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BRB Midscale Tour : South 2015


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BRB's Southern Midscale tour opened in Truro on Tuesday 19th May.

 

The opening item is Kit Holder's Quatrain to Astor Piazzolla's Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, a work for 4 couples.  The set is dark with a square-based metal structure hanging at the back.  The pattern on the costumes reflect the angularity of this structure.  Each couple has one movement,  I particularly love the duet that was created on Celine Gittens and Yasuo Atsuji where each dancer seems to start melting into the other as they walk across the stage.  Alys Shee and Tyrone Singleton looked fabulous in this duet too.  I also love the way the ladies are pulled across the stage periodically on their partners' backs.  I don't know how better to describe this move!  I already enjoyed this work from last year and I loved it more with each performance this time!

 

After the break we had three short pieces.  Ruth Brill created Matryoshka for the Evening of Music and Dance at Symphony Hall and I was very pleased when I saw that it had been included in the tour.  It is light and frothy with lots of deft choreography that makes great use of the Shostakovich music (three pieces from his Jazz suite).  Both Celine Gittens and Alys Shee exuded a sultry glamour in the role of the lady in black and red.

 

This was followed by the Act 1 pdd from Beauty and the Beast.  It shows what consummate artists there are in BRB in that they can make this totally-out-of-context duet so meaningful and moving.  All three pairs of dancesrs we saw were great but I particularly enjoyed Karla Doorbar with Yasuo Atsuji (I think it may have been her debut).

 

Finally we saw the Act 1 pdq from Swan Lake for Benno, Seigfried and 2 courtesans.  Again the dancers were able to give the piece a context and the Prince's air of melancholy came across very strongly, particularly from Iain Mackay.  We saw 2 Bennos - Mathias Dingman and Jonny Cagouia, with Mathias giving a particularly virtuoso performance.

 

The evening ended with Facade.  I loved all three performances.  Celine Gittens, as the debutante is worth the entrance money on her own.  She really needs to be seen in this role!

 

All in all, three great shows!

 

Before the evening show there was a fascinating Q&A with Ruth Brill and Kit Holder who spoke about their careers so far and their works that we were about to see.  This is part of a new initiative by BRB to further involve the public and around 80 people attended the talk so I would say that this was a successful initiative.  Do look out for talks at your local theatre - this one was advertised on the theatre's website.

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I saw this programme yesterday 23rd May at Poole Lighthouse, the matinée at 2.30pm and would echo much of what Janet says above although with a different cast.  Quatrain was very effective and I did like the metal sculpture filling the whole of the back of the stage, and the black costumes which had the same design in silver.  However, it suffered from the black costume against black background problem so common at present.  It seems to be the visual equivalent of actors muttering!  That said, everyone danced superbly and it was most enjoyable, with some delightful humorous touches.

 

Matryoshka was a jolly piece, but I found the opening Polka too similar to what was to come in Facade.  It might be better on a different programme. This was followed by Beauty and the Beast with Karla Doorbar and Yasuo Atsuji.  She was quite captivating and really expressed the conflicting emotions of fear and empathy with the Beast's plight. He performed well, but again he was wearing a dark costume and mask, so with dim lighting he wasn't seen well - and I was only a few rows back!

 

The Swan Lake pas de quatre was competently danced by all concerned, but I am not sure it really works as an extract in this version.  It is the traditional pas de trois from Act One which is usually watched by the whole court.  In this case the Prince was wandering about and his solo was inserted between theirs! For a display piece I think the simple pas de trois works much better.

 

Facade was a joy as ever.  The Scottish Rhapsody which "not only satirises Highland dancing but also a balletic pas de trois", was even funnier following on straight after the Swan Lake (after the interval).  Momoko Hirata danced a sassy polka and all the cast were excellent.  I particularly liked Jonathan Payne being goofy in the Foxtrot and he kept up his dippy "Tim Nice but Dim" character all the way through the Finale.

 

Unfortunately other commitments meant I couldn't get to company class or the pre-show talk for the Saturday evening, but I agree these are great initiatives and hope they continue.

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Bad lighting, dark costumes, dark backcloth. How very current. The company seems to have an utter blind spot (pardon the pun) about all of these. Even previously well lit ballets are now being dimmed down just in case the audience can actually see the dancers. I really don't understand what the choreographers, designers and producers think they are gaining by this. If it's a fashion statement trust me, IT'S NOT WORKING!

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I liked the dark lighting for Quatrain - for me it matched the mood of the piece.  OK, I was sitting at the front but I had no problems seeing the dancers.

 

I think the lighting for Beast was problematic as it was very hard to see that the Beast had arrived on stage until he arrived at the chair.  I did mention this to the Company Manager who said he would pass it on.

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I went to see this at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham last night. I'll write up my full thoughts later, but for now I'll just let this one point sit and germinate for a while...

 

How on earth has Celine Gittens not been made a Principal yet?

 

I MEAN, SERIOUSLY. 

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So, my annual trip to Cheltenham to see my beloved Birmingham Royal Ballet was, unusually for me, the first BRB outing of the season. I'd adored every mixed bill they've done so far (particularly the one with Elite Syncopations), so how would this set stack up? 

