Birmingham Royal Ballet’s triple bill at Sadler’s Wells was a delightful and varied evening of dance. The programme opened with Ruth Brill’s interesting 2017 work Arcadia, danced to John Harle’s stunning saxophone accompaniment. Tyrone Singleton, a sinuous and predatory representation of the god Pan, weaves in and out of shadows cast on the stage against a background of huge arching trees, lurking and watching three nymphs. Through the influence of the goddess Selene (the elegant Delia Mathews) he is reformed, shows more respect, and becomes a better leader. This wishful topical narrative seemed a little forced, but Atena Ameri’s stylish designs and Peter Teigen’s lighting were highly effective, and the Chorus performed their bouncy choreography with energy.

The evening’s centre piece was Michael Corder’s Le Baiser de la Fée, an exquisite example of a classical ballet in miniature. Corder conveys the fairy story clearly and concisely, holding firmly to his narrative, using both mime, as in the opening scene when a woman struggles through the storm, and the actual choreography, such as the threatening Sprites’ crystal-sharp pointe work, to drive the plot forward. The synopsis in the programme is barely needed: the dance itself tells us that the young man (Mathias Dingman) is doomed in the face of the glittering menace of the Fairy (Céline Gittens). It was sheer joy to watch this lovely lyrical work, with its delicate references to the nineteenth century classical ballet canon, which was beautifully danced and told a good story so well. I wish it were available on DVD.

The evening closed with David Bintley’s ‘Still Life’ at the Penguin Café, a well established favourite. The programme explains that this is a work about environmental loss and endangered species, but alongside a certain sadness there is also a lot of fun. My own favourite piece is ‘White Mischief’ with its small corps de ballet of gorgeous ladies dressed in black and white stripes dancing alongside, but ignoring, a Zebra (Brandon Lawrence). It was a fine end to an evening that was only marred by what seemed to be the intermittent clanking of some of the stage machinery.

Maggie Watson

6 November 2017