• Naomi Cockshutt

Birmingham Royal Ballet Arcadia / Le Baiser de la fée / ‘Still Life’ at the Penguin Café

November 6 2017 | Sadler’s Wells

Arcadia: Brandon Lawrence as Pan and Céline Gittens as Selene

© Ty Singleton

Following their run at Birmingham Hippodrome earlier this Autumn, Birmingham Royal Ballet present a second Mixed Programme. 

Featuring novel creation Arcadia by First Artist and Choreographer in Residence Ruth Brill, Michael Corder’s Le Baiser de la fée and director David Bintley's audience favourite, 'Still Life' at the Penguin Café, accompanied by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, conducted by Paul Murphy.

Collaborating with composer and eminent saxophonist John Harle, Arcadia is Ruth Brill’s ‘first formal commission for the main stage’, recently nominated for the FEDORA Van Cleef & Arpels Prize for Ballet 2017, reaching the final shortlist stage. Inspired by his 2012 score to the same name, Harle’s trio for violin, soprano saxophone and piano is an Eastern-jazz melodic fusion, with plenty of solo opportunities for Harle himself. Designs by Atena Ameri, a student at Birmingham City University who took a year out to work on the mythological project, are intelligently lit by Peter Teigen.

The London première sees self-assured Soloist Brandon Lawrence take to the stage as Pan, the Greek god of Arcadia - a human-goat hybrid creature, contorting into an array of neoclassical shapes. A trio of dancing nymphs; Pitys, Syrinx and Echo, portrayed by sprightly Soloists Yvette Knight and Yijing Zhang with Principal Delia Matthews pave the way for the entrance of Selene, Goddess of the Moon, enchantingly danced by similar sounding Principal, Céline Gittens. A success - the crowd pleasing work receives much applause, especially from the many Cecchetti students in the audience. Brill, a former Cecchetti Scholar herself continues to promote the legacy of Enrico Cecchetti. 

There have been a flurry of versions, yet none a permanent fixture in the repertoire, since Le Baiser de la fée (The Fairy's Kiss), commissioned to Stravinsky’s mysterious score was premièred by Ida Rubinstein’s company at the Paris Opera in 1928. Only weeks ago, as part of the 25th anniversary of Kenneth MacMillan’s death, celebrating his legacy, Scottish Ballet presented their re-creation. Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ice Maiden, Birmingham Royal Ballet use Michael Corder’s 2008 adaptation of the dark fairy tale. Alive with many pas de deux, the classic spectacle is well cast, The Fairy and The Bridedanced by Principals Jenna Roberts and Momoko Hirata, joined by First Artist Lachlan Monaghan's as The Young Man.

Created with composer Simon Jeffes in 1988, David Bintley's 'Still Life' at the Penguin Café, a one-act work which follows a series of amusing vignettes. Morphing from Choreographer to First Artist, Ruth Brill opens the ballet as an animated beaked being, the Great Auk. Ballroom dancing with Principal Iain Mackay, Soloist Maureya Lebowitz stars as the high-heeled starlet Utah Longhorn Ram, yet the biggest hit is Principal Tyrone Singleton’s energised performance as the Southern Cape Zebra, to sounds inspired by African trance, accompanied by a pack of antelope-skulled corps de ballet catwalk models.