Or how I ended up going to the ballet twice in a week.
After having a bit a A Week at work (though I guess you can never accuse politics of being boring) I spontaneously booked tickets to see Birmingham Royal Ballet’s 25 year celebration production of a Triple Bill of ballets. This opened with Balanchine’s Theme & Variations, followed by a new piece choreographed by Alexander Whitley called Kin and ending with Enigma Variations a piece choreographed by Frederick Ashton to Elgar’s famous piece of music.
Theme & Variations is a very classical piece of ballet, which has a clear principals, soloists, artists breakdown in terms of staging and dance. The two leads were the same that I saw in Swan Lake, Momoko Hirata and Joseph Caley. Their partnership was so lovely to watch and Hirata is just so graceful on stage. Celine Gittens, a dancer that has been used in the publicity for Swan Lake, performed as one of the soloists and is someone who you can’t help watching on stage. The piece was just beautiful to watch, with so much graceful technicality I couldn’t quite get my head around it all.
The next piece, Whitley’s Kin was a pretty dramatic change to the previous piece. Whilst Theme & Variations was bright and sparkling, Kin was a lot darker. It combines some of the classical ballet steps; and there is one pas de deux danced en pointe, with the sort of expressionism seen in modern dance. It was really technically impressive, Elisha Willis and Joseph Caley as the lead pair were really great; but all the other dancers in the piece were excellent too. Particular standouts were the pairing of Brandon Lawrence and Yijing Zhang; and the solo by Tzu-Chao Chou. I will also give Peter Tiegen’s lighting design a shout-out because it was the first time I’ve ever really felt the impact of good lighting.
Finally was the Enigma Variations piece. This was a more character-driven, acting ballet and was both laugh-out-loud funny and also really moving. The general arc is Elgar (Jonathan Payn) is struggling with inspiration, much to the sadness of his wife (Samara Downs) and his friends who are all attempting to cheer him up. The central duo of Downs and Payn was really lovely, and the pas de trois to the famous ‘Nimrod’ movement alongside Valentin Olovyannikov was surprisingly moving. I also really enjoyed the youthful pas de deux between Richard Arnold (Jamie Bond) and Isabel Fitton (Arancha Baselga) and anyone who thinks ballet lacks ‘real’ acting should see Elisha Willis’ transformation from the lead female in Kin to the young Dora in Enigma Variations, as it is really something.
This was a really entertaining night at the ballet, and although its run has finished at the Hippodrome now, a similar programme is touring to London and Plymouth so if you live near there I’d recommend checking it out.
All photos from the Hippodrome website