Birmingham Royal Ballet spring across the pond

Performances to celebrate arts festival anniversary.

Birmingham Royal Ballet Principal Dancers Nao Sakuma and Chi Cao, along with Principal Conductor Paul Murphy, will be making the journey to Norfolk, Virginia next month to take part in Virginia Arts Festival’s Spring for Dance Gala.

Since 2007, Birmingham Royal Ballet has performed at the Virginia Arts Festival on three separate occasions, each time showcasing the best of what the UK’s leading classical touring ballet company has to offer with unparalleled performances of The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake and Coppélia. Next month two of BRB’s most celebrated dancers will travel to Norfolk, Virginia to help the Virginia Arts Festival celebrate their 20th anniversary by performing two excerpts in the Spring for Dance Gala at the Chrysler Hall. Paul Murphy, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Principal Conductor, will conduct the Virginia Symphony Orchestra playing live for the performances.

Since its inception, Virginia Arts Festival has worked to bring exciting performances from the world’s most renowned ballet and contemporary dance companies to Virginia. Now, in celebration of its 20th anniversary, the Festival will stage a showcase of some of the greatest companies it has presented over the years. Alongside Birmingham Royal Ballet the Gala will feature dancers from American Ballet Theatre, hailed around the world for its virtuoso dancing; the Mark Morris Dance Group, renowned for 30 years of marvellously eclectic creativity; the Richard Alston Dance Company, which celebrated its own 20th anniversary last year; Tokyo Ballet, renowned for its peerless dancers and dazzling star turns; and the pride of Virginia, the Richmond Ballet, much loved for its strength and theatricality.

On Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 April, Nao Sakuma and Chi Cao will be performing two excerpts from Birmingham Royal Ballet’s current Shakespeare season. The Balcony pas de deux from Romeo and Juliet is long a gala favourite and comes from one of Kenneth Macmillan’s most famous ballets, danced to one of Prokofiev’s most famous scores. It shows the first time that Romeo and Juliet have any significant time alone together and both music (featuring one of the ballet’s great love themes) and choreography are highly impassioned, filled with the young couple’s love for each other.

The second piece to be performed at the Spring for Dance Gala is the pas de deux from The Dream, Frederick Ashton’s balletic version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; considered by many to be one of the finest pas de deux Ashton ever created. Inspired by only eight lines spoken to Oberon and danced to the ‘Nocturne’ from Mendelssohn’s original score, Ashton weaves a beautiful, seven-minute reconciliation pas de deux for Titania and Oberon.

Commenting on the Company’s involvement in Virginia Arts Festival’s Spring for Dance Gala, Birmingham Royal Ballet Director David Bintley said, ‎”It is a great honour for Birmingham Royal Ballet to be performing at Virginia Arts Festival’s Spring for Dance Gala next month. Last year BRB celebrated its 25th year in the city of Birmingham so we are delighted to help the Virginia Arts Festival celebrate their own 20th anniversary. Birmingham Royal Ballet is well known to audiences across the globe but nowhere in the world welcomes us with the same loyalty and big, open-hearted generosity as Norfolk, Virginia where we have been regular visitors to the Festival since 2007.

Nao Sakuma and Chi Cao, as well as our Principal Conductor Paul Murphy, are all well known to audiences at the Chrysler Hall, and are looking forward to the customary warm welcome. They will be performing two wonderful excerpts from Romeo and Juliet and The Dream which form part of our season to mark 400 years since William Shakespeare’s death. I know that the Spring for Dance Gala will be hugely enjoyable for anyone lucky enough to get a ticket, and we at Birmingham Royal Ballet are very proud to be involved.”