In 1995 I picked up a poster for a Birmingham Royal Ballet show, I forget which, and made a note to go. 15 years later I finally manage to make it to one of their performances.
This was On Their Toes, three single act ballets running for three nights before they do Swan Lake next week. The first piece was Theme and Variations, a very traditional ballet with tutus and tights and big smiles. I felt like a king having commanded a performance, which got me thinking about “performance” in general and how maybe the dynamics have switched – performers used to pay tribute to the audience and now the audience worships the performer. But I digress. It was perfectly executed and quite lovely to watch.
Next was my favourite of the three, Hans van Manen‘s 1971 ballet for Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge. Opening with a stark white minimalist set, four male and four female dancers performed a piece that was modern but not in a “contemporary” way (here I start to lose my ability to talk about dance…) and very erotic. Ballet, in my limited experience, is basically the closest you’ll get to watching athletes fuck and this was very much of that ilk. Special mention for Jean-Paul Vroom‘s set which worked perfectly.
Finally we had Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, a ballet by Richard Rodgers and George Balanchine which formed the end of the 1930’s broadway musical comedy On Your Toes, from which I assume we get tonight’s title. Cards on the table, I’m not a huge fan of the Bob Fosse / Rogers and Hammerstein schools of musical theatre. I can appreciate it for what it is but I tend to find it a little cheesy. Which is odd given the first piece was cheesy as hell in its own way. Still, despite my reservations I enjoyed it a lot because technically it was flawless.
In fact I think that’s what I get out of the ballet, and dance in general – the physicality and perfection of it. There’s something awe-inspiring and unattainable about what these people do and watching them do it is feels like an honour.
So yeah, BRB = highly recommended.