Penguin Cafe/Birmingham Royal Ballet

First published in Reviews

DAVID Bintley’s skills as a choreographer must have been stretched to their very limits when he devised this triple bill such is the diversity of themes.

I’ve seen these three contrasting works a number of times over the years, and whenever the curtain goes up for the first piece, I always experience what I call the ‘Sergeant Pepper’ moment… the same rush to the senses I felt all those decades ago when a certain teenager played the Beatles’ great opus for the first time on a battered green Dansette record player.

Even before the needle had initiated the first hiss of diamond point on vinyl, I readily recall how secure I had been in the knowledge that something truly ground-breaking was about to unfold.

And the same emotion bursts forth right from the start as Bintley’s great creation gets under way, a vast banqueting table groaning with the weight of Nature’s infinite wonder and mystery.

Still Life at the Penguin Café opens with a host of endangered animals seeking shelter from the storm. Humans and animals mingle, enjoying drinks and polite conversation in the Penguin Café.

But this is no polemic on Man’s despoliation of the planet, rather a celebration of how the life force unites rather than divides all creatures great and small.

It is a story of optimism and hope, the narrative being enlightened with a carnival atmosphere as a morris-dancing flea, ballroom-dancing ram and various other fabulous creations take a witty and poignant look at our species’ impact on the world.

Moving to the top of the food chain, we have E=mc2, a dramatic and extremely physical experience which explores Einstein’s theory of relativity.

This piece contains passages of some of the most dynamic dance you are ever likely to witness, a group exercise in pushing the human body to its choreographic limits, providing a highly visual metaphor for the orbits of atoms and molecules. This is performed to a specially commissioned score by Australian composer Matthew Hindson.

The intoxicating grace and poise of Elisha Willis, complemented by the intelligence of Joseph Caley’s approach to the work soon transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary.

And so we move on to Tombeaux, Bintley’s homage to his mentor, the great Frederick Ashton. This is the dance equivalent of a Celtic lament, a movement in song so achingly poignant that the heart takes a little jump that can only really be felt rather than described by words alone.

Not unsurprising, Bintley places his epitaph for the demise of classical ballet in the capable hands – not to mention feet – of the divine Nao Sakuma, exquisitely partnered by Cesar Morales. You never want this to end… David Bintley’s glorious triple bill is a gallery of achievement that will undoubtedly help to guarantee his place in the ballet firmament in years to come. It runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday (October 5) and well worth making that trip to the second city.

John Phillpott

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree