An Evening of Music and Dance

Birmingham Royal Ballet and The Royal Ballet Sinfonia at Symphony Hall, Birmingham
January 31, 2015
Phil Preece

Never having been to one of BRB’s annual music and dance evenings before, I wasn’t sure what to expect – a series of bits of ballets maybe, with one or two solo turns. But artistic director David Bintley is much too accomplished a programmer for that – instead what he gave us was a big, jolly, Nutcracker-style family party featuring a series of charming and deceptively sophisticated entertainments, with the audience invited along as privileged special guests.

First, his genial MC-ing style gave him the friendly opportunity to take us into his confidence and tell one or two delightfully indiscreet insider stories about the ballet world – the Nureyev one was unforgettable.

Then, the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, its superb precision under the baton of Dominic Grier perfect for the astounding acoustics of the Symphony Hall, with a programme full of surprises in which even the familiar sounded rich and strange. For example, after opening with a rousing rendition of Chabrol’s Joyeuse Marche they gave us the Four Seasons – not the over-familiar Vivaldi, but surprisingly Verdi’s lush opera-house version, first Winter, then to close the first half of the programme Spring, a sublime pas de deux for stars Momoko Hirata and Joseph Caley.

If a programme consisting of musical treats played by the Sinfonia alternating with dance excerpts performed by BRB’s leading dancers sounds a tad formulaic, it wasn’t purely because every item came as a delightful surprise; the unfamiliar and special brought out in every case while showcasing the Royal Ballet’s rich heritage. Frederick Ashton’s almost impossibly tricky pas de deux from The Dream was a highlight, but even this was eclipsed by the balcony scene from Macmillan’s Romeo and Juliet. Here Jenna Roberts perfectly conveyed the innocence of a fourteen year old Juliet glimpsing love for the first time, while Iain Mackay’s laughing portrayal of the seventeen year old Romeo showing off his pyrotechnic prowess looked to be a life-time high even for this star performer. Pure joy.

But even in an evening of so many delightful surprises the company still had one last great dance treat up its sleeve as it brought forward the youngest of the company’s associates, students from BRB’s associate school Elmhurst, so young and fresh, all bristling with excited energy like terriers held on the leash, all future stars in the making.