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Birmingham Royal Ballet South Tour 2017 - Wink, Arcadia, The Moor's Pavane

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Birmingham Royal Ballet: Wink, Arcadia, The Moor's Pavane, Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham (Saturday 6 May).


BRB's South tour opened in Cheltenham last Friday and as I had never seen the company and was staying in Cirencester, my sister and I took her daughters (12 and 10, ballet fans but who have never learned) to the Saturday matinée.


Of particular interest to me was that the programme included two works by female choreographers, plus the rarely-seen Limón piece. Not to mention that as a visitor from Australia I would see Tzu-Chao Chou dance for the first time since he left what the company insists be called The Australian Ballet (capital T please).


I knew very little of the company but what I had read online, although former TAB dancers Elisha Willis, Matthew Lawrence and Gaylene Cummerfield spent large chunks of their careers there, and "we" now have Aussie Chris Rodgers-Wilson (RBS then BRB) back (I saw his Franz in Coppélia at Christmas and all that promise is coming to fruition).


Was I impressed!


I was able to do my favourite thing (watching class) before the show, which gave me some impressions of the dancers, and we then settled in to our seats in this lovely theatre, centre rear stalls (bang in front of the technical desk).


Wink, by Jessica Lang, featured César Morales, with whose dancing I fell in love. The use of spoken word (Shakespeare sonnets) framed each section (solo, pdd, quintet of men, three pairs, etc). Tzu-Chao was in this and despite carrying a niggle is still one of my favourite dancers to watch.


Company dancer Ruth Brill's Arcadia showcased Brandon Lawrence as Pan, and the piece was an instant hit with the nieces. He was magnetic, and Céline Gittens, in a small but featured role as the moon goddess Selene, was lovely. We were also treated to the presence of the composer, John Harles, in the pit as saxophone soloist.


We were told Arcadia is to be included in the company's Sadler's Wells season later this year, and I do recommend it. Also, cheers to BRB for giving a female company member the opportunity of a main-stage commission, with all the support that ought to, but sometimes doesn't, go with that.


The Moor's Pavane, danced by Morales, Chi Cao, Yvette Knight and Samara Downs, was one of the most beautiful short ballets I have ever seen. I was told afterwards that it has only entered the company's repertoire this year, and that the four we saw spent months working on the particular style required. It was stunning. The artistry of these four dancers was undeniable and of a very high standard, and even the nieces sighed happily and said it was beautiful. Nor did they need the story explained, it was presented so clearly.


The very small stage (compressed further by the proscenium arch) forced some compromises in that some jumps were half-in, half-out of the wings, but no-one looked to be holding back. 


After the show the nieces begged to "get autographs and say thank you" (we train them well) and were delighted at the very generous response of the dancers, particularly Lachlan Monaghan, Brandon Lawrence, Ruth Brill, Chi Cao and César Morales. They were very amused to see one pair disappear into the next-door Italian restaurant - "pasta at four o'clock! They must work hard!" 


All in all, a delightful first experience of the company and one I will certainly repeat at the earliest opportunity.

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I'm very glad you enjoyed the performance Sophoife and thanks for the news of CRW, who his fans still miss terribly.


I was fortunate to see all three performances over the weekend.  I just LOVE Wink and will never tire of seeing it.  Brandon Lawrence and Cesar Morales bring something different to the role of The Poet and it is a delight to see both of them.  Brandon has such a special quality of movement, it is a privilege to see him dancing.  There were three dancers new to the piece over the weekend - Chi Cao, Miki Mizutani and Max Maslen and all three fitted in seamlessly with the other dancers more experienced in the piece.


I just loved Ruth Brill's Arcadia.  There is a brief scenario about Pan being in a bad mood because three nymphs are not interested in him.  He takes his bad mood back to his followers (who are puzzled) and then Selene, Mood Goddess, appears and shows him the error of his ways.  Cue happy ending.  Brandon Lawrence created the role of Pan and was just magnetic in the role.  He is very limpid and every inch a God somewhat bored enough to want to engage with nymphs and then annoyed when they ignore him.  William Bracewell is the alternative Pan and his interpretation is sharper edged - he is definitely angry rather than annoyed.  One of the joys of being able to see more than one performance is seeing different interpretations of the same role.  I thought the set and costumes were glorious and loved the music too.  


We saw three beautiful performances of The Moor's Pavane.  Having seen a number of performances last year I have come to adore this intense piece that is a perfect distillation of the essence of Othello.  Tyrone Singleton was outstanding as Othello but all three casts were terrific.


I'm looking forward to Midscale North in Nottingham next week.


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