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Birmingham Royal Ballet review at Sadler’s Wells, London – ‘high technical standards’

Scene from Birmingham Royal Ballet triple bill at Sadler's Wells London Scene from Birmingham Royal Ballet triple bill at Sadler's Wells London
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Though technical standards are high, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s latest triple bill fails to set Sadler’s Wells ablaze.

In Arcadia, the first main stage commission for company dancer Ruth Brill, there’s trouble in paradise. Brandon Lawrence’s elegantly leggy Pan gets snubbed by some sylphs before learning lessons in leadership from a slinky moon goddess.

John Harle’s score shifts from folky Eastern cadences into passages of cheese-tinged bombast. While there’s a handsomeness to Brill’s ensemble choreography and an undulating sensuality in Pan’s solos, the piece remains dramatically inert. Brill needs richer themes than a vague and sanitised riff on ancient myth. Birmingham City University student Atena Ameri’s designs, featuring a shadowy background of branches, are lovely and painterly.

Next up is Michael Corder’s 2008 Le Baiser de la Fee. It suffers in comparison with Scottish Ballet’s very recent revival of MacMillan’s 1960 version. While the latter excavates a well of loneliness and existential despair from fairy tale prettiness, Corder sticks to a winsome and unremarkable classicism.

As the Fairy, Jenna Roberts grows in imperiousness, drawing the fated Young Man towards her with a glittering allure reminiscent of Swan Lake’s Odile. As the Bride, Momoko Hirata displays a fine-spun line and dainty exuberance. The set, which involves sliding forestry, proves unfortunately creaky.

David Bintley’s anthropomorphic 1988 extinction ballet Still Life at the Penguin Cafe makes a timely return. Among the endangered species that caper, cabaret-style, Laura Day’s skunk flea is memorably manic.

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David Bintley’s prescient and poignant environmental ballet is the highlight of this mixed bill