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CCL

BRB A Valentine’s Celebration of Music and Dance

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I’m on my way to Birmingham for this. I haven’t been to one of these special evenings before, and I’m very much looking forward to it. I’d love to say hello to any other Forum members who might be there. 

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I hope you have a lovely time. I would have liked to have seen this so look forward to hearing reports.

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I absolutely loved this evening- it was just about perfect. I’ll write more tomorrow, I’m a bit overwhelmed!

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I’ve just returned from the second evening held at Warwick University Arts Centre feeling quite  disappointed. This disappointment stems largely from an announcement half way through the first half by the compère (more about him to follow) that, owing to unforeseen circumstances, we would not be having the Romeo and Juliet pas de deux in the second part of the programme, and neither would we have the Don Quixote pas de deux!  Unsurprisingly there was an  audible groan from the audience. No further explanation was offered so I am still non the wiser why we lost two pieces from the evening. This left us with just four dance items which, were it not for the scintillating performance of the Sinfonia,  would have made me feel we were really short changed. Of the  ballet extracts, Samara Downs made a very lovely Odette in the Act 2 pas de deux and Yamoussoukro Atsuji was a very attentive and noble looking partner.  The Cinderella pas de deux was beautifully danced by Momoko Hirata and Tyrone Singleton, but shame on whoever prepared the notes for the compère that there was no mention that this was choreography by Sir David Bintley. Highlight of the evening for me was the composition by Kit Holder to Greig’s Piano Concerto 2nd movement. The piece for six dancers reminded me in places of Ashton’s Symphonic Variations -a high compliment indeed and was led by Céline Gittens and Brandon Lawrence. What an exquisite pair of dancers they are. I just wished it could have been longer and do hope we get to see this piece again. The Two Pigeons pas de deux, which closed the evening, was danced by Maureya Lebowitz and Max Maslen and very warmly received. The second pigeon preferred to settle on the young man’s back rather than the chair, but made it just in the last second much  to the delight of the audience. Now to that compère. Those of us who have been attending this annual event for a few years, have had the pleasure of the insights and anecdotes provided by Sir David Bintley. Tonight we had a previous contestant from Strictly who although of a very pleasant disposition knows about as much about ballet as my cat. He stuck to the prompt cards which contained the bare minimum of information and provided very little sense of continuity between the items. I gather the previous night had been Nick Owen and I’d be interested to know if made a better job of things. I know he had the pleasure of interviewing Carlos Acosta - another reason to feel peeved about this evening as this wasn’t on offer the second night. Why the powers that be didn’t think that it would be a good idea to feature someone who could add something to the event is beyond me. It also meant that the whole evening passed very quickly as the gentlemen had only a few sentences to say for each item. So all in all not the best of evenings. I feel sorry for anyone who had braved the weather and travelled a long way for such meagre pickings.

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I feel sorry for anyone who had braved the weather and travelled a long way for such meagre pickings.

 

I'm afraid I'm one of those ! Over 4 hours of tiring, unpleasant driving conditions, and I must admit I was disappointed in the cancelled segments. And although it wasn't announced, the Far from the Madding Crowd sword pas de deux, which was in the published programme, also didn't happen. No Delia ! - sob. 

 

However,reflecting overall, there were several reasons I don't regret making the trip. Seeing Samara Downs for the first time (first for me anyway) in a major PDD of the canon was extremely interesting. I got to see the fabulous Maureya Lebowitz, one of my personal favourites, in a piece I'd not seen before - the Two Pigeons PDD,  and I really appreciated the theatrical magic and power of this piece. Finally I enjoyed and was impressed by the CInderella PDD (Odyssey, wasn't it Miki Mizutani as Cinderella, not Momoko HIrata? I remember the compere saying she'd stepped in as a late replacement) and I have to say it was Mitzutani who impressed me most with her dancing this evening, and the midnight waltz played by the Sinfonia my favourite music of the evening. It was a real shame that the grand finale of the Don Q PDD didn't happen, but luckily I saw that danced at the equivalent evening in 2018. 

 

The Butterworth Theatre at Warwick Uni seemed a strange choice of venue for the 'repeat' of this event (although one could say Birmingham Symphony Hall has similar issues with staging the dancing parts of the evening), and I wonder if anyone on the forum knows why it was chosen? The free parking was a pro, but I was in a seat 'side on' to the dancing 'area' which while very close perhaps wasn't the best to appreciate the dancing. The close proximity was so unforgiving, you could see every little wobble or misalignment, and the same time as not being best placed to see the most beautiful effect of the lines/shapes of the choreography.

