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I'm not perhaps the best equipped technically to actually start a thread on a performance, but as no-one else has on BRB's latest mixed bill, here goes! I saw the matinee performance at the Birmingham Hippodrome yesterday and the first thing that has to be said is what a terrible title it is. Surely no-one says 'Stateside' these days? It sounds awfully like '60s DJ-speak! The good thing is, however, that the title was the only thing that was terrible about it. What we saw were three ballets, totally different in character, but all with a vivid American sheen. First off was Balanchine's Serenade, set to Tchaikovsky's sublime Serenade for Strings. I'd read lots about this work in my stumbling efforts at a ballet education, so I appreciated its iconic status in the history of American ballet. The Telegraph review mentions occasional lapses of unity which my untutored eye picked up occasionally, but as an ensemble piece it worked wonderfully well, full of graceful neo-classicism but filled with the quirky little touches that came from the ad hoc way in which Balanchine created it. Altogether lovely, as were the women's costumes, a feature of all three ballets. The second piece was Jessica Lang's Lyric Pieces, premiered by the company in 2012 and being given a second outing. The mood here again was classical, but with a modern twist in the black folded kraft paper props that the cast manipulated during the course of the piece. At first these seemed a distraction, but as the dances stretched them, fanned them, sat on them and generally played with them they became increasingly an integral part of the piece. I particularly liked they formed the backdrop for a number of tableaux that from time to time interrupted the general movement of the piece. The Grieg piano pieces, played expertly by Jonathan Higgins, were lovely in themselves, and the choreography captured the folk elements in the music in a number of the pieces, particularly in the well-known March of the Trolls. The highlight though was the wonderful pas de deux by Jenna Roberts and Iain Mackay that preceded the finale - simply gorgeous. The final piece was Twyla Tharp's In The Upper Room. I'd never seen any of her work (though she'd been on bucket list for a while), but I was surprised to see it listed as the final work in the programme given the far more well known Serenade was also on the bill. When I saw the piece, however, I understood why - it's such a demanding piece to dance that it must almost impossible to follow it with something else. It's hard to describe it except that it is a complete tour de force, a constant driving, pulsating dynamo of a piece that mixes just about every style you can thing of from contemporary through jazz, taking in a bit of aerobics on the way, to pure ballet steps. It's also one of the sexiest ballets I've yet seen, and the red pointe shoes that four of the dancers wore will live long in my memory! I'm guessing some might have found the smoke effects distracting but the way the groups of dancers emerged out of it was particularly affecting. The work was set to a recorded score by Philip Glass. Glass isn't one of my favourite composers - if I want minimalism I find much more depth and feel in composers like Steve Reich and John Adams. I'm afraid this didn't make me any more of a fan of him, though it fulfilled its task of driving the piece forward relentlessly, if perhaps a bit too loudly at times. A final thought: the title of the piece of course relates to the Last Supper and the programme notes make the point that there are no overt biblical references in the piece. However, I did notice that there were 13 dancers, which of course is the same number that sat together at the Last Supper. Maybe Tharp intended that to be significant or maybe it's just a coincidence! All in all a wonderful afternoon out, though as with the WW1 programme I saw at the Hippodrome before Christmas there were a disappointing number of empty seats. One final comment: it was refreshing to see a programme with two female choreographers, especially in the light of ENB's announcement of an all-female programme at Sadler's Wells next season.