Review: Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Themes and Variations


Richard Lutz takes in three pieces by the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

A trio of productions at the Birmingham Hippodrome, home of the BRB. And foremost has to be a work called Kin. Its choreographer is Alexander Whitley who has deep roots in the city: his first professional dance job was with the BRB and he premiered this work last year at The Crescent.

Kin.(with the final punctuation) is an abstract and beautifully lit but stark piece with music created by contemporary composer Phil Kline – some of it reminiscent of Phillip Glass with that driving building tension in it. This is a neat blend of classic and modern dance and leaves a lasting impression. It is worth coming just to see this performance.

This was sandwiched between two other pieces. The evening opened with Themes and Variations. Music by Tchaikovsky and created by George Balanchine who looked to the Russian composer time and time again in his dance works. It is elegance in movement and lead performer Momoko Hiratoa, all tiara and tutu, graces the stage.

The trio ends with  Enigma Variations. To me, the jury will always be out whether narrative dance works; ie, can you tell a story with movement? It is stagey, the Edwardian costumes are accurate but not given to dance, and I had a hard time figuring out what the actual story was about without peeking at the programme.

But designer Julia Trevelyan creates a gorgeous feel to the piece. Her set is all peaceful autumnal mellowness from the gardens to the country estate which summons up a long gone era… domestic, placid… before the brutal war that would sweep this halcyon comfortable world away.

Until 10th October