The company return to London with a new triple bill.

By: Nov. 07, 2021

Review: BIRMINGHAM ROYAL BALLET - CURATED BY CARLOS, Sadler's Wells Review: BIRMINGHAM ROYAL BALLET - CURATED BY CARLOS, Sadler's Wells There's a particular anticipation for this new triple bill from Birmingham Royal Ballet. In a programme that feels like the start of a new chapter, after being first trailed in autumn of 2019, Artistic Director Carlos Acosta finally has the opportunity to share his Curated ... works to a London audience.

It's an evening that feels distinctly current and contemporary but with the added star power of Acosta himself taking to the stage once more for a fleeting pas de deux with guest ballerina Alessandra Ferri.

With the natural talking point saved until later, it is left to Rambert's Miguel Altunaga first commission for BRB, City of a Thousand Trades, to open proceedings. Intended as a love letter to Birmingham and its melting pot of cultures, it explores the sacrifices made by those who give up everything for a better life and to realise their dreams.

A frantic beginning sees dancers busy themselves shifting cumbersome poles and crates about the stage. Mathias Coppen's original score clashes and clangs with shades of Thome Willem's In the Middle... The cast of dancers make for an unglamorous and practical workforce in their denim costumes while barely-lit percussionists sit above them on a makeshift platform.

Eventually, the business subsides and we are able to focus on individuals who take on the identities of the spoken voices. "In order to gain something, you have to risk everything" says one, before we see a dancer jump soundlessly off one of the platforms, landing away from the audience. They talk of loneliness, isolation and fear, all emotions that can be transferred just as well to the height of the pandemic, and these quiet moments cut deep and hit hard.

There is a touching and elegant pas de deux that briefly skims across the stage before the choreography builds well with the full cast attacking the choreography with immaculate timing.

While Altunaga has created what feels like a very complete and cohesive work, unfortunately the same cannot be said for Imminent, a classical piece from Daniela Cardim which appears sadly underrehearsed during this performance, with some distracting timing and spacing issues. It's an abstract work that considers motivations to make changes in a world of growing unease. The themes are broad and the choreography not distinct enough to make an impact. The dancers commit admirably and it's nice to see the secure partnering and clean lines but it's sandwiched between two superior pieces.

The best and most sophisticated offering of the evening is left for last, the pinnacle coming in a specially created pas de deux for Acosta and Ferri from choreographer Goyo Montero - an addition to the original version of Chacona seen in 2017. These two could dance the phonebook and you would still buy a ticket, and with now both technically retired (Ferri enjoying a recent return to the stage), how many more opportunities will there be?

Acosta is understated; a sensitive and considered partner, he seamlessly gets Ferri to where she needs to be so that we can enjoy her fine lines and the picture-perfect arch of her feet. Onstage pianist Jonathan Higgins accompanies this tranquil beginning with Bach's Chorale Prelude No 3 before sections played on violin and guitar follow.

They have strong support too. The remaining cast, dressed neatly black leotards and trousers, dance in formations of pleasing symmetry with elegant and sharp technique. They break off into the occasional mini pas de deux before being separated by inventive lighting design that sees them each contained in their own square of stage. Worth the wait.

Curated by Carlos from Birmingham Royal Ballet ran from 4-6 November at Sadler's Wells.

Image: Johan Persson