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I saw both performances in Birmingham yesterday, where The King Dances is replaced by Kin. I adore Theme and Variations and last night Momoko Hirata was just took my breath away with her speed and precision. She filled the stage with her presence and her partnership with Joe Caley continues to grow. I love Kin and we saw mostly the same dancers in both performances. In the afternoon the leading couple was Elisha Willis and Joe Caley. Elisha has a sublime limpid quality that beautifully suits her opening solo and the duet with Joe. Delia Matthews and William Bracewell led the evening performance. Delia is taller than Elisha and it brings a completely different but equally enjoyable dynamic to the choreography. Tzu-Chao Chou dazzled in his incredibly fast solo. Great stuff! Enigma Variations is just sublime and a total masterpiece. In the evening it was a joy to see Dominic Antonucci as Elgar and Wolfgang Stollwitzer as Jaeger. Their performance of Nimrod with Ana Albutishvili as Lady Elgar was incredibly moving. Jade Heusen was a total delight as Winifred Norbury and I very much enjoyed Yvette Knight and Tom Rogers in the hammock duet. It's a cracking good mixed programme. I am looking forward to seeing T&V, Enigma and The King Dances at Sadler's Wells on Saturday. I'm looking forward to everyone's thoughts...
The Northern leg opened in York on Tuesday, at the Grand Opera House, a venue new to the company. Although overall successful, the tour was plagued with problems. There were no programmes as those for the North had been sent to the South and vice versa. There were few cast sheets and on the Wednesday evening some of those available were those for the matinee. But by far the worst problem was that at the end of the first ballet on Wednesday night, Delia Mathews had a nasty fall, causing serious injury, and resulting in the cancellation of the middle piece, Kin, in which she was scheduled to take the lead, as Elisha Willis, who had taken that role at the first performance, had already left York and so could not take over. Marion Tait came on stage to explain and apologise and the audience reacted sympathetically. The programme is well balanced, opening with Ashton's Les Rendezvous, still in the garish designs that are at total variance with Ashton's intention. In two performances the leads were reprised by Elisha Willis and Chi Cao but at the final performance Delia Mathews and Brandon Lawrence took over. Until her fall Delia tackled the tricky choreography fairly confidently and with more Ashtonian style than most of the other dancers. Brandon also impressed with good control and charismatic stage presence. The middle piece is Alex Whitley's Kin, premiered last year and still impressing with its choreographic ingenuity, testing the dancers both technically and emotionally. Although Whitley was at one time a dancer with the company, before moving to Rambert, it is more contemporary than the other pieces in their rep and the dancers respond energetically. The leads at the two performances were Elisha Willis and Joe Caley, and Delia Mathews and William Bracewell. They performed it differently but well but there was regret that Jenna Roberts's injury has prevented her from reprising it. The final piece is that audience favourite, Elite Syncopations. The audience applauded at the start, when the curtain lifts to reveal the band on stage and in costume. Across the three performances many soloists strutted their stuff but the star has to be James Barton, deploying his dramatic flair to the full, and in role at all times, even when other dancers are featured. One innovation this year is a pre-performance talk. Marion Tait, at her most eloquent, and Dominic Antonucci, were clear and enthusiastic, explaining the purpose of the mid-season tour, describing the daily routine of the dancers and talking about their own experience and describing the bill. Everyone found it a fascinating and informative talk.
Um, if you're not a fan of gushing praise you'll probably want to take this opportunity to finish the ironing. WHAT A SHOW. Birmingham Royal Ballet are a company on absolute fire at the moment. This triple bill, as a showcase of the immense depth and diversity of their talent, is second to none. Les Rendezvous was a lovely start to the show. The setting was simple, the costumes sumptuous, and the dancing full of summery joy. I'm not necessarily Ashton's biggest fan, but this was a candy-store delight. While it was danced beautifully by all the cast, two things really stood out in Les Rendezvous. Firstly, just how strong the dancing of the men at BRB is. It's a recurring theme for my reviews of the company. My ballet buddy and I had a chat in the interval about this and she suggested that this might be partly because David Bintley carefully picks pieces and choreographs ballets with such strong parts for male dancers. In any case, I've mentioned how talented they are before and I'm happy to repeat myself. The second thing that stood out is just how good Laura Day is. I'd enjoyed her performance in Card Game earlier in the season, but I'd suspected it was largely because the role suited her so perfectly. But here she shone whenever she was on stage. It's possibly the highest compliment I can pay at the moment when I say that Laura strongly reminded me of ENB's superb Nancy Osbaldston, as Nancy is already one of my all time favourite dancers. They both share a small stature, but actually the connection is that they both have a sublime grace of movement. It's agonisingly hard to describe what I mean, but there's that indefinable something that makes them both an absolute pleasure to watch. I note from the programme that she was born in Cheltenham, so I hope she had lots of family and friends in to witness what a talent she's becoming. Kin. If Jenna Roberts were to declare that she doesn't love contemporary choreography above everything else, I would eat my trousers. It simply can't be possible to act the way she inhabited her role in Kin. She was equally perfect in Lyric Pieces the last time BRB were in Cheltenham, too. It's almost like she is in the company as the contemporary specialist! She was utterly mesmeric to watch in a piece that I came to adore as it went on. Kin is a fascinating piece. In brooding monochrome with a similarly monochromatic but subtly textured score to match, this abstract ballet's choreography was complex, fiendishly difficult-looking in places and fascinating. In one pas de deux with Jenna Roberts and Joseph Caley, the two dancers seemed completely separate on the stage, seemingly disconnected. In places, though, the two synchronise and match movements or come into contact with one another. As a means to express the invisible but powerful bonds that exist between people, it was immensely powerful. Alexander Whitley's choreography was some of the most interesting I've seen, and has further whetted the appetite for more contemporary works that Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet first instilled in me last year. More please! I should also mention that the costumes in this were fantastic. Jean-Marc Puissant provided the costumes for Take Five too, and these shared the same elegant, cool simplicity of that show. Elite Syncopations I've already waxed lyrical about this performance here, and it all applies equally here. I love this piece. Once again, the curtain simply going up got a gasp of approval from the audience! Getting to see Yvette Knight and James Barton's Alaskan Rag again was an absolute joy - I don't think I've seen anything in a theatre that has made me feel so happy! Once again, this was danced beautifully by everyone, including a lovely solo by Samara Downs. Because I'm slightly worried that you lot might have concluded from previous reviews that I have the least discerning taste on the planet, and that I'm someone who probably just dishes out worship indiscriminately, I wish I could find some criticism, somewhere, of this triple bill. I simply can't. If you think I've waffled or written too much in this review, think yourself lucky. I could've written ten times this amount and still not have covered off everything I wanted to heap praise upon. It was immaculate, simply immaculate.