British ballet company based in Birmingham. Specialises in family friendly work, including the 19th-century classics, plus new story-ballets, and softly-softly modern pieces that avoid the wilder fringes of experimental dance. There are currently 60 dancers in the company which is based at the city’s Hippodrome theatre.
BRB, as everyone calls Birmingham Royal Ballet, has a long and often confusing history. It essentially grew out of Ninette de Valois’s family of ballet companies originating at London’s Sadler’s Wells theatre in the 1930s. BRB has changed its name and status several times since, but began its current identity in 1990 when Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet as it then was moved to Birmingham under the leadership of Sir Peter Wright.
Sir Peter had a distinguished career as a dancer and director, working with John Cranko at Stuttgart Ballet, and De Valois at The Royal Ballet. He was made Director of Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet in 1977, later changing its name and taking it to Birmingham. He was knighted in 1993. When Sir Peter retired in 1995, the former Sadler’s Wells dancer David Bintley took over and has choreographed numerous works for the company.
Since Bintley’s arrival, BRB has consolidated its position as a respected touring troupe with a loyal audience who warm to its popular programming. Bintley trained as a dancer at a time when Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan were making some of their best known story-ballets, and this influence is clear in his choreography which features prominently in BRB’s rep – including Far from the Madding Crowd (1996), Edward II (1995), Arthur (2000), Beauty and the Beast (2003) and Cyrano (2007).
BRB has become the David Bintley company, with too many works by him and not enough by anyone else, not least its own history.
Catch the right programme, and you will see tip-top dancers, great costumes, and good music in never less than high-grade productions. Ideal for families, although little appeal for those after the avant-garde.
Birmingham may not seem the obvious location for a ballet company, but it was De Valois's first choice. Back in the 1930s she suggested the Hippodrome host her fledgling troupe, only they turned her down. She went to Lilian Baylis at Sadler’s Wells, and the rest is ballet history.
What to watch
BRB are at Sadler’s Wells with two programmes during the week 10-14 November. First is Quantum Leaps, a triple bill of short ballets, best described as plotless pieces of pure dance – that is, they don’t tell stories but simply show how well the dancers can move. The programme includes Stanton Welch’s Powder; The Centre and its Opposite by Garry Stewart; and Bintley’s own E=mc² . The second programme is Bintley’s full-length story ballet Cyrano based on the famous French story of unrequited love.
Where and when
Sadler’s Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London EC1. Quantum Leaps, Tuesday 10 & Wednesday 11 November. Cyrano, Thursday 12–Saturday 14 November.