Birmingham Royal Ballet’s triple bill with ballets by Kenneth MacMillan, Gillian Lynne after Robert Helpmann, and David Bintley, is a subtle commemoration of the centenary of the First World War. The approach to the subject is oblique compared with the English National Ballet’s innovative programme Lest We Forget, premiered at the Barbican earlier this year, but it works.

Kenneth MacMillan’s La Fin du Jour evokes the heady days of the years between the wars, the dancers wearing in pastel coloured costumes, their fashionable sportiness reminiscent of some of the later Diaghilev ballets. They are Bright Young Things but they move like puppets on strings in their cream coloured box, from which we glimpse a garden through a door at the back of the stage. The two principal women dancers (Arancha Baselga and Karla Doorbar) morph from swimmers into aviators as their male attendants sweep them through the air, or turn them on point, slowly spinning them like skaters, feet held high behind their heads, weather vanes revolving in the wind. At the end one of them symbolically closes the door to the garden. An idyll is over and war is coming. (more…)

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