The Birmingham Royal Ballet opened a new mixed programme at the Birmingham Hippodrome last night. Fire and Fury, two ballets fuelled by Power and Politics, showcased very different styles of ballet, with ‘The King Dances feeling very classical in style, whilst the brand new Ballet Now piece ‘Ignite’ very contemporary in style despite taking its inspiration from the Turner painting of the burning of the Houses of Parliament from 1835.
The King Dances
The King Dances is a ballet with a baroque, dramatic feel. Freely based on Le Ballet de la Nuit from 1653, and on the legendary Louis XIV, the Sun King of France, ‘The King Dances taps into dance and theatre from history by being performed by a company almost wholly made up of male dancers. This leads to a performance highly charged with masculine virility, with the dancing being vigorous and dominant.
We are taken through night by night himself (La Nuit – a dramatic turn by the brilliant Tyrone Singleton) The golden haired king (Max Maslen – Le Roi) enjoys dancing as the sun departs and night arrives, and is later charmed by the beauty of the moon (Selene, La Lune Yijing Zhang – enchanting and ethereal, a really beautiful performance).
Things really come alive in ‘The Third Watch’, when the King’s restful sleep is utterly disturbed by a series of horrifying night terrors. This is exhilarating to watch, as the demons and satyrs, werewolves and magicians all seem to be ready to devour the terrified King. The haunting, menacing music, performed with vigour and drive by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, lends this the feel of Dante’s inferno, and the staging is excellent – creatures just seem to materialise from the darkness.
The King Dances is powerful and striking, making a real impression despite the brevity of the piece.
Ignite is a stunning new piece that is a collaboration between the Birmingham Royal ballet and the Dutch National Opera and Ballet. It is inspired by Turner’s famous painting of the burning of the Houses of Parliament.
The ballet is cleverly constructed using silk and mirrors to give a real impression of the power of fire. Red and orange flowing silk costumes create an overwhelming whirring effect as the flames grow, and contrast beautifully with the stillness of Delia Mathews, representing the River as the fire grows.
The music of Kate Whitley is dramatic as the conflagration continues to rise and grow, but it is the actual sound of burning, combined with smoke, and the company in grey to represent the embers of the building that really strikes a haunting, unsettling end note.
Fire and Fury
Until 6th October.
Click here for ticket information.