It’s rare that a triple bill satiates the senses in quite the same fashion as a full-length story ballet. Theories abound as to the perfect combination - connoisseur-oriented or flashy crowd pleaser? A triptych of works or an omnium-gatherum? One man who has the formula honed to a fine art (and shouldn’t be sharing his secret) is the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s artistic director David Bintley, whose triple bill Autumn Celebrations encompasses the theatrical (Joe Layton’s The Grand Tour), the technical (Bintley’s Faster) and the fantastical (Frederick Ashton’s The Dream) with resounding success.
BRB perennial favourite The Grand Tour is first off the mark, a stirred-not-shaken showboat ballet that flaunts the company’s comedic talent. The cast of 15 play off each other beautifully, with Samara Downs and Matthew Lawrence’s brooding portrayal of 1920s celebrity couple Gertrude Lawrence and Noel Coward the highlight. Yes, it teeters on the edge of pantomime and elicits more laughs than gasps but even after 42 years as a repertoire mainstay, The Grand Tour’s tender tribute to the days of yesteryear feels remarkably relevant.
There’s no laughing come Act II. A stomach-churning spectacle of athleticism, David Bintley’s Faster is a potent piece of pattern play that puts the dancers through their paces, Olympics-style. Matthew Hindson’s electrifying original score proves the perfect environ for Bintley’s slick, seamless choreography, which showcases the company’s second to none technical abilities. Flawless in its execution and imaginative in style, Faster is a highly watchable piece of work that affirms the company’s commitment to broadening the boundaries of classical dance.
A good programmer knows the importance of a closing act that both impresses and satisfies and The Dream, Frederick Ashton’s interpretation of Midsummer’s most famous scene, hits all the right notes. The dancers’ storytelling skills are exemplary - thanks in part to Ashton’s concise yet circuitous choreography - with particular onus on soloist Tzu-Chao Chou, whose boundless, boisterous Puck epitomises everything a one-act story ballet should be.
Game-changing dance it may not be but Autumn Celebrations is the BRB at its best - polished, poetic and precise.