Birmingham Royal Ballet's stunning new all-female programme is performing at Birmingham Hippodrome (until Sat June 15) and Sadler’s Wells, London (Tue June 25 &26).
A trio of intelligent, sharply contrasting ground-breaking works by female choreographers – including two new commissions – merge ballet, contemporary dance and striking design.
Ruth Brill’s new ballet Peter and the Wolf combines classical ballet with street culture in a modern urban setting; Didy Veldmen’s Sense of Time with its arresting rotating wall of suitcases looks at the stressful relationship we have with time and American choreographer Jessica Lang returns with Lyric Pieces, which ingeniously incorporates a set designed from black concertinaed craft paper and 10 short piano pieces by Scandinavian composer Edward Grieg.
The evening opens with the beautifully stylised Lyric Pieces, a 22-minute work originally created for Birmingham’s International Dance Festival in 2012. Graceful, grey-clad dancers playfully create shapes by extending and folding the black craft paper into clever cubes, walls and stools against a stark white background, which changes colour tones.
Dutch choreographer Didy has set Sense of Time, to a new score by contemporary composer Gabriel Prokofiev – the grandson of Sergei Prokofiev. He intersperses the music with electronic beats and recordings of traffic and muffled noise from Hackney, Pointe-Noire in Congo and Seoul in South Korea to create a hectic urban feel. The piece opens with commuters running in slo-mo. It looks at the constant rush of modern society, that we’re always on the go, never taking a breath. Smoke rises behind a giant wall of stacked suitcases – a reference for travelling and journeys. Didy says: “If you’re absorbed in your social media or phone like a lot of people nowadays how does that resonate with us does that create a wall around you?” The wall of suitcases represents these barriers, she says, as well as reminding us of what’s going on around us like Brexit or Trump’s wall in Mexico…
The dancers at Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) have been involved in creating this more experimental piece. Visually there are some really cool sequences as they crawl in and out of gaps in between the stacked suitcases and the sensual pairing of Celine Gittens and Brandon Lawrence.
I’ve always loved Peter and the Wolf – and have numerous recordings, including one narrated by David Bowie and another by Lenny Henry. Company dancer Ruth Brill is leaving BRB at the end of this season after seeing her career in choreography blossom. The 30-year-old’s super-cool new urban interpretation of Prokofiev’s musical children’s story is edgy, fun and hugely enjoyable – teens will love the street style and energy! It gave me goosebumps! Gone is the countryside setting, we’re in a New York basketball court with scaffolding representing the tree and a female dancer cast as Peter – Laura Day. Each of the dancers perfectly captures the movements of the animals they play. Brooke Ray’s Duck is hilariously sassy – mimicking waddling movements in her white and yellow striped over the knee socks, matching dress and over-sized yellow headphones. An unmissable trio of work. Despite the heavy rain, I left the theatre on a real high!
(Un)leashed runs at Birmingham Hippodrome until Sat June 15. Performances at 2.30pm & 7.30pm, brb.org.uk