Review: An Evening of Music and Dance

Simon Hale enjoys the return of a winning combination from Birmingham Royal Ballet.

The Royal Ballet Sinfonia and the cream of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s dancing talent – along with the budding ballet stars of tomorrow – were all on top form at Symphony Hall.

The first Evening of Music and Dance since before the Covid pandemic provided a soothingly melodic to intensely fiery and visually stunning showcase of what BRB and the orchestra have to offer this year.

There was a freshness and zest to the mainly Spanish-themed programme of popular classics devised by BRB Director Carlos Acosta – and it was fuelled by a rapturous enthusiasm and energy from the large audience.

Hosted by BRB Board Member Marverine Cole, the evening got off to rousing start with the overture to Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.

Juliano Nunes’ choreography to Luke Howard’s Interlinked, which will form part of a BRB triple bill this summer, conveyed a sub-theme of respect and tolerance with Tzu-Chao Chou and Brandon Lawrence performing a technically excellent swan-like pas deux but in tutus that looked disappointingly drab.

Lawrence returned after the interval as Prince Siegfried with Céline Gittens as the Black Swan Odile to perform a thrillingly captivating Act III pas de deux from Peter Wright’s brilliant production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

For sheer breath-taking virtuosity and chemistry, you could hardly match the performances of Sofia Liñares and Tyrone Singleton in Cesare Pugni’s Diana and Actaeon pas de deux, or of Yaoqian Shang and Riku Ito in Ricardo Drigo’s Le Corsaire, both pieces choreographed by Agrippina Vaganova.

Liñares and Ito are among six BRB dancers that are supporting a founding group of another six recent ballet graduates from around the world in a new two-year performance programme, BRB2, which will include a touring programme under the direction of First Soloist Kit Holder.

As well as Vaganova’s Diana and Actaeon pas de deux, the BRB2 programme will include Frederick Ashton’s Rachmaninov Rhapsody pas de deux, which was performed in sequined classical costume by Beatrice Parma and Max Maslen, as well as Acosta’s electrifying choreography for Bizet’s Carmen pas de deux, danced equally outstandingly in modern dress by Liñares and Lachlan Monaghan.

The evening also provided a showcase for the students, with six girls and boys from Birmingham’s Elmhurst Ballet School performing Two Dances from Alberto Ginastera’ Estancia with gaucho swagger and panache as part of the school’s centenary celebrations.

Usually hidden from view in the orchestra pit, The Royal Ballet Sinfonia under the baton of Paul Murphy kept fully in step with the dancing and came into its own with passionate renditions of both España rhapsodies by Emmanuel Chabrier and Isaac Albéniz, the Intermezzo from Goyescas by Enrique Granados, and the Ritual Fire Dance from El amor brujo by Manuel de Falla.

Swan Lake is in performance at Birmingham Hippodrome from Wednesday, February 15th until Saturday, April 1st (Tickets & Information 0844 338 5000/

Pics – Caroline Holden