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Edward II


Paquita

Daphnis and ChloŽ
Nine Sinatra Songs

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Changing Seasons



David Bintley speaks to dance critic and writer Susan Turner about the 2007/08 Birmingham season.

Take two classical ballets, a strong and spicy love triangle and a generous helping of heritage. Stir in a jazz triple. Add Sinatra's best and mix 'til smooth. Top with the most delicious of Christmas confections...

These are the ingredients of Birmingham Royal Ballet's varied season for 2007/08. It is a programme that pays homage to the great Russian classics and to its own Frederick Ashton lineage as well as to the creativity of modern-day choreographers, Twyla Tharp, David Bintley and Michael Corder.

The curtain rises on 26 September with the long-awaited revival of Bintley's Edward II, which he describes as 'a dark and bloody piece requiring strong nerves'. He made the full-length work about England's homosexual king for Stuttgart Ballet a dozen years ago, staging it for his own company in 1997. None of the original principals - Wolfgang Stollwitzer, Sabrina Lenzi, Leticia Muller, Andrew Murphy and Kevin O'Hare - remain with the company and with his last Edward, Robert Parker, retiring in summer 2007, Bintley has to recast the main roles. 'There are a lot of new members of the company who will not have danced in Edward before but they are very versatile and will really relish the challenge. It won't be a problem to find the main characters', he says.

Based on the Christopher Marlowe play, Bintley's Edward II is strong stuff; not recommended for the fainthearted and children. It explores the conflict between the king's personal and public lives, against a backdrop of political intrigue, violent revenge and civil war. The work earned him rave reviews from critics and public acclaim as well as an Olivier Award nomination for outstanding achievement in dance.

The second part of the opening season sees Bintley's personal highlight of the entire 2007/08 programme - the major acquisition of Sir Fred's Daphnis and ChloŽ. 'It's never been done outside The Royal Ballet in this country and I don't believe it's been seen on tour,' he enthuses. 'So it is going to be a big piece for us, a fantastic addition to our repertory. Of course anything from Ashton is great because of what he means to British ballet and to this company in particular. His work is part of our heritage. Although it is a long time since we did a new one of his ballets, we are still expected to do his work very, very well.'

Ashton created Daphnis and ChloŽ to Maurice Ravel's score in 1951 for Margot Fonteyn and Michael Somes. Inspired by the famous pastoral by Longus, the ballet tells of the shepherd Daphnis' love for ChloŽ. She is captured by pirates, but reunited with Daphnis after Pan intervenes.

BRB are not re-creating the work from scratch, but borrowing The Royal Ballet's production, including costumes and sets. 'Sir Fred made Daphnis at a fantastic time for ballet in this country and over the years it has been performed by all the great dancers including Antoinette Sibley and Anthony Dowell, who, I hope, will come and cast an eye over it for us.'

In the same mixed bill is another slice of ballet history, Marius Petipa's Paquita. Originally created for the Paris Opťra in 1846, the narrative scenes of the ballet have long disappeared and Petipa's grand pas performed by the prima ballerina, lead male, six soloists and eight second danseuses is all that remains. BRB's production by Galina Samsova was last seen in 1994 and serves as a reminder of the spectacular grandeur of Petipa's choreography and the opulence that was Imperial Russia.

The finale is Nine Sinatra Songs, BRB's second Twyla Tharp work and which was unveiled on the company's tour to the South West last summer. A blend of ballet and ballroom, seven couples waltz, tango and jive their way through Sinatra's songs (including 'One for my Baby', 'Strangers in the Night', 'Somethin' Stupid' and of course 'My Way'), dressed in tuxedos and glamorous frocks designed by Oscar de la Renta.

Click here to continue to the next part of this article (part two of three)
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