Birmingham Royal Ballet’s aptly-named Opposites Attract programme features three diverse dance works.
David Bintley’s Take Five provides a slow start, with casually-dressed dancers skipping about the stage to Dave Brubeck’s cool jazz accompaniment. While the choreography becomes more intricate, it retains an air of artificial spontaneity that doesn’t sit well with the use of formal classical technique. However, Joseph Caley’s flying solo is an effortless display of bravura leaps and spins and a trio for Arancha Baselga, Laura-Jane Gibson and Laura Purkiss is sweet if not thrilling.
A former dancer with Twyla Tharp’s company, Jessica Lang combines modern and ballet styles in her 2012 commission for BRB. Lyric Pieces is carefully and satisfyingly choreographed to match the varied moods of Edward Grieg’s piano score, with a lyrical duet for Jenna Roberts and Ian Mackay providing particular attraction. But with backdrop and costumes in drab shades of grey and beige, it is the enormous folding expanses of black kraft paper that take prime focus. Forming walls, stools, fans and even wiggling columns, the paper becomes a highly creative moving scenery that deserves a whole ballet to itself.
Hans van Manen’s Grosse Fuge is the hardest work with which to engage, as delicate girls in lingerie-style leotards contrast aggressive bare-chested and black-skirted males. Muscles bulging and fists clenched, it is almost surprising that the men don’t remove their gold-buckled belts and whip their submissive female counterparts. Repetitive movements of wide steps, high kicks and bold arm shapes are frequently at odds with the orchestral score by Ludwig van Beethoven. The work makes a draining finish to an otherwise light-hearted evening.
Pictured: Birmingham Royal Ballet in Lyric Pieces / Photo by Roy Smiljanic