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Odyssey

Birmingham Royal Ballet & Royal Ballet Sinfonia - Evening of Music and Dance - 15th Feb 2019, Birmingham

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What a lovely evening! I feel privileged to have been at David Bintley’ s final appearance at the annual Evening of Music and Dance.

 We had treats aplenty with a programme devoted entirely to David Bintley’s work, each element introduced by the man himself with anecdotes a plenty, danced by a range of company principals, first soloists and soloists, demonstrating the depth and versatility of this jewel of a company. Then we had the  orchestra of the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, led by the energetic Paul Murphy, heard and seen (in the words of Bintley “ they scrub up nicely”), in the acoustically  perfect setting of the Symphony Hall. We had a world premiere in Tsfasmania, a piece choreographed by company soloist, Kit Hoder, reflecting signature steps from a range of Bintley’s ballets and accompanied by the wonderful Jonathan Higgins playing the fiendishly difficult First Movement of Tsfasman’s Piano Concerto - a little known composer in the West, who Bintley admitted he hadn’t heard of when first approached by Holder. The ‘curtain call’ included an emotional tribute from Marion Tait, who spoke of her forty year ‘parnership’, working with David, and a standing ovation with a flower throw orchestrated by dancers of the BRB. There was a strong showing of both current and past dancers of the company. 

Now to the dancing. This annual event has always included excerpts from ballets currently in the repertoire and in this case we had the Clog Dance and Lily of Laguna pas de deux from Hobson’s Choice. Bintley reflected that unlike the ‘stuffy’ Covent Garden audience, where it was premiered, the Birmingham audience has always sung along to Lily of Laguna . We were invited to do so again - which we did, Lachlan Monaghan made a lively Will Mossop, capturing the sunny spirit of this popular ballet. Also from the current rep was the Act 1 pas de deux from Beauty and the Beast. Bintley spoke about the heavy and unbearable nature of the Beast’s  costume. Tyrone Singleton certainly showed no evidence of any adverse reaction. His moving interpretation reached out beyond the layers of fur and together with Yvette Knight, they generated real pathos for the complex emotions these two characters  feel upon their first encounter.

Other highlights included two wonderfully danced extracts from Carmine Burana, featuring Samara Downs and Brandon Lawrence in the seductive pas de deux Sick with Love and the energetic Boiling with Rage solo,which Mathias Dingman threw himself into with suitable vigour. The first half finished in style with the Act 2 pas de deux from Bintley’s Cinderella. This was an accomplished and beautifully nuanced performance from Delia  Matthews and Tyrone Singleton. My personal highlights were both in the second half. Firstly, the Unsquare Dance from Take Five. Bintley’s interpretation of Dave Brubeck’s music is a crowd pleasing piece with the dancers’ clapping maintaining the rhythm throughout the piece whilst managing to perform fast, apparently, ‘improvised’ movements. This was superbly performed by four dancers, Tzu Chao-Chou, Brandon Lawrence, Tom Rogers and Lachlan Monaghanth, demonstrating the strength and depth of the company. The final piece was the Act 3 pas de deux from Bintley’s Sylvia, danced by Momoko Hirata and Mathias Dingman. She is a lovely, light, dancer,  exquisite shaping in her upper body,  fast turns, technically so secure, and he, an attentive and strong partner, polished and technically secure in his solo. 

I shouldn’t forget to mention the Sinfonia also treated us to the Overture from Verdi’s The Force of Destiny ,  Elgar’s Sospiri and Copelahnd’s beautiful The Red Pony Suite!

Whether this  remarkable event will continue following David Bintley’s departure remains to be seen, but I personally doubt that it will. This is so imbued with David’s own personality and the unique relationship that he has developed with the City of Birmingham. I am glad to have been a witness to it over the years. What an emotional few moths lie ahead.

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Thanks so much for that wonderful review, Odyssey!  

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Whatever lies ahead it is the end of a wonderful era. Your review brought tears to my eyes Odyssey ( though I had to chuckle at the idea of 'emotional moths ahead' have you been watching The Concert?)

 

There is no replacing someone like Mr Bintley.

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Thank you Odyssey for your lovely and thorough review of this evening, Bintley's final event of this kind.  I was also there and really enjoyed it.  Odyssey's review is so good there is little to add to it.

 

I found it very interesting to hear Bintley's thoughts on the years gone by and the different productions he was involved in. How he didn't initially want to do Cinderella and found BBC filming of it added extra stress, and that it nearly fell through financially but for a legacy which rescued it. That he refused Sir Peter Wright's request that he produce a new Coppelia, in favour of Sylvia. How he met his dancer wife in a rehearsal room while listening to the music of Carmina Burana. 

