Symphony Hall, Birmingham
January 19, 2018
Birmingham Royal Ballet’s gala-style Evenings of Music and Dance have always been good value. Mixing chic classical offerings from The Royal Ballet Sinfonia, under the clever baton of Paul Murphy, with carefully curated glimpses into the company’s rich dance heritage, these nights unfailingly exude expertise and classy style. But this year’s programme was something extra as director David Bintley’s marvellous and much-loved midlands institution excelled even itself.
Right from the off there was rare magic at work made up of the sheer quality of the orchestra’s playing and the stunning range of dancing on show. But the evening scored most of all in Bintley’s curation of the dance excerpts that explored the heights of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s achievements and the wealth of its repertory, while also sharing a few pieces they do not usually perform.
The Sinfonia’s musical interludes included Elgar’s sprightly Wand of Youth Suite and Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance, while ballet snapshots included the immortal clog dance from La Fille mal gardée and, most gratifyingly an historic recreation featuring the eerily feline Cesar Morales of one of ballet heritage’s most legendary triumphs, Nijinsky’s Le Spectre de la rose.
In an evening of treasures at every turn, it was the company premiere of the Adagio from Spartacus, choreographed by Bintley, that drew genuine tears, both at the swansong it represented to Iain Mackay’s long career with Birmingham Royal Ballet and the sheer artistry of his and Jenna Roberts’ performance.
Mackay also partnered Roberts in the sublime final pas de deux from Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain. How good it is to see Birmingham Royal Ballet finally dance something by the outstanding British choreographer of his generation.
But Mackay and Roberts were eclipsed by the evening’s last pieces, the Miller’s Dance and the Final Dance from de Falla’s The Three Cornered Hat; and the pas de deux from Don Quixote featuring Momoko Hirata and Mathias Dingman which literally stunned a breath-holding audience.
The final cast line-up was rewarded by that rarest of ballet responses, a spontaneous standing ovation, creating a palpable wave of love between audience and performers, immediate and genuinely heartfelt. Our heroes and heroines had risen above mundane reality to give us a rare glimpse of the sublime, and that’s just about right.
Sheer theatrical magic. Bravo.