Grosse Fuge/ Lyric Pieces/ Take Five, Birmingham Royal Ballet, BRB, Sadler’s Wells, October 2012

This triple bill, titled Opposites Attract, concludes with Hans van Manen’s fine 1971 ballet Grosse Fuge to orchestral music by Beethoven, but in the meantime we are treated to two more recent works with music of a lighter texture.

All images BRB/ Roy Smiljanic

The programme starts with David Bintley’s Take Five to jazz music created by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. This is fun. Lighting by Peter Mumford shows clear colourful lines, and costumes by Jean-Marc Puissant exhibit a 1950s charm, particularly the dresses with their matching colours and white collars for the girls in the pas-de-trois. Bintley’s choreography in this second section is beautifully gentle, but things quickly change into a fast solo brilliantly danced by Joseph Caley. Then in the Two Step when Tyrone Singleton joins Elisha Willis he suddenly gives her a definition she lacked, and his solo work was terrific. The Four Square section for men that immediately follows was strongly danced by all, with Joseph Caley and William Bracewell particularly notable, and the cast then came together for an excellent finale.

Dancers and concertinas in Lyric Pieces

Following the first interval was Jessica Lang’s new work Lyric Pieces first shown in Birmingham in May 2012. Lang, once a dancer with Twyla Tharp’s company, created this to piano music by Grieg and complemented her choreography by pieces of black pleated scenery, concertinas that the dancers move into position and occasionally manipulate. Like the previous ballet this one divides into named sections, from solos — and there was a very fine one here danced by Yvette Knight — to sections for two and more performers. The penultimate one called Phantom was hugely lyrical, particularly in the way it was danced with beautiful fluid movements by Jenna Roberts and Iain MacKay. Grieg’s piano music was beautifully played by Jonathan Higgins, and this ballet exuded a refreshing feel, forming an ideal counterbalance to the final item.

Iain Mackay in Grosse Fuge

Grosse Fuge by Hans van Manen also uses four guys and four girls, and the black of the sets for the previous work becomes the black of the trouser-skirts for the men. These are removed in the second part, showing black trunks secured by a belt that the girls can grasp hold of, and van Manen created these costumes as well as the choreography. The music is late Beethoven, written originally for his B flat quartet (op.130), and the grosse Fuge that originally ended the quartet was used here for the first part, while its later replacement by a lighter allegro was used for the second part. As the ballet progresses the girls, who stood apart from the boys at the start, began to join in and the dancers work in couples giving meaning to the title of this triple bill: Opposites Attract.

From jazz to solo piano to orchestral music well conducted by Koen Kessels, the musical textures form a delightful triple.

Performances continue on October 24 (mat. and eve.) at Sadler’s Wells — details here — and on October 25, 26 and 27 the Company will dance a different triple — details here.

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