Pointes of View
Birmingham Royal Ballet
Sadlers Wells, 16th October 2010
Birmingham Royal Ballet’s visit to London closes with this triple bill entitled Pointes of View, which promises such varied treats as Concerto, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue & In the Upper Room.
Alexander Campbell had an excellent show; in fact he’s been consistently excellent all week – first of all as Mercutio, whose death scene was the best I’ve seen – and tonight as the Hoofer in Slaughter, and in the 1, 111, V & V11 movements of Twyla Tharp’s relentless In the Upper Room. A busy night !
Kenneth MacMillan’s choreography for Concerto is demanding and exposing, to Shostakovich’s music. Full marks to Carol-Anne Millar in the Third movement and to Momoko Hirata & Victoria Marr as part of the three couples. The long solo in the Third movement was originally meant to be partnered, but the male dancer originally cast (in 1966 for the Deutsche Oper Ballett in Berlin) became unwell, MacMillan stuck with the solo you see today. Tyrone Singleton has also had a good night – here in the Second movement partnered with Natasha Oughtred and later in Slaughter. He too had an excellent Romeo & Juliet earlier in the week, as Paris, where he demonstrated what a fine partner he is. So it was tonight. The zingy orange and yellow costumes are warm and infectious; when the whole company moves en masse it is something to behold.
George Balanchine’s Slaughter on Tenth Avenue is an excerpt from the musical On Your Toes, and though it’s light and enjoyable after the virtuosity of Concerto, it’s not really ballet. Neither do ballet dancers look great in striptease body stockings, though Ambra Vallo did her damndest. I’ve seen it before when The Royal Ballet staged Seven Deadly Sins and dressed Marianela Nuñez in the stripper’s clobber of fishnet tights & heels and it didn’t work for her either. Costume-wise the best dressed award has to go to Alexander Campbell as the Hoofer – white trousers and a tight black t-shirt. Campbell showed off his admirable tap dancing skills to great effect, covering the stage in leaps and bounds and never missing a beat. He is such a strong, charismatic dancer and great partner, taking time to savour every moment and always in character. Tyrone Singleton showed us his acting chops as the Big Boss and drew some laughs from the audience. The ballet is wonderfully, evocatively lit by Johnny Westall-Eyre, Birmingham Ballet’s Head of Lighting.
The jazzy, In the Upper Room is an exhilarating journey through Philip Glass’s music, wonderfully lit through the mist by Jennifer Tipton. Tipton’s collaboration with Tharp stretches back to 1965 and it’s clearly a successful one (winning an Olivier Dance Award). Twyla Tharp’s choreography is energetic and athletic; the dancers make it look easy but in truth it’s 42 minutes of the most intense workout with costume changes. The iconic black and red stripy shirts, trousers & sneakers, accompanied by red dresses and leotards and – best of all – traffic stopping red pointe shoes and socks – add a vibrancy to the ballet to the point where you really do feel the frequency too. Elisha Willis made smooth work of it, as did Robert Parker and Natasha Oughtred. Throughout the evening the company struggled with timing, often being out of sync and if you weren’t sure whether that was accidental or not, it could be confusing. They certainly looked well-rehearsed. No such issues for Jamie Bond, Alexander Campbell and Robert Parker as the three men completely at one with the music and crucially, attuned to each other. They were a joy to watch, soaring through the air, twisting and turning, changing direction in a heartbeat, all in perfect synchronisation. The ballet ends as it began, with two girls in a spotlight which is abruptly turned off. The audience roared their approval.