Musical youth

Simon Hale watches Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Evening of Music and Dance.

David Bintley’s commitment to “giving youth a chance” was demonstrated in delightful fashion at Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Evening of Music and Dance at Symphony Hall.

As compere, BRB’s director put the spotlight on young dancers with the talent to be the stars of tomorrow, interspersing their performances with amusing anecdotes about his own early career.

The youngsters included the sixth formers of Elmhurst School for Dance who, resplendent in their classical white tutus and tunics, danced the world premiere of Preludes with great skill and assurance. The work, based on four of Elgar’s Enigma Variations, was choreographed by their teachers Lee Robinson and Gloria Grigolato, and formed the centerpiece of a first half themed by the time of year.

With Verdi’s The Seasons as the framework, BRB principals Ruth Brill, Yaoqian Shang and Tzu-Chao Chou danced an elegant ‘Winter’ pas de trois as the opening sequence. Fellow principals Momoko Hirota and Joseph Caley took us into the interval with a sparkling ‘Spring’ pas de deux from the David Bintley choreographed work.

BRB’s forthcoming repertoire based on Shakespeare’s plays and poetry to mark the 400th anniversary of his death brought a Shakespearean theme to the second part of the evening, beginning with an extract from Frederick Ashton’s The Dream. Soloist William Bracewell replaced the indisposed Chi Cao as Oberon in the reconciliation pas de deux from the ballet, danced to the Nocturne from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Despite the late chance and being much taller, the 2015 Critics Circle dancer of the year in his forest green garb formed a charismatic pairing with Nao Sakuma as the blonde-haired fairy Titania. So too did Iain Mackay and Jenna Roberts in the balcony pas de deux from Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo & Juliet, danced to the Prokofiev score. Relying on only a bare platform for a courtyard and a step for a balcony, the couple gave a beautifully moving performance that left you yearning to see the full show.

There was also an exuberant and energetic finale from BRB’s most recently promoted young principals, Yaoqian Shang and Mathias Dingman that proved top talent continues to flow through the company. With Shang as a Medora in tiara and red dress and Dingman as a bare-topped Conrad, they produced a scintillating pas de deux from Le Corsaire, choreographed by Marius Petipa to music by Drigo.

All the dancers were ably supported by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia under the baton of young guest conductor Dominic Grier. They took the opportunity to rise from the hidden depths of the orchestra pit and shine in a traditional concert programme of their own.

Popular works ranging from Chabrier’s Joyeuse Marche and Dukas’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice to Khachaturian’s Adagio from Spartacus, and from Prokofiev’s March in B Flat Major and Walton’s Henry V Suite to the Finale of Tchaikovsky’s Polish Symphony thrilled a full house that went away very happy.

Birmingham Royal Ballet will be performing The Dream and A Month in the Country at Birmingham Hippodrome from February 17th-20th. For more details and for other productions in the company’s Shakespeare Year, click on