 

The opener, Quatrain was (spoiler alert) arguably the highlight of the night for me. Kit Holder isn't afraid to innovate in his choreography, and had some very dynamic and novel ideas in the mix. When he has groups on stage, he moves them adeptly in unison, like cogs in a fluid machine, without resorting to identical steps for all the dancers. Where his strength is beginning to show, though, is with his PDDs. As Janet mentioned, there was one particularly moving duet with Céline Gittens and Yasuo Atsuji that brought to mind Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet's stunning Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue by Crystal Pite. This is high praise indeed. The two dancers moved in sympathy with one another wonderfully, and I recalled something Two Pigeons said to me on another thread about Peter Schaufuss's description of Bournonvilles' pas de deux as "conversation between two people rather than an exercise in porteuring", something that I think Kit Holder really understands. He is rapidly becoming an accomplished choreographer and his promise and style is really beginning to show. I suspect he might be quite the asset to BRB in the future, and could be the perfect contemporary foil to Bintley's storytelling prowess.

 

After the first interval was Matryoshka, choreographed by company dancer Ruth Brill. It was a fun piece, danced with bounce and flair by all the dancers, who were largely drawn from the lower ranks of the company. However, the piece was dominated by Céline Gittens who stole the show completely (in spite of an ungainly tutu that needed hiking up every time a leg rose above knee level!). It's not to say that the other participants were weak, far from it, it's just... You know in the film version of Les Miserables, how Anne Hathaway was completely amazing and, especially after she sings that great version of that song and vanishes, you kinda miss her, and you know that everyone else in the movie is very good and everything, but what you really want is for Anne Hathaway to come back because she was totally brilliant? Well that, but with our Canadian dancer friend instead. :)

 

Up next was the Beauty And The Beast Act I PDD. And what a beauty it was indeed. Momoko Hirata, who I'd seen in the lead of Prince Of The Pagodas, was superb. To pick up a character 'cold' like that for an excerpt must be hugely challenging, but she hit the ground running and utterly nailed it. It felt like I'd seen the whole story play out, not just a tiny portion. Tyrone Singleton portrayed the beast very sympathetically, but without pulling the punches of a creature battling his darker instincts. Loved it, and I'm looking forward to seeing the full production at the very earliest opportunity. 

 

For me, I felt the Swan Lake pas de quatre fell a teeny bit flat. It was danced technically very well, particularly by Mathias Dingman who is a hugely likeable dancer with charm to match his technical skill. However it just didn't seem to take off for me. The piece didn't seem to have enough meat on it to work as an extract and there wasn't enough character in this section for the dancers to get stuck into to bring it to life for me, so I guess I'm in agreement with Pas De Quatre above, appropriately enough!
 

Last but not least was Ashton's Façade. As a piece, this was a little hit and miss for me, but it's churlish to throw any po-faced criticism at something designed to be so jolly, particularly when it's danced with such enjoyment by the company. Karla Doorbar was one stand-out in Polka, with an effervescently charming performance, while Mathias Dingman and Jamie Bond were hilarious in Popular Song. Céline Gittens (erroneously, I think, billed as Daria Stanciulescu on the cast sheet, assuming I'm reading the right bit) was also predictably note-perfect in the Tango Pasodoble, even though I wasn't such a fan of the choreography.

 

On a general note, Edivaldo Souza da Silva, a new name to me, stood out very well in all his pieces. He joined the company last year at Artist level and I think he could end up being another worthy addition to an already very strong roster of male dancers at the company. A very shrewd acquisition.

 

Finally, as I mentioned before, I'm in a state of perpetual enbafflement as to how Céline Gittens isn't a principal yet. On stage, she is every bit the principal. She has musicality, technique, diversity, character, a keen sense for both drama and comedy; every quality you could ask for in a ballerina she has in droves... The audiences love her... I simply don't get it. Surely if she doesn't get the promotion at the end of the season another company will snap her up? On another thread on here, I've been reading about how Tamara Rojo wants to shore up the ranks at ENB before she retires from performing... I'd hate to see her slip through BRB's grasp. She sums up everything I love about the company; she has the technical ability and the skill but doesn't sacrifice having her own identity to achieve it. She is for me part of the company's fabric. It would be a great loss if she were to leave.

 

Anyway, all in all a great fun evening out at the ballet. Perhaps, for me, not their strongest line-up in terms of content, but it was danced with all the flair, talent and enthusiasm that makes BRB easily my favourite company and massively watchable whatever they may be performing. 

 

But yeah... Seriously, Dave... Céline. Get it sorted.

Edited by BristolBillyBob
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I agree with everything you say about Celine but would also add that when she dances with Tyrone, for me, the company has a really valid leading couple. There is a kind of magic between them which reminds me of the old days of Michael O'Hare and Sandra Madgwick or Joe Cipolla and Monica Zamora. It's a different kind of partnership but they have something a little bit extra when they dance together.

 

I love them both individually but put them together and something special happens.

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???  Sorry, who's that?

 

I meant Celine Gittens. :) Although from looking again at her profile I notice she was born in Trinidad, in spite of growing up in Canada, so maybe Trinidadian? Trinidadite? Trinadian? I'm going to go and look that up. :D Anyway, mea culpa. I guess I just always remember that she's got a Canadian connection because I spent a year living there so still feel a kinship with the place...

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Céline Gittens (erroneously, I think, billed as Daria Stanciulescu on the cast sheet, assuming I'm reading the right bit) was also predictably note-perfect in the Tango Pasodoble, even though I wasn't such a fan of the choreography.

 

 

Yes! Celine is very talented and surely overdue a promotion.

I do agree with everything you said, apart from the casting of "tango pasodoble" which was correct. The dancer, Daria Stanciulescu, joined the company at some point this season I believe.

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