At the heart of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s autumn season is a fabulous new triple bill celebrating British classical dance heritage, or what BRB principal Matthew Lawrence calls, in his latest blog for Balletco, a “workout harder than Zumba”:
Nearly 75 years old, Ninette de Valois’s Checkmate is a prime example of vintage English ballet. Its semi-narrative plot, centered around a game of chess between Love and Death, has a touch of Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, but the ballet is also a feminist, groundbreaking piece that offers an interesting contrast to the typical notion of the helpless ballet heroine. A dramatic and stylised war unfolds between a gallant Red Knight, who is devoted to his king, and a seductive and ruthless Black Queen, who will ultimately bring the knight down.
The purity of Sir Frederick Ashton‘s Symphonic Variations showcases technical brilliance from a master choreographer. Danced to César Franck‘s piece of the same name, the ballet is a real tour de force for its six dancers and is rightly hailed as a masterpiece.
John Cranko’s Gilbert and Sullivan-inspired Pineapple Poll is vintage ballet meets “Golden age of MGM cartoon”. With a medley of the best of Gilbert and Sullivan, this is a colorful and funny work, with a hint of Tex Avery. When the dashing but self-involved Captain Belaye (in London, Matthew Lawrence or Robert Parker) arrives in town, the female population swoon, including our heroine Poll (Ambra Vallo or Carol-Anne Millar). Whilst dodging the attentions of local inn worker Jasper, she finds herself leading a band of desperate ladies, all seeking the attentions of the admirable officer, who is unwittingly taking the town by storm.
Ahead of the company’s London performances of Autumn Glory next week, here are a few recent production images to whet our appetites:
Have you seen any of these ballets before and do you have a favorite? Share your views below!
Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Autumn Glory, featuring Checkmate, Symphonic Variations and Pineaple Poll, runs at Sadler’s Wells 18 & 19 October 2011.