 

I agree about the special set of highlights in the second half. Apart from the stunning showstopper of the Sylvia pdd, I really loved the Tsfasmania premiere, it was so sharp and lively and exquisite. Take Five was a bit of a revelation to me, I found it completely convincing. 

 

Being rather curmudgeonly - I am not sure of the staging in this event with the small stage space for dancing, I think it does cramp the dancers' style a bit.  And generally I am not a great fan of ballet 'galas'.  But as an overview of Bintley's work, and a farewell to him. the evening was such a unique opportunity that I admit these quibbles are probably churlish. Despite the rather unusual staging for ballet, the discoveries and moments in the evening are so high quality and revelatory that it's a really great event to attend. I thought this last year too (the only other time I've been), and if there were future events like this I would probably attend again. 

 

Really nice to meet you George C at the interval and hear your thoughts about the future of the company. Like many others here on the forum, we value BRB so much that it's hard not to be worried about future changes in direction. And inevitably very sad about saying goodbye to Bintley. But we must wait and see.

 

Edited to mention that I've just found out the final ovation and Marion Tait's tribute was recorded and can be viewed at 

https://vimeo.com/317672039

 

Edited by northstar
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I am Gutted I missed this! I have So much respect for David Bintley. I remember him clearly when he danced and I enjoyed all his ballets, some more than others obviously. But all of them were crafted with love and knowledge of his company. There never was such a wonderfully talented touring company like SWRB for both it's dancers and choreographers - I still miss them coming to Liverpool. From seeing that immensely talented young man grow to the David Bintley we see today reminds me that life really is brief, and we should cherish and appreciate those around us who bring us such Joy.

I wish a truly happy future to David and I hope we continue to see more of his fantastic ballets.

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Impossible to add to a great review by Odyssey.

i am also one who doesn’t much enjoy ballet ‘bits’ and am not fond of galas so have not previously gone to this annual event. This year however, it was obviously going to be a very special one and to anyone as fond of BRB and the work of David Bintley as I am, not to be missed.. it fully came up to expectations and apart from showcasing the wonderful orchestra it displayed the brilliance, virtuosity and enthusiasm of this company which I feel does not always get the national respect it deserves.

Having supported since 1945 all the variations of Sadlers Wells that have developed since.I just hope that the future will stay as successful as it is at the moment.

Good to meet you North Star and hope to see you in Birmingham again and many thanks for the link.

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The Royal Ballet Sinfonia and Birmingham Royal Ballet's annual Evening of Music and Dance has long been one of my favourite nights of the year.  The evenings have been invariably well put together and hugely enjoyable.  The orchestra has always sounded magnificent in the glorious Symphony Hall and it's always great to see dancers in such an intimate (OK I sit on the front row) setting.

 

I suspected that last night's performance would be both magnificent and emotional and I was right on both counts.  David Bintley was able to control his emotions until the final curtain calls but there was no doubt about it - the orchestra played their hearts and souls out and the dancers danced their hearts and souls out too.  It was a heart-warming and thrilling celebration of David Bintley's directorship of the company and will live on in my memory banks.

 

It always amazes me how the dancers are able to perform so well on a performance space that seems smaller than the average pocket handkerchief and last night was no exception.

 

It was obvious that the evening was going to be memorable on so many levels when David Bintley first came onto the stage and the audience applauded and cheered him for what seemed like forever.  We laughed and oohed and aahed through his every erudite, witty comment and anecdote.

 

I loved all the danced excerpts; how can the dancers imbue such emotion into (mostly) duets that are usually completely out of context.  Tyrone Singleton was utterly magnificent and totally in character as both Cinderella's Prince with the divine Delia Matthews and the Beast with Yvette Knight who gave a beautifully nuanced performance as Belle.  The act 1 duet from Beauty and the Beast was very touching and I had a real lump in my throat as Tyrone lay down at her feet to guard Yvette while she slept.

 

The 4 gentlemen who danced Unsquare Dance looked as though they had enormous fun and still managed to get all the lightening quick steps in in the tiny area.  Given that Tom Rogers and Brandon Lawrence are so tall it was little short of a miracle but oh how we enjoyed it!

 

I loved Kit Holder's tribute to David Bintley, Tsfasmaniana (apparently also known as Bintley Bingo!) - it was deft, elegant and very classical in style.  It was beautifully danced by Yaoqian Shang, Alex Yap and Gus Payne.

 

Although completely out of context, the excerpts from Carmina Burana were fabulous.  We had the beautiful duet by Samara Downs and Brandon Lawrence followed by a musical interlude and ending with Boiling Rage by Mathias Dingman.  My personal preference would have been to have the danced excerpts the opposite way around but my friend pointed out that Boiling Rage is a more spectacular finish.

