Birmingham Royal Ballet is on tour at Sadler’s Wells with a three-part mixed bill to suit anyone’s taste. Three separate pieces by different minds to dive into.
The first piece, A Brief Nostalgia (directed by Jack Lister) is unsettling. Two large slates. One dancer. Her shadow cast on the wall whilst she intensely holds a Couru position. The music, an eerie dramatic sound, is enough to stun you into a pleasant confusion. The focus shifts suddenly to another dancer with her shadow on a different slate. A stunning beginning, the darkness surrounding the slates formed perfect harmony with the music and movements. However, what followed provided no relief and the movements became more chaotic, leaving only confusion. The shadows on the slate became secondary rather than complementary to the dancers. Lister did end the piece with a beautiful duet nevertheless. Adding to the atmosphere, the dancers’ loose clothing heightened the flow in their movements and tunnelling gas seeped off the floor towards the audience.
Next was The Suit, directed by Cassa Pancho, founder of Ballet Black. Ballet Black aims to improve representation for Black and Asian dancers. Regardless of demographics, The Suit was humorous and well thought out. The plot follows a couple’s strained relationship from when the female partner has an affair. The simple furniture used on stage and the acting skills of the talented dancers brought to life a play that could be followed by any audience member. Pancho successfully used the choir to accentuate the principal dancer’s movements, to create separate storylines simultaneously and to clearly demonstrate the tension between the couple. The choir members were even brilliant props, remodelling into everyday items as needed. The titular suit is an artistic symbol - the suit of the man the female partner slept with. The excellent technical use of the suit is worth the visuals, thus I would thoroughly recommend you see this piece. My favourite from the night.
Nina Sinatra Songs, directed by Twyla Tharp, was a conflicting piece for me. The choice of Frank Sinatra’s music was excellent. I couldn’t help but sing along. The seven couples all exhibited various ballet moves in ballroom form. Unfortunately, it felt forced. Merging ballet dancers with glorious gowns and heels to replicate a ballroom setting did justice to neither ballet nor ballroom dancing. Moreover, while the clear theme of Tharp’s choreography was love, I only truly felt the tenderness in one out of the seven couples. Moving as one and fully engaged with each other, their chemistry offset the discordance in dance styles. The partnerwork in this piece did not flow well, despite the excellent technique of individual dancers.
You are spoilt for variety by Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Mixed Bill - it is definitely worth going to appreciate different styles and movements.