Guest Performance Birmingham Royal Ballet

Take Five. Birmingham Royal Ballet. ©Bill Cooper The Dream. Birmingham Royal Ballet. ©Bill Cooper

The Birmingham Royal Ballet seems to have had a pretty convoluted history behind it, when we consider all the different company titles and the series of directors its predecessors had. In actual fact, however, it has a highly stringent tradition. It emerged from the respective second, but never second-rate ensemble of England's great national company, the Sadler’s Wells Ballet, which, honored with a royal charter in 1956, making it the Royal Ballet, went on to earn a sterling reputation as one of the five most important ballet companies in the world.

The second company served as a proving ground for dancers and choreographers. John Cranko and Kenneth MacMillan, to name just two great choreographers, created their first works for this troupe. After moving to the Hippodrome Theatre in Birmingham, which from then on became their permanent home and base of operations, the company, then still under the direction of Peter Wright, received its present title, BRB for short. Since 1995, David Bintley heads the ensemble as director.

The repertoire is in many ways comparable to that of the Bavarian State Ballet, although there is a clear orientation here to national tradition: the presentation of the great historical works of classic ballet and concurrently the most significant international repertoire, besides being a creative center for new ideas, perhaps moderated by the mission of communicating the art form of ballet through guest appearances to every region and every level of society in England, which places natural limitations on avant-garde daredeviltry.

The Munich program represents the most fortunate supplement imaginable to our own season conception. A work by Ninette de Valois, the founder of what is now regarded as English tradition, Checkmate from 1937, opens the evening, When has anything by Valois been seen before in Germany? This could mark the beginning of a school of historical viewing.

Ashton's Midsummer Night's Dream vision The Dream from 1964 is a magnificent example of his skill at evolving a story and telling it exhaustively within the confines of a relatively brief, one-act work.

Besides this, a current work by David Bintley, created in 2007, presents 10 dancers performing to captivating jazz music and shows Bintley at the height of his classical, musically flowing body language. The ballet is witty and, in its effortless-easygoing way, an example of the supremacy with which the Englishman combines entertainment with artistic quality.

This program, with masterworks of English ballet history and an example of multi-leveled present-day creativity in English ballet will certainly spark many a controversy among continental audiences. The phenomenon of such radically disparate evaluations of national traditions observable between continental European and Anglo-Saxon-American critics, will doubtless come to the fore here as well. And it will provide plenty of subject matter for the symposium on this topic in conjunction with Ballet extra.


Ballet Festival Week 2012
Wednesday, 25 April 2012
8.00 p.m.
Prices H
Open ticket sales

Soloists and Coprs de ballett of the Birmingham Royal Ballet
The Royal Ballet Syinfonia