Review: On Their Toes!/Birmingham Royal Ballet, at the Birmingham Hippodrome
So you thought Birmingham Royal Ballet was impressive? Well, the company surpasses itself with its latest venture, On Their Toes!, by bravely going where few dance companies have gone before.
Not only do they flick and kick arms and legs – they get involved in a bit of chin wag, too.
On Their Toes! is perfect for newcomers to BRB, as it comprises three short pieces, all under half an hour long.
Each is very different, celebrating the company’s range. Theme and Variations is closest to a traditional ballet. Tchaikovsky music. Balanchine choreography. Fluid, flowing movement and traditional costume.
BRB’s star turns, Nao Sakuma and Chi Cao, dance together, yet again. As usual, the sparks fly between them.
Then things get weird.
Grosse Fuge is performed on a spectacular white stage that dwarves the dancers. The Fuge is a thing of cold, brittle beauty, like a statue of Audrey Hepburn, sculpted from ice.
It’s also one for the ladies, as the men bare their torsoes, before stripping off long black kilts to strut in skimpy shorts and belts.
At one point they even drag the female dancers round the stage by those belts.
The stage design, costumes and choreography reminded me of a Stanley Kubrick movie – clinically spectacular. Since it’s performed to the music of Beethoven, it is certainly a bit of A Clockwork Orange... in white and black.
Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, the last dance of the evening, is a show stopper.
Originally a segment of a Rodgers and Hart musical, this piece was also choreographed by Balanchine.
It’s a Guys and Dolls type number, set in a speakeasy come brothel, with wise guys, good time girls, shooters, hooch and lip gloss. The plot is intricate, and, like most classic musicals, there’s some tap dancing, and even dialogue to set the scene.
Traditionalists will disapprove. Not me. It’s a wonderfully uplifting piece. Funny, sensual, spectacular.
Besides, there’s a good reason why BRB should tackle the American musical. Like most things, they do it so much better than anybody else.