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Birmingham Royal Ballet - Pointes of View (Plymouth)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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I love the contrast afforded by triple bills (plus the opportunity for a swift escape if not one’s cup of tea) and Birmingham Royal Ballet’s latest offering (now on tour and caught in Plymouth) Pointes Of View, is no exception.

Opening with classic ballet in Kenneth MacMillan's 1966 Concerto (music by Shostakovich with the piano solo played beautifully by Jonathan Higgins), it is something of a slow start and, to be honest, the first section did not grab me as anything other than a ‘going through the paces’ in pastel colours.

And the third is equally forgettable to Luddite me .. but the second movement is breathtakingly beautiful with Natasha Oughtred and Tyrone Singleton’s pas de deux exquisitely portraying the romance of the piece.

In direct contract to the purism displayed by Concerto, George Balanchine’s jazz ballet Slaughter On Tenth Avenue is anything but.

Created in conjunction with composer Richard Rodgers in 1936 for the Broadway musical On Your Toes, the rollicking story of strippers, speakeasies and gangsters is fast and furious with tap, jazz and all that stuff thrown in.

Twinkle toes Robert Parker (my perennial favourite since the Shakespeare Suite) is superb: frantically tapping and hoofing to rival Fred Astaire as if his life depended on it – but then the Hoofer’s did – while Celine Gittens is sexily sleazy as cat-like temptress The Striptease Girl.

The comic caper is light relief from the intensity of the surrounding pieces with Keystone-like Cops, striped-suited gangsters, guns, rivalry and wallpaper molls.

Then double delight to end: Parker and my top of the bill ballet - In The Upper Room. And neither disappoint.

Twyla Tharp’s explosive 40-minute piece of absolute delight is a dead cert winner.

Set to Philip Glass’s mesmerising and dynamic electronic score, this is a fabulous nine-part blend of modern dance, athleticism and ballet. Increasingly frenetic and unyielding, the mix of black and white stripes and blazing red, trainers and pointes is a dazzling example of the crossover genre – a compelling, compulsive rollercoaster ride.

With Carol-Anne Millar, Victoria Marr, Chi Cao and Matthew Lawrence also of particular note, my only criticism is that the music fails to envelop the audience (as has been my previous experience) thereby allowing a certain detachment from the crescendo unleashed on stage.


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