Miki Mizutani and Max Maslen dance the Bluebird pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty

An Evening of Music and Dance

Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Rep

Most UK city’s can’t claim a symphony orchestra, or at least not one anyone who lives a bus ride away has heard of, but Birmingham can claim two, and not just that, but two world class orchestras, the CBSO and the Royal Ballet Sinfonia.

And it was the turn of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s orchestra to climb out of the depths of their normal habitat in the pit onto the sunny uplands of Birmingham Rep’s stage to strut their stuff in An Evening of Music and Dance.

This is part of BRB’s week long residency at the Rep, which has showcased 25 Years of Dance Track, the free ballet classes for promising youngsters from Birmingham Schools, it has given an insight into the life of a ballet dancer behind the glamour of the couple of hours on show on match day in a performance.

It has given a chance for families and school parties to see, hear and have explained the intricacies of ballet and the parts and majesty of a symphony orchestra and, for many, it appeared, to experience for the first time a visit to a theatre – the gateway to a magical world.

And finally, comes the celebration, an evening of music and dance. Principal Conductor Paul Murphy opened up proceedings with the triumphal overture from Verdi’s Nabucco.

This the first full evening of music and dance since the pandemic started and in its return has now added song to the mix, with soprano Helsa Townsend and mezzo-soprano Samantha Lewis singing first the Evening Prayer from Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel. Then, in the second half, the well known Flower Duet from Delibes Lakmé.

Soprano Helen is a recent graduate of Birmingham Conservatoire while Samantha is on masters and Advanced Postgraduate Diploma courses there and the pair displayed clear, well controlled, pure voices, pitch perfect and with a pleasing harmony in the Flower Duet.

But this was BRB’s residency remember, so dance took centre stage opening with a pas de deux from Delibe’s Coppélia beautifully danced by principals Céline Gittens and Brandon Lawrence.


Soprano Helsa Townsend and mezzo-soprano Samantha Lewis

Heading away from European ballet to South America, we had the Red pas de deux from Venezuelan choreographer Vicente Nebrada’s Our Walzes, set to the music of his countryman Heraclio Fernández.

Principal César Morales was to dance this with Momoko Hirata, but, as she was injured first artist Rachele Pizzillo stepped, or rather danced, in and what a fine job she did in a dance full of life and flair all accompanied by accomplished company pianist Jeanette Wong.

More traditional in nature were Miki Mizutani and Max Maslen with the Bluebird pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty by Tchaikovsky, a stylised dance full of classical technique first choreographed by Marius Petipa, ballet master of the Russian Imperial Ballet. It is gentle, fairy story of a dance, full of affection rather than passion.

Something that could not be said of End of Time, a dance packed with emotion and passion by Ben Stevenson set to Rachmaninov’s emotive cello sonata in G minor third movement, beautifully played by company pianist Robert Clark and Portuguese cellist Antonio Novais.

The whole piece from music to dance was a thing of beauty, based on the premise that some cataclysmic event had left the dancers, Yijing Zhang and Brandon Lawrence, as the last two people left alive on earth.

It is a sensuous dance in body hugging costumes patterned like leaves on a desert floor, dancers creating shapes and forms, two bodies entwining, often as one, as we watch the end of humanity, the end of . . . us.

Other musical interludes included a waltz from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin and the Baccchanale from Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila.

We had Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries to blast us into the interval and to send us on our way home an excerpt from Majisimo a ballet from Cuban choreographer Jorge Garcia based on French composer Jules Massenet’s opera Le Cid, telling of Spanish hero and legend El Cid. That brought us four couples in suitable Spanish dress in a lively and colourful, Latin inspired finale.

It had been a celebration of BRB and its treasured place in the city with its internationally renowned orchestra and world class ballet whose dancers, incidentally, did a remarkable job working in the confines of a stage dominated by a full symphony orchestra.

It meant they were dancing on a narrow front of stage strip instead of the huge square expanses of their home stage at Birmingham Hippodrome and even the large rehearsal rooms at their Thorp Street home leaving them keeping  the elegant flow going amid sharp corners and tight u-turns. A feat worth a bow in itself

Roger Clarke



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