Arts Review: Birmingham Royal Ballet's The King Dances/Carmina Burana
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Like book-ends to a fantastic career, Wednesday 17th June marked the 20 year-long residency of Director David Bintley with Birmingham Royal Ballet. Tickets for the evening were in high demand, as dancers, directors and critics gathered from across the country to relive his earliest piece created on the company, as well as celebrate the world premiere of his latest work. The King Dances A King at just 14 years old, it was said of Louis XIV that ballet acted as the ‘only weapon’in his control of the court around him. Worshipping the light than can be found in dance, Bintley’s exploration of the early Le Ballet de la Nuit tells the tale of how one young man held both day and night in his arms. The work is a regal feast for the eyes, offering a showcase of the grounded style of repeated patterning and flourishes so popular with a 17th Century court. With the exception of silvery ‘Luna’, Bintley employs an all-male cast, transporting audiences to a world in which the inky night is lit only by flames, and beat out by an ever distant drum. A worthy job is done of styling a slick group of the company’s men, who were led by Principle Iain Mackay as La Nuit and Soloist William Bracewell as the Sun-King. It was said to be imperative that ‘the beauty’ of dance was realised beyond mere shows of strength and skill so often representative of the male dancer; here the intricacies of male partnering were played out to great effect. There was a real sense that drawing on the new would empower the old, an idea that was perhaps not always fully realised. The King is surrounded in the nightmare scene with a cartoon like selection of fabled monsters and gratuitous terror that appeared to tickle rather than terrify a bemused audience. Where Stephen Montague’s score successfully matched processional tradition with electronic zing, there were moments in which it felt like the atmosphere was being forced, making for a sense of the underwhelming. Perhaps this was World-Premiere nerves or a glitch in the creation; nevertheless it was at times a piece lacking the punch to remain with you for the rest of the evening. The final scene sees the young Louis re-enter the court now loudly proclai med as the ‘Sun-King’ by La Nuit, triumphing over the evening in order to bring in a resplendent new day. Despite standing as an undeniably skilled tribute to the history of dance, only time will tell whether the legacy of Bintley’s new work will continue to captivate the modern audience.
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