 

I'm afraid I found the Gershwin, Rogers and Hammerstein and Merry Widow rather too 'easy listening' for my tastes. I tried to love the Kit Holder piece but ended up only admiring it.  I do rather agree with Odyssey's comments about the compere and would love Acosta to have said a few words but I remember Bintley saying how nervous he was when hosting these evenings. Maybe Jonathan Payn might have been a choice ? - he's been great at the pre-performance talks I've been to. 

 

Despite the issues with this event today, I can never regret an evening watching and listening to the BRB dancers and sinfonia -  I love them. 

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i think one reason the Butterworth may have been chosen is that it has excellent acoustics as, of course, does the Symphony Hall. These evenings have always been equally shared billing between the orchestra and the dancers and I love to see the players away from the orchestra pit. I had thought the dancing space might have been slightly larger that in Birminghsm but if it was, it was only fractional. perhaps the placing of the chair in the Two Pigeons is what confused #2 Pigeon !  I was fortunate to have a very central seat so was able to appreciate Kit Holder’s placement of the three couples. Thank you Northstar for correcting me about Mitzutani, a very lovely dancer.. What talent there is in this company. 

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I was at Symphony Hall on Friday evening and it was a truly magnificent occasion!

 

The musical selections were more "easy listening" than usual but none the less enjoyable and, of course, (the augmented) Royal Ballet Sinfonia sounded wonderful in this superb concert hall.

 

Nick Owen introduced Carlos Acosta (who was greeted with cheers by the audience) and asked him a few questions.  Carlos spoke with enthusiasm about how much he admired Birmingham and what a wonderful company he had taken over and how he was looking forward to introducing new work and taking the company's profile even higher.

 

For the rest of the evening Nick Owen was at the side of the stage announcing the danced items.  He was a competent announcer but I did miss David Bintley's fund of personal anecdotes.

 

As for the danced sections...

 

Samara Downs and Yasuo Atsuji were a delight in the Act 2 duet from Swan Lake.  In a concert hall setting with no scenery and totally out of context it must be hard to make the danced sections more than a technical exercise but Samara and Yasuo took us straight into the world at the Lake.  It was a gloriously nuanced performance and bodes very well for the full production.  Every tiny move that Samara made (and on the very close front row I could see them all) breathed life into the tragic Odette.

 

Sadly an announcement was then made that due to injury (presumably to Delia Matthews) Miki Mizutani and Tyrone Singleton would be dancing (at very short notice) the ballroom duet from Cinderella.  What can I say other than that they were utterly sublime.  I love this duet from SDB's Cinderella and I can't wait to see the whole ballet again next spring.  This was followed by the orchestra playing with gusto the previously announced waltz and midnight from Cinderella.

 

The first half ended with Maureya Lebowitz and Max Maslen absolutely divine in the reconciliation duet from The Two Pigeons.  A lot of people around me (and of course me too) seemed to be having bad attacks of hay fever. Max Maslen proved to be a master pigeon wrangler.  The second pigeon landed on him rather than the chair initially but all was well that ended well but the pigeons then got confused because they could not be collected behind a theatre curtain and it looked as though they were going to end up in our laps before one of them flew off and hit Max in the face.  He expertly caught it, calmed it and carried it off.  I cannot say how wonderful Maureya and Max were in this duet and we really need to see them in the whole ballet ... as soon as possible please BRB!

 

The first danced piece after the interval was the world premiere of Kit Holder's The Breath We Took to the second movement of Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor Op 16.  BRB are so lucky to have Jonathan Higgins as the company pianist and the music was just beautiful.  The piece is for 6 dancers - 3 men and 3 women.  Celine Gittens and Brandon Lawrence danced the duet and the other 2 women (Alys Shee and Rosanna Ely) and (Alexander Yap and Haoliang Feng) mirrored their movements.  It was fluid and it was languid and it was gorgeous.  I loved it!  Celine and Brandon really are very special together and the other dancers were beautiful too.  I hope we get to see this lovely piece as part of a mixed programme.

 

Yaoqian Shang and Cesar Morales were sublimely romantic in the Romeo and Juliet balcony duet.  There were several moments when their passion came across so strongly that there were shivers running down my spine.  They looked fabulous together.

