Review — Serenade, Enigma Variations, and Still Life at the Penguin Café, Birmingham Royal Ballet, April 2009

This triple bill, titled Pomp and Circumstances, was brilliantly danced by the company, with the music beautifully played by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia under the baton of Philip Ellis, who showed great sympathy to both music and dancers.

Balanchine’s Serenade was very well done, though the ‘accidental’ fall towards the end looked a bit too contrived, particularly since the girl loosened her hair so carefully first. But the presentation was clean and Tchaikovsky’s music came over well.

Enigma Variations by Frederick Ashton was fun as usual, with Jonathan Payne and Victoria Marr as Elgar and his wife. The cast did an excellent job: Carol-Anne Millar was a fine Dorabella, with superb chainé turns at the end, James Grundy was very funny in his solo as WMB, and Matthew Lawrence and Natasha Oughtred were a lovely young couple as RPA and Ysobel, to say nothing of the other principals. Again the music was delightfully played under the baton of Philip Ellis.

Finally, Bintley’s  Still Life at the Penguin Café was a rip roaring success. The music by Simon Jeffes is wonderful fun, and the dancing was terrific. Laura Purkiss as the Great Auk started the show with aplomb, and Angela Paul was a beautifully musical Ram, well partnered by Robert Parker, giving us a cabaret act not to be missed. Christopher Larsen was equally musical in his wonderful solo as the Texan Kangaroo Rat, and Carol-Anne Millar was a superb Flea. Chi Cao was the zebra, very well supported by his ladies, including Angela Paul who had changed costumes from being the ram, and changed back again for the finale.

Altogether this was a marvellous triple bill with a great many dancers doing a great many things. Congratulations to the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

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