Memories and magic

Beauty and Beast: Elisha Willis as Belle and Iain Mackay as the Beast. Photo: Roy Smiljanic

20 Years Celebration

Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Hippodrome


AUDACIOUS was how  director David Bintley described Birmingham's bid to entice the Saddler's Wells Royal Ballet to the city and the same could apply to last night's 20th anniversary celebration.

Ballet and dance covering more than a century and two decades in Birmingham were condensed into two hours of magic and gratitude for what Birmingjham Royal Ballet have brought to the city.

This was the BRB's equivalent to the old Greatest Hits CD with 15 dances from ballets associated with the BRB as well as an overture for each half which showed off the talents of the Royal Ballet Sinfonia conducted by Philip Ellis and Paul Murphy.

Linking the dances were interviews with the likes of Bintley, a sprightly Sir Peter Wright and news footage shown on large TV screens scattered around the hippodrome.

Cleverest link of all was for the sexually charged pas the deux from Richard Rodgers Slaughter on Tenth Avenue with the introduction for the same piece on TV from the Royal Variety Show at the Hippodrome 1999.

Amid the BRB' s contribution was a pas de deux from Concerto by Shostakovich danced more than competently by Yasmin Naghdi and Sander Blommaert and Birthday Waltz danced by eight different years from Elmshurst School of Dance.


Bintley told us that the BRB founder Dame Ninette de Valois had told him one should always have one foot in the past and one foot in the future and on last night's showing the future seems reassuringly sure footed.

Also included in the programme were seven dancers from the Ballet Hoo! project, the pro-am version of Romeo and Juliet performed in 2006 which brought a hundred or so youngsters from diverse backgrounds together with the help of youth and social workers to learn discipline through ballet – a medium many of them had never seen and knew nothing about.

The evening though was about the BRB and a 20th birthday party which opened with a stunning Orpheus Suite in stark black and white followed by the Grand pas de deux from The Nutcracker (Gaylene Cummerfield, Iain Mackay) – the BRB's first thank you to Brum twenty years ago.

The Balcony pas the deux from Romeo and Juliet (Nao Sakuma, Chi Cao) was another highlight as was the Act 1 pas de deux from Beauty and the Beast (Elisha Willis, Iain Mackay) and the excerpt from  Carmina burana with Robert Parker, (seen right)  Carol-Anne Millar and Joseph Caley

Highlight of the evening was the haunting reconciliation pas de deux from The Two Pigeons (Natasha Oughtred, Joseph Caley) choreographed by the founder choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton complete with two live white pigeons who deserved a bow of their own.

Amid the beauty though was humour with Michael O'Hare back for Will Mossop's stag night in Hobson's Choice and a peg-legged pirate doing some quite amazing things swinging a leg in Sylvia and the dance expression of the bane of modern office life – printer jam (Kristen McGarrity, Joseph Caley).


The evening ended  with a pas de deux from Aladdin followed by the Polonaise from George Balanchine's 1947 ballet Theme and Variations based on  Tchaikovsky's Suite No. 3 for Orchestra in G major, Op. 55. (No Sakuma, Chi Cao).

The audience had been treated to plenty of variety from Duke Ellington to Tchaikovsky, modern dance to classical ballet which encapsulated all the variety and vitality BRB has brought to the city over the past two decades. These were party pieces with nothing cutting edge and no time to develop anything beyond what was almost a medley of their achievements. Solid and safe but this was really all about celebration though and it would be churlish not to give them five stars on their birthday.

There was a chance to see the celebration again the following afternoon and on the evening of March 10 the ballet lived up to its royal tag when the BRB President Prince Charles attended the celebrations. Sadly his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall and patron of the Elmshurst School of Dance, was unable to attend because of a back problem

review date 09-3-2010

Roger Clarke

And de deux . . .


THIS was a celebration fit to put before a king, and the country's next monarch, Prince Charles, was there to see it on Wednesday night.

President of the BRB, the Prince of Wales has praised the company's achievements since relocating from London's Sadler's Wells Theatre in 1990, and the three gala performances underlined what a coup the switch was for the Midlands.

First under the leadership of the legendary Sir Peter Wright and now guided by brilliant choreographer David Bintley, the world renowned Birmingham Royal Ballet is the jewel in the crown of Birmingham, and the city leaders deserve praise for their vision in attracting the company to this region.

The special celebration included exerpts from the great classics performed in a double decade of delightful dance as well as some of the special works created by the company.

The Grand pas de deux from The Nutcracker, pieces from Carmina Burana, Hobson's Choice, Romeo and Juliet, Beauty and the Beast and the amazing The Two Pigeons were all there in breathtaking splendour, and the sexiest ballet dance you will ever see - the pas de deux from Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.

 A glorious piece of humorous dance, too, came with the pirates from Sylvia, including a pistol-packing pirate king performing brilliantly with a wooden peg leg!

 Huge TV screens were used for occasional interviews with Sir Peter and Bintley, tracing the move from London and some of the world tours by the ballet as well as showing the work done with under privileged children at home and abroad.

Two hours of ballet bliss. 

Paul Marston 


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