 

The gpdd from Carlos' Don Quixote ended the evening and oh how it ended the evening.  Momoko Hirata and Mathias Dingman could only be described as SENSATIONAL!!!  They brought the house down!!!  What was really good though that they did not only do the pyrotechnics they acted the roles.  Momoko was so flirtatious and teasing and Mathias was ardent.  They were perfect foils for each other.  What a wonderful ending to a brilliant evening.

 

 

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I would like to echo Janet’s comments, it really was a wonderful night, my first time at the Evening of Music and Dance. I arrived feeling quite stressed as I got a bit lost between my hotel and the Symphony Hall, but I very quickly recovered my equilibrium as Nick Owen brought out BRB’s ‘newest recruit’, Carlos Acosta. I was really inspired by his enthusiasm and pleased that he made a point of emphasising that there is world class ballet right here in Birmingham. This got a big cheer, and rightly so.

 

The Royal Ballet Sinfonia, expertly conducted by Paul Murphy, sounded glorious throughout the whole evening, and of the pieces that they played without dancers I particularly enjoyed the Intermezzo from Puccini’s ‘Manon Lescaut’, and the waltz from Lehar’s ‘The Merry Widow’ - I felt really caught up in the gorgeous sweep of this piece, which I hadn’t expected to do. Oh, and the Waltz and Midnight from ‘Cinderella’, which I adore (see below).

 

I truly loved every piece of dancing, and would find it hard to pick a favourite. Samara Downs was a most exquisite Odette, beautifully partnered by Yasuo Atsuji in the White Act pdd from ‘Swan Lake’. I completely agree with Janet that it must be so difficult to dance pieces like this out of context and yet bring out the emotion, but they succeeded so well. Although I was disappointed not to see the duet from ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ and Delia Matthews (and wish her a speedy recovery), I felt most fortunate to see the pdd from Cinderella - absolutely one of my favourites and one of my favourite pieces of ballet music - there is such a sense of yearning in it that it never fails to make me tear up, and this was no exception. We were told that Tyrone Singleton and Miki Mizutani had only had two days to rehearse it, which I thought extraordinary given the absolute security with which they danced witheach other - that incredible lift! I was deeply moved by them both. I have never before seen ‘Two Pigeons’ - this is something I need to rectify, clearly! The music, the beautiful bird-like choreography, Maureya Lebowitz and Max Maslen’s dancing, the two pigeons themselves- all so swooningly romantic. A few more tears!

 

In the second half of the programme, Kit Holder’s new piece The Breath We Took was a delight. Danced to Greig’s lyrical adagio from the Piano Concerto, it had a lovely, stately feel to it. There was a real emotional intensity in the dancing of Céline Gittens and Brandon Lawrence, and this was beautifully reflected by the two other pairs of dancers, Alys Shee and Rosanna Ely, with Alexander Yap and Haoliang Feng. I would definitely like to see this piece again. The balcony scene from ‘Romeo and Juliet’, another of my favourites, was full of passion and longing. Cesar Morales was a boyish, fervent Romeo and Yaoquian Shang a ravishing Juliet. They absolutely epitomised the heady, giddy rush of first love, and I was once again very moved. The finale, the grand pdd from ‘Don Quixote’ was a tour de force from Momoko Hirata and Matthias Dingman, full of charisma, fireworks and high spirits. A fabulous end to the evening.

 

It was lovely to meet Janet and have a quick chat on the way out. I have already made a note of next year’s Evening of Music and Dance, it’s not something I want to miss again. 

Edited by CCL
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When Symphony Hall was built, the facilties for outside broadcasts were part of the design. Have you ever noticed the hooks that run along the balcony? That is where the cables go for TV broadcast. If you go behind Symphony Hall (near the canal), you'll see some little doors high on the wall. The broadcast van is parked outside here and the cables run through these little doors. Sadly, there have been few broadcasts from Symphony Hall of any kind. It's easier for the BBC to go to the ROH than trek to Birmingham and the BBC presence in Birmingham is minute.

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Not that the output from the ROH and Symphony Hall overlaps much, I would think.

 

(Incidentally, when Sadler's Wells was built camera facilities were built into the design.  Yet when The Red Shoes was being recorded recently there were cameras dotted round the Stalls too.  I don't know whether it's because the technology has moved on, or what.)

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23 hours ago, trog said:

 It's easier for the BBC to go to the ROH than trek to Birmingham and the BBC presence in Birmingham is minute.

 

I suspect that this might at least in part be righted in any cultural 'leveling up' campaign.  Certainly knives appear to be drawn for any major London-centred artistic venue at the moment if the verbiage is to be believed.  

 

Edited by Bruce Wall
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