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. (more…)

An interesting mix of performances in the flesh and on the screen last week with two cinema visits for 20th century classics and new works transmitted by the Bolshoi and the Royal Ballet framing live performance of German contemporary dance from Sasha Waltz and Guests at Sadler’s Wells. If I dislike the cinema transmissions’ overhyped introductory promos and some excessively effusive commentary, I do enjoy seeing the interiors of other theatres, and some of the informative interview and documentary material provided. Close-ups highlight intriguing details of the dance, although sometimes at a price of losing their relationship with the wider stage environment; differing camera angles risk obscuring spatial design and choreographic architecture.

The Royal Ballet’s first transmission of a mixed bill marked the final farewell of much loved Carlos Acosta from the Covent Garden main stage starring as Don Jose in his own new version of Carmen. (more…)

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…)

Pina Bausch led dance towards its conceptual frontier.  While some twentieth century choreographers pushed the human body to physical extremes, she extended its psychological, intellectual and emotional range.  Her dancers speak, run, conjure, play party games, and sometimes dance very beautifully, but it is the underlying meaning of her work that drives 1980.

The entire stage, grassed over and decorated with a single toy deer, a piano, spotlights and two rubbish bins is the setting for a series of manic birthday party events, in which adults chant songs and repeat games over and over, slowly mesmerising the audience.  In the second act, it is the scene of a bizarre garden fete, complete with beauty contest.  Nothing is quite as it seems (more…)