[Un]leashed – Birmingham Royal Ballet: 25 June 2019, Sadler’s Wells

Wolfing it up

Is it a plane? Is it a superman? No, it’s a bird. Tzu-Chao Chou don’t need no wings to fly in BRB’s Peter and the Wolf

[Un]leashed constitutes the first part of David Bintley’s last foray to Sadler’s Wells as director of Birmingham Royal Ballet (his Full-length Hobson’s Choice comes later in the week) and it features a trio of works all by female choreographers. Jessica Lang’s Lyric Pieces is up first and is a pretty slice of neo-classical choreography that trots along inoffensively to selected piano music by Edward Grieg. The thing that’s odd about it are the large concertina props the dancers pull on from the wings and kind of dance around, sometimes but not always. They just distract really without adding much of interest; furthermore they seem to be crying out for a dash of humour but that never really materialises. The piece is saved by stunning pas de deux from Céline Gittens and Brandon Lawrence; it’s lyrical, emotional and they dance it with an intimate understanding of each other’s movement. It really is a beauty.

The same pairing were also the best thing about Didy Veldman’s Sense of Time, the latest piece to spring from BRB’s ongoing Ballet Now programme whereby choreographers new to the company are given the opportunity to set work on the dancers of their choice. Gabriel Prokofiev’s music does some interesting jazzy stuff but there’s a bit too much stop/start going on to give things any real impetus, Joana Dias’ wall of suitcases looks great but its purpose is baffling and the choreography is solid enough but gives no sense of what Veldman’s trying to express in the wider picture. I, as you can tell, didn’t get on too well with Sense of Time but my companion for the evening really enjoyed it; such is life.

Ruth Brill’s new take on Peter and the Wolf concluded the night. Set on a non-descript urban playground with basketball hoops, discarded traffic cones and a large amount of scaffolding, my heart sank at first, but actually Brill adapted the story of the wily Peter pretty well; Bird was still a bird, Duck still a duck, but they were all wearing hoodies, headphones, tracksuits and the like, which gave it a believably contemporary feel. The movement is mainly balletic, with some gentle hip-hop thrown in, and the stand-out performances came from Brooke Ray as a somewhat sassy Duck and Tzu-Chao Chou who flew about the stage as Bird with impressive speed and exciting batterie.

 Gerard Davis

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