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Ballet nirvana

This three-for-one show of pure beauty in movement by the Birmingham Royal Ballet will take your breath away.

About last night – wow! is all I can say about the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s performance for two nights only at the Everyman in Cheltenham. I went along not really knowing what to expect as it wasn’t a Cinderella or a Swan Lake, but rather three somewhat abstract vignettes: Wink, an interpretation of Shakespeare’s sonnet starting “When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see”; Arcadia following the internal torment of Pan, the Greek god of Arcadia, who is half goat, half man; and The Moor’s Pavane, a distillation of the tragedy at the heart of Othello.

It all sounds pretty heavy stuff and if you’re that way inclined, it could keep your mind occupied in the Ivory Towers long after the show, but as you watch it on stage, there’s a kind of poetry of movement that is so sublime, you find yourself carried off to a higher plane of pure beauty. And, no, I hadn’t had a drink, it was that intoxicating, no other stimulus required.

The dancers were extraordinary, mixing strength with incredible lightness. A small cast of ten or so, and only four in The Moor’s Pavane, meant you focused on every move. The male dancers were particularly impressive, especially first soloist Brandon Lawrence’s Pan. And the pared-back sets were ingenious – in Wink, black and white, rotating screens cleverly suggested the blinking of an eye, with the backdrop creating a dramatic interplay of light and shadow, day and night.

While in The Moor’s Pavane, there was no set at all, just darkness against which Othello in regal purple, Desdemona in pure white, Iago in deceitful gold and Iago’s wife Emilia in seductive red played out the tragedy.

Arcadia was the most lavish, with nymphs, a chorus and the moon goddess taking Pan on his journey of awakening in the forest. This was the debut of this new production, choreographed by the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Ruth Brill with a fantastic, jazz-style score by the renowned saxophonist John Harle.

In the blink of an eye, the show arrives and leaves Cheltenham (only two more performances today, Saturday 6 May), but it’s well worth travelling to go and see it as it makes its nationwide tour. Poole and Truro are on the bill and in June it make its world premiere at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

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