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Birmingham Royal Ballet: Unleashed review at Sadler’s Wells, London – ‘radiantly danced’

Brandon Lawrence and Tzu-Chao Chou in Lyric Pieces. Photo: Bill Cooper
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Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Unleashed is a gripping mixed bill of works by established and emerging female choreographers. Like English National Ballet’s recent programme She Persisted, it’s a welcome declaration that change is afoot and something is being done about the dearth of works by women on ballet’s main stages.

Unleashed begins with American choreographer Jessica Lang’s charming Lyric Pieces, a setting of Edward Grieg’s piano works (superbly played by Jonathan Higgins). There’s much to admire: Maureya Lebowitz displays dashing verve and humour, while Tzu-Chao Chou’s solo fills the musical phrase with a subtle melancholic pull. A pas de deux for Celine Gittens and Brandon Lawrence cleverly suggests intimacy and the unfurling of limitless space – she’s left with the empty imprint of an embrace. The sets are a stationery fan’s dream: rolls of crimped black Kraft paper that smoothly unfold around the dancers, like an idealised version of the Ryman’s shop floor.

In Sense of Time, Didy Veldman brings contemporary style to the bill with a vision of late-stage capitalism, its frantic energy and depressed ennui. There’s a busy swirl and propulsive, out-flung quality to the dancers’ phrases, but a sense that these individual bodies aren’t moving entirely of their own volition.

Gabriel Prokofiev’s atmospheric score mixes melodic orchestration and echoey electronica. His grandfather Sergei’s Peter and the Wolf, confidently choreographed by company dancer Ruth Brill, concludes the bill in colourful style. As urban scamp Peter, Laura Day dances with thoroughness and chutzpah while disapproving grandad (James Barton) gives flatulent flops and strops. A delight.

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Radiantly danced and rewarding mixed bill by three leading contemporary female choreographers