DANCE With John Percival
What's this? Birmingham Royal Ballet, our most creative company, putting on two programmes of old works? Well, with two entirely new ballets already premiered during the autumn tour, and at least three more to come in the summer, nobody should complain if they use the spring tour to redress the balance. And, actually, one of the golden oldies on show is new to this company's programmes: Kenneth MacMillan's Song of the Earth, created for the Stuttgart Ballet in 1965 and regarded by many as his finest work.
With its atmospheric treatment of Mahler's monumental song cycle, this forms part of a double bill with one of Frederick Ashton's most popular ballets, The Dream, first seen on Shakespeare's 400th birthday in 1964. This translates the comedy and romance of the Bard's midsummer-night adventures into an hour of amazingly inventive dance to the music of Mendelssohn. The programme is BRB's contribution to Birmingham's celebration of the 1960s as part of the 10-year "Towards the Millennium" festival.
Completing the spring repertoire is The Sleeping Beauty in a revival of the sumptuous production by Peter Wright and Philip Prowse. Fans captivated by the photograph of BRB's new ballerina Agnes Oaks featured in all the advertisements will be disappointed, since she is once again suffering from an injury; but even without her, the company can put out six casts to share the role of Aurora, and her husband Thomas Edur (also on the posters) will be one of the line-up of handsome chaps playing the Prince.
EYE ON THE NEW
Meanwhile, BRB's director David Bintley is busy preparing another new work - for the Stuttgart Ballet. It features six men, six women, dancing to Beethoven's Diabelli Variations. The premiere is set for April. In return, Birmingham next autumn will receive the highly dramatic Edward II which Bintley made for the Stuttgart company in 1995.
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