The Seasons / Carmina Burana, Hippodrome, Birmingham <!-- none onestar twostar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

This double bill shows David Bintley tailoring his work to Birmingham Royal Ballet's needs. The Seasons, a pretty pure-dance ballet, displays its dancers. The thinner Carmina Burana has Carl Orff's score, loud designs and dramatic themes.

2001's The Seasons is one of Bintley's strongest works. His unusually simple dances follow Verdi's jolly rhythms, with Paul Murphy cheerfully conducting the Royal Ballet Sinfonia.

With soloists for each season and a corps filling the linking music, Bintley sends his dancers down diagonals or arranges his corps in concentric squares. Jean-Marc Puissant's tutus and tunics have no decoration, but the velvet fabrics and soft earth colours quietly enrich them.

In Winter's pas de trois, Kosuke Yamamoto bounds through his role. Laetitia Lo Sardo and Carol-Anne Miller are less well-served, given fiddly steps. Yet most dances avoid that kind of fuss. Duets are elaborate - in Summer, Letizia Giuliani and Iain Mackay keep snuggling down only to get up again - but solos are direct and brightly paced. Nao Sakuma and Chi Cao's Spring dances are neat and crisp, while Lei Zhao and an exuberant Robert Parker show soft phrasing in Autumn's duet. The Seasons opens with a classroom image, four men standing in position, arms and shoulders tense. Once moving, and in any step offering athleticism, they're happier.

In Carmina Burana, Orff set a series of medieval poems, celebrations of love and drinking, satires on gluttony, avarice and the Wheel of Fortune. The three heroes are trainee priests, tempted by the world. One by one, they rip off suits and clerical collars and succumb.

Philip Prowse's designs are lurid, filled with bright lights, neon colours and drawn-on genitalia, and flash out the situation that Bintley then fills in with steps. The follies seem short on humanity, but the piece is danced with attack. Silvia Jimenez stalks through Fortuna's solos, giving a fierce snap to the semaphoring gestures. Sakuma flutters as the Roast Swan threatened by gluttons. The chorus and soloists of Ex Cathedra sing with gusto.

Touring to Theatre Royal, Plymouth (01752 267222) 14 & 15 March