Jessica Harris watches Birmingham Hippodrome’s new ballet production.
Bottles flew across the stage, the pulse of rock music filled the air, the street dancing was wild and frenzied. Was this some crazy party that the Birmingham Hippodrome had decided to throw? No, it was Birmingham Royal Ballet’s premiere of 24, part of the triple bill, On Your Marks.
Frenetic, unpredictable and high risk, this dance was an extraordinary piece of choreography, and its performance by 24 dancers (12 from BRB and 12 from Acosta Danza, the Cuban company established by Carlos Acosta), had as much to do with acrobatics as dance.
With the arrival of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in July, there was more than a nod to sport in 24. Techniques drawn from rhythmic gymnastics were particularly evident as dancers exchanged bottles (in place of the more traditional clubs) whilst leaping or pivoting. With a total of 72 bottles, filled with eye-catching fluorescent pink and green coloured water, elements of the performance were reliant on choices made on the spot. The demand for the dancers to be in the moment was evident, as was their enjoyment as they rose to the challenge.
By contrast, Interlinked, also premiered as part of On Your Marks, was a thoughtful and introspective piece exploring how we interact, and how this drives our sense of unity. The musical score started with a dream-like movement before progressing to movements using staccato and crescendo to express foreboding. The choreography responded, changing from ensemble to duets and trios, expressing ideas of separation, before finally revisiting the theme of connection.
A beautifully abstract piece, performed by 16 dancers, costumes and dance movements suggested gender neutrality. Men and women alike wore long tutus in flesh tones, which accentuated the grace and flow of the piece.
Lazuli Sky, the third work of the triple bill, was premiered during the pandemic in October 2020 to limited audiences. Its inclusion in the programme provided a much deserved opportunity for it to be seen more widely. A colour palette in set and costumes played on the blues of the lapis lazuli stone, whilst backdrop projections conjured up images of nature: the greenness of trees, the heat of the sun and the coolness of water.
Created during the lockdown, there was a sense of urgency in the dance: an attestation that we need to get the most out of life and, to do so, we need to respect the natural environment. As with the rest of the programme, ensemble work was at the core of this piece and the sense of synergy between the 12 dancers was compelling.
Through the artistic direction of Carlos Acosta, Birmingham Royal Ballet is rapidly developing a trade-mark as a company which is innovative, not afraid to take risks and where the quality of dance, music and design are exceptional. Added to this is the sense of collaboration the dancers bring to the stage – and they also seem to be having a lot of fun!
Interlinked was choreographed by Juliano Nunes, with music by Luke Howard. Lazuli Sky was choreographed by Will Tuckett with music by John Adams. 24 was choreographed by Jorge Crecis with music by Vincenzo Lamagna. Music was performed by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia.
On Your Marks is part of the Birmingham International Dance Festival 2022, and part of the Festival marking the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. It is at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 25th June. For further information visit birminghamhippodrome.com.
Pics – Tristram Kenton.