Organized by Carlos, Birmingham Royal Ballet, critic Sadler’s Wells
Now it is the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s turn to improve their playing under the influence of Carlos Acosta, who brings not only his in-depth experience, but also new tastes and ideas, formed on a global scale. The second edition of Carlos CurÃ© – a new triple work program for the company and for the British public – shows the dancers visibly invigorated by new stylistic challenges. Their London screening also launches Sadler’s Wells video-on-demand platform, adding multiple zeros to BRB’s total potential audience and positioning them on a much larger map.
And what better way for an artistic director to raise the bar than to take the stage with the company. Chacona, the biggest and best piece on this program, premiered in the UK in Birmingham in June, but for Sadler’s Wells won a new opening section created by choreographer, Goyo Montero, specifically to honor the talent combined artistry of Carlos Acosta and guest artist Alessandra Ferri. To call it a flagship event would be to underestimate it.Chacona is set to solo music by Bach, played live on stage (a treat in itself) first by a violinist (Robert Gibbs), then a classical guitarist (Tom Ellis), then by pianist Jonathan Higgins. If at first you fear that all this will fall into the territory of William Forsythe (his first classic Steptext whipped that same violin piece almost to death), the fear is soon dispelled. The emphasis here is not on the deconstruction of the ballet but on the scenic geometry (photo above), rows of black-clad figures stretching out in lines so long and unwavering that, under sooty lighting, they seem to extend beyond the confines of the stage. And while these dancers aren’t yet 100% crisp and crisp in this sleek, European choreography, the most extreme demands of which include falling prone, they’re clearly enjoying the ride.
As for the new frontispiece, it is magnificent. And while it is neither customary nor polite to mention the artists’ ages, in the case of Acosta and Ferri, both officially long retired, it would be perverse not to. He’s 48 and she 58 (he debuted with BRB four decades after joining his sister company as a teenager) and together they give a masterclass on stage presence, placement, partnership and balance, dancers of the company creating a constantly evolving framework. around them. Acosta’s low-key fading as a partner has always been exemplary, and he hasn’t lost any of his personal panther style. Ferri, meanwhile, with her Bambi limbs, exquisite feet and hyper musical timing, is more convincing than ever – although part of the credit goes to Montero for doing a choreography that suits her so well. Together, these two evergreen talents create one of those rare elated moments in live performances that make your scalp tingle.If the rest of the night were the same cut, this review would carry five stars. Commissioned by the company, City of a thousand trades – a hymn to Birmingham’s multifaceted industrial and commercial energy – is impressive, if not thrilling, in places. Choreographer Miguel Altunaga transforms the ensemble into a workforce, manipulating scaffolding poles in martial arts fashion and cutting paths at high speed across the stage like ants, each focused on their task. Watching the melee prepare for accidents, but dodging is skillful. Above, on a scaffolding platform, two percussionists power a global range of kits, coordinating who knows how with the Royal Ballet Sinfonia far in the pit. But was it all to sprinkle with a voiceover from Birmingham poet laureate Casey Bailey? His words are beautiful and noble, describing Brum’s industrial past and present, but there are too many of them, and they are not always audible.
Over-egging was again a problem at Daniela Cardim Imminent, another BRB commission. Under its golden light, the dancers look glorious, but the piece sags under the weight of undeserved emotions, any surface shiny and stares struck. When a performer puts on “face dancer”, it’s to cover an absence, I suppose. There was more substance coming from Sadler’s Wells pit, where the Sinfonia, under the baton of Koen Kessels, tore up Paul Englishby’s enormous film noir-tinged score with muscular plume.
My personal strategy for attending an ensemble piece that I don’t like is to follow individual dancers. There are always one or two that catch the eye, that seem to clarify the steps, intensify the energy. In this case, I was drawn to Tzu-Chao Chou, whose joyful verve illuminates the space at each of his entrances. I also expect to see a lot more gloriously long limbs Yijing Zhang, a new talent for me (photo above). BRB is a nursery, to be sure, variously sown.