stravinsky based on Hans Christian Anderson’s dark tale of The Ice Maiden which is more of a traditional ballet with a return of BRB’s own MoJo with Momoko Hirata dancing the bride and Joseph Caley dancing the young man, producing some quite lovely pas de deux.

The story is simple; a poor wretched mother, danced by Daria Stanciulescu, battles through a raging storm and her baby is taken from her by sprites as she lies down and dies in the snow. The leader of the sprites, the Fairy, danced beautifully by Jenna Roberts, kisses the baby before it is rescued by villagers – the kiss sealing its fate.

Le baiser

The Fairy takes The Young Man into her realm

Move on 20 years and the baby is a young man about to get married, hence the pas de deux, but as the real bride readies herself the fairy, disguised in a marriage veil, tricks the young man and another kiss means he is now hers for eternity – which means no one, except The Fairy of course, lives happily ever after. It dates from Paris in 1928, with this particular BRB production choreographed by Michael Corder from 2008.

Finally we have the light-hearted comedy Pineapple Poll which was one of the balletic successes of the Festival of Britain in 1951, produced by the forerunner to BRB, Saddler’s Well’s Theatre Ballet. It was choreographed by its newly appointed resident choreographer, the then 23-year-old John Cranko and designed by Osbert Lancaster with music by Arthur Sullivan of G&S fame – his music being conveniently out of copyright in 1950.

Set in Portsmouth all the women swoon over dashing Captain Belaye of HMS Hot Cross Bun, danced,  with suitable swagger, by Mathias Dingman. One of his many admirers is Pineapple Poll, danced with a delightful comic touch by Nao Sakuma. Poll sells trinkets to sailers and has her own admirer, the Pot Boy at the harbour pub, The Steam Packet, danced with love sick despair by Kit Holder.


Blanche, Captain Belaye and Mrs Dimple

To get closer to her love interest of the good captain, Poll disguises herself as a man to board the Hot Cross Bun, as do all the other ladies of the port, all to no avail as Belaye marries his fiancée Blanche, danced by Laura Day, who is escorted by meddling aunt Mrs Dimple, which sees the return of Daria Stanciulescu, fully recovered from being dead in the snow.

Not to worry though, Belaye gets promoted to admiral and the Captain’s armband, so to speak, is handed to the Pot Boy, which is a remarkably rapid promotion considering he wasn’t even in the navy, but the uniform has enough gold braid to get Poll’s interest so everyone can live happily ever after again.

It is a ballet full of hornpipes and rolling gaits with plenty of comic touches, all danced with a smile and an eye on the humour - a delightful and fun way to end the evening.

The always excellent Royal Ballet Sinfonia under Paul Murphy covered jazz, symphony and finally, under Philip Ellis, comic opera, and as usual never missed a beat all evening. To 24-06-17

Roger Clarke



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