 

Momoko Hirata and Mathias Dingman completed the evening in scintillating virtuosic style with the beautiful pdd from Sylvia.

 

My personal highlight of the evening was Beatrice Parma and Lachlan Monaghan in the first danced excerpt of the evening from the sublime Hobson's Choice.  I thought Lachlan really captured the joy of Will Mossop and he dances with the shoes he has created and Beatrice was his perfect foil as Maggie in the Lily of Laguna duet.  I hate to say Mr Bintley was incorrect but I can confirm that my friend and I sang along in Hong Kong 8 years ago!  I think if I was forced into choosing my favourite of David Bintley's full length ballets it would be this one and I can't wait to see it again in June!

 

So the bows at the end of the evening showed the love that his dancers and audience have for David Bintley.  Marion Tait's speech (which seemed to come as a total surprise to David) was heartfelt and I bet there wasn't a dry eye in the house by the time she invited us all to give David the standing ovation he deserved.

 

This had been a hugely enjoyable and incredibly emotional evening that will live long in the memory banks.  Very best wishes to David Bintley for the future.

 

BRB have already announced the dates for next year's Evenings (one in Birmingham and one in Northampton) and hopefully these wonderful evenings will continue to enthralled us for many years to come.

 

 

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You have all said it all. I am so glad that this evening, which brings such enjoyment, will be a part of the repertory for 2020. But who can match David Bintley's natural rapport with his audience, or his wit and good humour. I know that the evening exercised my lachrymal glands to their maximum, as well as giving my hands a good work-out. He will be so missed.

I don't suppose it will get a mention on the misnamed "National" Press but we are used to their indifference to anything happening outside the M25.

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Hubby and I made a real point of attending this event this year and I would suggest that as an occasion the evening was even greater than the sum of its parts.  I had a mixture of emotions about the ballets danced as I share George C's reservations about bits of works being performed out of context and on a somewhat unsympathetic stage.  However, double doses of Tyrone Singleton, Mathias Dingman, Lachlan Monaghan and Brandon Lawrence (resplendent in his Calvin Kleins) did make me think 'what the heck, just go with it'!  I would also like to add my praise for Kit Holder's work and I hope we get to see his piece again.

 

Although normally I do not praise the Covent Garden audience for David Bintley's work I have to take issue with the idea that the premier of Hobson's Choice was 'stuffy'.  On that evening the audience was well warmed up after an exemplary performance of Theme and Variations led by the equisite Miyako Yoshida in one of her finest roles.  After the first interval we had what are now performed as the first two acts of Hobson's Choice.

 

It is my clearest memory of that night that from the moment Stephen Wicks appeared as Albert Prosper waving a rather sad bunch of tulips the audience did nothing but roar with joyous laughter.  The performance got better and better as it went along.  There was a real buzz around the theatre at the second interval.  O K, we didn’t sing Lily of Laguna but everyone got a standing ovation at the end.  I was told later that Mr B was in tears at the reaction the work received that night and it was so unexpected at the Opera House.

 

This was all the more ironic when you remember that the ballet was pretty much slated by the critics,  for all that the performances - especially from Karen Donovan and Michael O'Hare - were universally praised.  I remember one critique finished with the greatest amount of patronising possible by saying 'no doubt it will wow them in the north'.  Well, that is exactly what happened and has continued for the last 30 years through several casts.  I am really looking forward to seeing it again in June.

 

Back to Symphony Hall, the other great joy of the evening was the comings and goings off stage.  We were able to catch up with pretty much all our ballet going friends, there wasn't enough time to chat to everyone, very sorry Pulchinella.  I was thrilled to see Sheila (Lyons) Hitchman whom long standing friends of BRB will remember with gratitude and affection.  The one person I did not get to say hello to was Peter Tod who as Director of the Hippodrome was key to the successful transfer from SWRB to BRB.

 

It was a wonderful evening capped by having a few words with Sir Peter Wright.  In his 93rd year he is still more spry and mobile than I am these days.  He is a walking ballet marvel.

 

George C's comment about how long he has been following the company reminded me that 3rd May this year will be the 40th anniversary of my first ballet performance attending as an adult.   It was at the old Sadler's Wells, SWRB in a triple bill of The Four Temperaments, Las Hermanas with Galina Samsova and finishing with Pineapple Poll.  I still have the programme.  Who was the red sailor?  None other than a very young David Bintley.

 

It has been a hell of a ride and I would not have missed it.  Thank you Mr Bintley, I owe you so much.  Now, let's just hope you get that really well deserved knighthood.

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