It is always good to have the ballet back in town. This time the Birmingham company’s triple bill had something for every taste, a luscious combination of the classical and the contemporary.
Noël Coward’s many gems include two ballets. The Grand Tour evokes the many transatlantic crossings he made with the glitterati of the 1930s. John Conklin’s splendid set, the liner’s after-deck where celebs paraded with studied nonchalance, was Art Deco to its core, complemented by wacky costumes.
At its centre was Rory Mackay’s louche Coward, in natty smoking jacket. Period dances, vividly accompanied the Royal Ballet Sinfonia under Paul Murphy, allowed sparkling cameos. But it was the final dance of the anonymous American lady with the chief steward, Jade Heusen and Steven Monteith, that injected a touching reality.
Bitesized Ballet had A Midsummer Night’s Dream rubbing shoulders with three extracts from Walton’s Façade and the big pas de deux from Giselle. Joseph Caley’s supremely athletic Count was daintily partnered by Elisha Willis’s Giselle, with Carmen Flores’s viola a succulent ally.
Mendelssohn’s Nocturne was crisply if mechanically danced by Nao Sakuma and Chi Cao. Also in Frederick Ashton’s choreography, but more telling, were the witty Walton pieces, notably Callie Roberts and Rory Mackay in Tano.
Roberts was equally alluring as centrepiece in the title number from Take Five, with Dave Brubeck’s celebrated score given by a stirring quartet including real (not electronic) piano. It was Joseph Caley again that caught the eye in Flying Solo.
But in fact the entire ensemble revealed tremendous rhythmic zest in David Bintley’s inspired choreography. Combined with Jean-Marc Puissant’s square designs and Peter Mumford’s clever lighting, this was a team achievement that proved the company at the peak of morale. Definitely worth catching in Durham this weekend or in Buxton next week if you possibly can.