An evening of The Birmingham Royal Ballet at Sadler’s Wells is always a great dose of culture and a joyous escapade for the senses. On this occasion we were all excitedly gathered to watch Birmingham Royal Ballet’s opening night of Curated by Carlos. A world exclusive, the audience waited to be exhilarated by a triple bill of Miguel Altunaga’s City of a Thousand Trades, Daniela Cradim’s Imminent and Goyo Montero’s Chancon.’ Each a manageable twenty minutes or so in duration and all directed by the famed Carlos Acosta.
The vigorous drums for City with a Thousand Trades introduced the modern denim clad ensemble – the music is an original score by Belgian composer Mathias Coppens, the dynamic energy emanated from the dancers and their wooden pole props. Here we were told the story of different cultural backgrounds within the city of Birmingham and its industrial heritage. Miguel Altunaga, born in Havana, is a choreographer, dancer, photographer, and film maker best known for his long association with Rambert. This is his first commission for The Birmingham Royal Ballet – ‘described as a love letter to city of Birmingham.’
The dancers were all equal with no hierarchy as they danced along to testimonials of real people who had migrated to the city, many immigrants fighting to grow their dreams. This is a dynamic and raw piece about cultural and industrial heritage – with many of the dancers own experiences of Birmingham being explored. Here we experienced real story telling where ballet speaks the language of human connection, where people make the city and not the bricks and mortar. The abstract movements of the dancers alongside the strings of heavy metal influenced Black Sabbath made this a true contemporary dance expression.
After an interval, my favourite of the trilogy, Imminent, dramatically changed the mood from our first instalment. Vast expanses of creams and whites dominated the almost natural stone backdrop – a fluidity of movement echoed the more melodic score composed by Peter Englishby. Born in Rio and now residing in London, ex dancer and now choreographer, Daniela Cardim brought us, even if unintentionally, an ethereal piece which reminded me of a Gershwin and Minnelli dream sequence of old Hollywood glamour, yet for us here today in abstract form.
Throughout the performance the predominant feeling was of searching for the unknown as the dancers were drawn to the one mysterious open door on stage. Cardim explains that her inspiration was to tell the story of change – how even though the world may seem to be flowing harmoniously we need to challenge the status quo. Perhaps walking through the furtive door as all the dancers did in the end was to signify this and I was feeling light and serene.
A ten-minute pause, and for what was the main event, our third delicacy – Chacona, its origins being the standalone ballet of the same title and choregraphed by Goyo Monterro. Black spandex body suits for the sixteen strong collective gave a vigour to the stage which was reflected by the dynamic chiaroscuro lighting as dancers energetically moved to the final movement of Bach’s Partita No.2 in D Minor. The apprehension was felt here, it was almost a little unpleasant. Monterro comments that he tries to bring dancers ‘to the tip of falling, it’s all off balance, it’s all about weight and tension’ – this whole piece is ‘pure energy and pure joy.’ Making this even more exceptional was the newly choregraphed duet or pas de deux for Acosta and Alessandra Ferri, the great Italian born ballerina who ‘retired’ in 2007. To have the opportunity to watch two such experienced dancers move together was nothing short of wondrous.
It is through both dance and direction that Acosta’s influence was felt during the evening – his wealth of talent and experience flowed through each movement, each dancer and through us the audience. A night of ballet and modern dance was perfect for a novice to enjoy and soak up the atmosphere. And for an avid fan of ballet, you can relish in the magnificence and skill of such an acclaimed school and director.
To discover more about The Birmingham Royal Ballet, visit: brb.org.uk
All imagery courtesy of Johan Persson.
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