Birmingham Royal Ballet’s 2013/2014 season at the Birmingham Hippodrome season, the 24th season at its home theatre in the Midlands, sees the welcome return of some favourites, plus the British premiere of David Bintley’s “The Prince of the Pagodas.”
The season begins on October 3 with an all-Bintley mixed bill named “Penguin Café.” It includes “Tombeaux,” Bintley’s lament on the death of his mentor, Frederick Ashton with music by William Walton and designs by Jasper Conran. “E=mc²” won the last-ever ITV South Bank Show Award for Dance in 2010. Danced to a specially commissioned and sometimes experimental score by Australian composer Matthew Hindson, it explores Einstein’s ‘Special Theory of Relativity’ in music and dance. Completing the bill is one of Bintley’s best-known ballets, “Still Life’ at the Penguin Café,” which may be about the serious subject of endangered animals and conservation, but that includes such delights as a morris-dancing flea, a ballroom-dancing ram, and a carnival-loving woolly monkey. Also in the autumn, the company will dance Sir Peter Wright’s ever-popular production of “The Sleeping Beauty.”
This Christmas it is the turn of “The Nutcracker,” including surely the grandest transformation scene ever.
The February 2014 season opens with a triple bill of three witty classics from three masters of choreography: John Cranko, George Balanchine and Kenneth MacMillan. In “Card Game,” Stravinsky, himself a keen poker player, plays with allegiances, rivalries and power. Cranko’s witty choreography illustrates the score with the little Two of Diamonds trying to spoil everyone’s fun. Created by George Balanchine for the musical “On Your Toes!,” “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” is a crazy 1930s comedy, its humour and vitality providing plenty of entertainment including a hitman in the audience. Music is by Richard Rodgers and designs by Kate Ford. In MacMillan’s “Elite Syncopations,” a completely stripped-back theatre bursts into life as dancers in brilliantly coloured costumes gather for a dance competition. An equally vibrant rag-time band play old favourites from Scott Joplin and his contemporaries to accompany a string of sketches, spanning the dazzling, the witty and the touching, as each dancer at the competition takes their turn.
That programme is followed by David Bintley’s reworking of the classic story that celebrates the power of family love, “The Prince of the Pagodas.” Danced to Benjamin Britten’s only commissioned ballet score, the ballet was rapturously received by audiences and critics at its premiere by the National Ballet of Japan in 2011. It features spectacular and imaginative costumes from War Horse designer Rae Smith.
June’s triple bill, “Darkness and Light” presents three early works from the founder choreographer of the Royal Ballet companies, Frederick Ashton. Fragile innocence confronts desperate evil in the simple and poignant “Dante Sonata,” created at the height of World War II. The elegant white-clad Children of Light battle the dark and serpentine Children of Darkness with only one certain outcome. Like every war, there will be casualties on both sides. Created in 1933, “Les Rendezvous” is a gentle piece, in which friends and acquaintances meet and dance together in a park. The ballet allows each of the dancers an opportunity to display virtuoso skills and technique in a series of solos, pas de deux and ensemble dances. Finally, based on Edith Sitwell’s deliciously nonsensical poetry, “Façade” embraces the fun of it all with whole-hearted and wilful abandon.
The season concludes with more Ashton, this time the sunny, funny and tender “La Fille mal gardée.”
For details see www.brb.org.uk