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Birmingham Royal Ballet - South West Tour 2014 (Les Rendezvous, Kin, Elite Syncopations)

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Um, if you're not a fan of gushing praise you'll probably want to take this opportunity to finish the ironing. ;)




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. :)




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. 

Edited by BristolBillyBob
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Thank you so much for reviewing this so promptly.  How had I missed this was on?  Thanks to you and an unexpected child free evening I am now off to watch this with DH this evening.


Laura's family still live in Cheltenham - her mum runs a ballet/dancewear shop - and I am sure she will have had a lot of family and friends in the audience.  Her mum will be delighted to read your comments I'm sure.

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I saw all 3 performances in Cheltenham. It's a well balanced triple and the dancers were worked very hard, especially Laura, Delia Mathews and Brandon Lawrence.


The garish set and costumes for Les Rendezvous are a total, and deplorable, travesty, that reveal no understanding of what Les Rendezvous is about- understated elegance and refinement. The dancers coped well with the choreography but there was not enough bending and twisting for a true Ashton performance. Nao and Chi did the two evening performances and Delia and Brandon took the leads at the matinee.


Alexander Whitley's Kin was a revelation. Testing original choreography. A dark piece, both literally with the currently fashionable low lighting, and the angst-driven movement, it proved a remarkable vehicle for Jenna Roberts  at the first performance. Delia Mathews and Will Bracewell gained in confidence in their two performances. At the matinee the little six year old next to me found it boring- it is certainly not a ballet for young children, there's not enough colour and variety- but her Laban-trained mother loved it.


Elite Syncopations was a hit, as usual, with warm applause for the band and enthusiastic dancers. It made me think of how wonderful David Wall, soon to be commemorated, was in it, and other great dancers such as Donald Macleary and Monica Mason, Vergie Derman and Wayne Sleep. But the young BRB dancers did it proud, with, at various performances, Jenna Roberts, Delia Mathews, Brandon Lawrence, Nao Sakuma, James Barton, Samara Downs, amongst others, strutting their stuff.

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  • 2 weeks later...

A belated note from my trip to see midscaleD South in Truro.


I think this was a really well-balanced triple bill with something for everyone.


Despite the incredibly garish costumes I thoroughly enjoyed the three performances of Les Rendezvous.  Nao Sakuma and Chi Cao were on particularly sparkling form but I also loved Delia Matthews and Brandon Lawrence as the leading couple - such warmth and enthusiasm.


I liked Alex Whitley's KIN. at its recent premiere in Birmingham and grew to love it more with each passing performance.  Its complex and (to me) challenging choreography showed off the dancers to best effect.  Jenna Roberts is totally sublime in the leading role and her duet with Joe Caley completely draws you in.  Nao Sakuma and Chi Cao in the same roles gave the work a completely different twist with their sheer classicism,  It was a testament to the strength of this work that the more classical interpretation worked just as well.  Delia Matthews and Brandon Lawrence are rapidly becoming my partnership I want to watch and they were terrific in this too.  Tzu Chao Chou has a short but gorgeous solo too.  I can't wait to see KIN. again!


Elite Syncopations was great fun and a super way to end the evening.  Yvette Knight and James Barton were truly hilarious in the Alaskan Rag.  My highlight of all three performances was Brandon Lawrence as Friday Night.

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This tour comes to the Swan at High Wycombe on the 20 and 21 June - and London based readers should be able to get there readily. The train station is about 5 minutes away from the theatre. Tickets cost between £16 and £25.50


Good pieces of Ashton and MacMillan but the new Alex Whitley piece, Kin., is gorgeously modern. If you saw the Whitley night at the ROH Linbury and liked what he did with RB dancers then I think you will like his piece for BRB. I saw it up in Birmingham, with Jenna Roberts in the lead, and thought it the best new thing that BRB have done in years.


Bill Details:



Swan Page:



Sadly I can't find any casting for the Swan shows, yet.

Edited by Bruce
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