Magazine article Dance Magazine

Birmingham Royal Ballet

Magazine article Dance Magazine

Birmingham Royal Ballet

Article excerpt

David Bintley marked his first anniversary as director of Birmingham Royal Ballet with a triple bill encapsulating his artistic policy for the company. The program opened with a new production of Les Patineurs ("The Skaters"), created for Sadler's Wells ballet in 1937 by Frederick Ashton, whom Bintley regards as his mentor. it continued with two premieres: Le Baiser de la Fee ("The Fairy's Kiss") by National Ballet of Canada artistic director James Kudelka - Bintley's first commission to a choreographer outside the company - and Bintley's own The Nutcracker Sweeties, to Duke Ellington's jazz version of Tchaikovsky.

Bintley's aim is to continue the English tradition of Cecchetti-based ballet embodied in Ashton's work. Kudelka accepted his commission in that spirit, choreographing a narrative version of Le Baiser de la Fee in a style that pays homage to Cecchetti, just as Stravinsky's score pays homage to Tchaikovsky. Stravinsky reworked Tckaikovsky piano pieces into a ballet based on Hans Christian Andersen's story, The ice Maiden: a boy is kissed by a fairy of the snows, who returns to claim him just as the young man is about to marry his fiancee. Stravinsky equated the icy fairy with the composer's muse, thereby setting an impossible allegorical task for a choreographer: how to show that the amiable peasant hero is an artist, kissed by the fatal gift of inspiration.

The task defeats Kudelka (as it did Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan in Britain before him). He starts promisingly, with the Ice Maiden (Sabrina Lenzi) saving a boy who has fallen down a ravine. The avidity with which the frigid fairy clasps the worm body gives an insight into a barren woman's motive for abducting a child. The grasping embrace later becomes the Ice Maiden's choreographic motif, as she wraps her empty arms around her own body. So far, so good.

Kudelka then becomes trapped by the demands of the scenario. …

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