Magazine article The Spectator

Rare Treat

Magazine article The Spectator

Rare Treat

Article excerpt

Quantum Leaps

Birmingham Royal Ballet, Sadler's Wells

Despite the clever in-joke/reference, Quantum Leaps is not exactly a crowd-pulling title for a ballet evening. Last week, outside Sadler's Wells, a couple of passers-by had trouble imagining how someone could turn a television hit into a ballet. And, on the opening night, a lady was heard querying whether the programme had something to do with James Bond.

Yet such an ambiguous title - Latin and scientific terms are seldom popular - fits the bill perfectly, as it encapsulates the essence of the energetic, thought-provoking modern ballet that is on offer.

Stanton Welch created Powder in 1998 to Mozart's haunting Clarinet Concerto in A major. The ballet, which has not lost its engaging freshness, could be numbered alongside the many other choreographic tributes to the composer's genius. Still, it is not just another dance tribute to the immortal Amadeus, but a clever dance piece that stands out for inventiveness, both in terms of structure and dramaturgy as well. Although it remains, intentionally, unclear whether the powder of the title is the powder that gentlemen and gentlewomen of Mozart's time used for vanity purposes or the dust of history, the work is a witty reading of 18th-century mannerisms, filtered through a post-modern perspective.

According to the programme note, the female dancers represent the muses who inspired the composer, brought back to life by his own music. The mythological theme, however, is used for a number of choreographically well-conceived numbers, which stress the facetiousness, the angst and the omnipresent aura of debauchery that underscored that time and Mozart's life in particular. Thus there is a considerable display of bare midriffs by the ladies, and bulging muscles as far as the men are concerned. For me, the most interesting aspect of this enjoyable creation is the use of a vocabulary of gestures that refer, without ever being pedantic, to the gestural codes of the epoch, reread and reinterpreted here with post-modern satire. The ballet is also an excellent vehicle for the artistic qualities of the dancers, who engage with a series of now lyrical, now pyrotechnical demands. As such, it kicked off the evening on a vibrant note.

Energy was also the main ingredient of the first of the 'scientific' and 'quantum'-related ballets of the programme, David Bintley's 2009 E=mc 2, set to a commissioned score by Matthew Hindson. …

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