Birmingham Royal Ballet has become the first major UK company to announce a return to live performance with the confirmation of a brand-new partnership with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, which will see the two established companies combine creative ingenuity to present new dance works this October, on stage with a live audience.
The world premiere performances of Lazuli Sky, choreographed by Will Tuckett, will form part of a triple bill of ballet with live music from the Royal Ballet Sinfonia at The REP on October 22-24, with 150 tickets on sale to the public for each of four shows. The show will also be filmed for broadcast in November on a ‘pay per view’ basis for audiences unable to attend the live shows.
Naturally, social distancing will apply. Family groups will be able to sit together, but will be protected by taking neighbouring seats out of commission.
Lazuli Sky is the first one-act ballet to be commissioned and presented by Carlos Acosta since assuming directorship of Birmingham Royal Ballet.
In response to the evolving way in which dance and live performance can once again be staged, Tuckett, designer Samuel Wyer and projection designer Nina Dunn, are creating a unique piece set to Shaker Loops by John Adams. The ballet will be performed within a ‘projected environment’ and will use architectural forms as part of the costuming that will help socially distance the 12 dancers. In addition, an augmented reality experience is being created in collaboration with James Simpson to provide an alternate to the ‘live’ experience, using elements of volumetric capture and a digitally altered version of sections of the choreography.
The title comes from the Lapis Lazuli, the gemstone that formed the base for the most precious and expensive colour in a Renaissance painter’s palette. It created the beautiful expanse of Leonardo da Vinci’s sky. During the recent period of lockdown, the creative team has been drawn to the open clarity of sky, wind-shaped landscapes, and birdsong, without the distractions of normal everyday living. These form the inspiration and backdrop to this outward looking, hopeful and regenerative piece.
The opening night cast for Lazuli Sky (subject to change) is due to be Damen Axtens, Ryan Felix, Haoliang Feng, Tori Forsyth-Hecken, Kit Holder, Yu Kurihara, Gus Payne, Rachele Pizzillo, Emma Price, Tom Rogers, Eilis Small, and Yuki Sugiura.
Also on the programme is Our Waltzes, choreographed by Venezuelan choreographer Vicente Nebrada, a passionate, Latin infused neo-classical work celebrating love and romance.
Popular around the world, the ballet was created for the International Ballet of Caracas in the late 1970s and has since appeared in the repertory of many international companies.
The score for Our Waltzes draws together music from late 19th and early 20th century Venezuelan composers Teresa Carreño, Salvador Llamozas, Manuel Guadalajara, Isabel de Maury, Sofia Limonta, Ramon Delgado Palacios and Heraclio Fernández.
The third ballet is Liebestod, a visceral solo piece choreographed by Valery Panov to music from Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde. It’s a ballet that bubbles, then explodes athletically before subsiding to stillness once more.
Carlos Acosta, director of Birmingham Royal Ballet says, “After joining Birmingham Royal Ballet at the beginning of the year, I set about making new friends in the city, knowing that collaboration was key to a successful and creative art form. Sean Foley, also new to the job of artistic director of The REP, and I spoke about an exciting cross-sector partnership, using the best of our creative networks in theatre and in dance to develop new work. It became clear that we shared a vision and commitment to making Birmingham the greatest city in the Arts.
“This year, Birmingham Royal Ballet celebrates 30 years of working in the heart of Birmingham. Whilst the Company continues to enjoy strong bonds with its home venue, Birmingham Hippodrome, our work to bring back large-scale, classic ballets with them is not yet complete, and will require government approval. The new partnership between Birmingham Royal Ballet and The REP will complement the relationship with Birmingham Hippodrome, and enhance creative development throughout this great city.”
Sean Foley adds, “Carlos Acosta and I are both honoured to be leading amazing cultural institutions in a great international city. It is part of our job to amplify, celebrate, and create work about that city, delivering excitement and artistic excellence for the people of Birmingham and wider afield – both nationally, and internationally.
“Particularly now, in order to survive and thrive, the Arts must find new and inventive ways to collaborate and create new works. The REP has an unrivalled pioneering history in UK theatre – from staging the world’s first modern dress Shakespeare, to being a national leader in community development and creative learning, it has always been a theatre that seeks the cultural collisions that make extraordinary art for ordinary people. This is the beginning of an exciting partnership that will encompass full-scale productions, and new ways to create audiences together. Combining The REP’s own history with Birmingham Royal Ballet’s reputation for world-class ballet gives us both hope that we can help establish Birmingham as the very best city for theatre, for dance and the creative arts.”
Some may recall that Birmingham Royal Ballet previously performed successfully at The REP around the Millennium during the Birmingham Hippodrome’s refurbishment. It is an ideal venue for dance with super sightlines, a move that should be welcomed, and a partnership that should be developed going forward.
After the performances at The REP, the triple bill will head south to London’s Sadler’s Wells, where it will be danced from October 29-31.
Tickets for The REP performances will be on sale via birmingham-rep.co.uk.
Tickets for Sadler’s Wells will be available in mid-September from sadlerswells.com.
New work in development: City of a Thousand Trades
Also now in development is City of a Thousand Trades by popular Rambert dancer and choreographer Miguel Altunaga.
The new one act abstract ballet marks the 30th anniversary of the company’s move to Birmingham, and is inspired by and celebrates the richly diverse cultural and industrial heritage of the city.
Commissioned as part of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s ‘Ballet Now’ programme which, under the new direction of Carlos Acosta, seeks to find exciting, diverse, international creative talent, City of a Thousand Trades will feature music by Mathias Coppens, designs by Guilia Scrimieri, and lighting by Michael Lee-Woolley.
The creative team of City of a Thousand Trades is using pre-recorded interviews with a cross section of the Birmingham community as a reference, to make connections and to tell its residents’ stories. Their voices and opinions, tone, music and ambitions will greatly influence this work: Where have they come from? Where are they now? What are their hopes and desires for the future of the great city of Birmingham?
City of a Thousand Trades will premiere at the Birmingham REP from May 6-8, 2021.