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Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Polarity and Proximity review at Sadler’s Wells – ‘power, elegance and virtuosity’

George Williamson's Embrace at Sadler's Wells, London
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George Williamson’s Embrace is the first product of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s commissioning programme for new works, Ballet Now.

It makes for a dramatic opening piece to this contemporary triple bill. The company leap and spin, throwing their bodies off balance with gusto. Dancer Brandon Lawrence is singled out from the group, eventually finding refuge in a tenderly danced male duet with Max Maslen.

Embrace is a powerful work driven by a strong score and an ever simmering tension that revolves around the figure of the ‘outsider’. Yet for all the drama on display, it’s easy as a viewer to drift through sections.

While Williamson’s work is defined by strength, Alexander Whitley’s Kin is a thing of elegance. The dancers’ movement is liquid, slipping seamlessly between controlled extensions and sweeping floor work. Against the sombre grey background, a gentle duet charged with desire grabs the attention before dissolving into darkness. Kin is movement for movement’s sake – the relationships that emerge are no more than passing – but it’s beautiful nonetheless.

The programme closes with Twyla Tharp’s vibrant and unabashed In the Upper Room. Dressed in pinstripes, sneakers and red pointe shoes, the company revel in the opportunity to showcase their dynamism and versatility. Unleashed, they fly through leaps and turns with an enthusiastic athleticism. Their petit allegro skim the floor and their extensions are high.

Created in 1986, this remains a sparky, stylish work in which the strict form of classicism is offset by the brash attitude of hip hop. It’s a strong conclusion for a company that excels when presenting contemporary works.

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A triple bill of power, elegance and virtuosity from the versatile Birmingham Royal Ballet