IN many ways, this triple bill seemed to be very much a declaration of intent, the company showing all the signs of being on the cusp of change as one era ends and another is about to begin.

It was almost as if BRB stalwart Nao Sakuma’s imminent departure because of impending motherhood provided the perfect excuse to showcase the new pretenders to the crown.

This exciting night of dazzling dance most certainly belonged to the new kids on the block… rising stars such as Elisha Willis, Momoko Hirata, Cesar Morales and Tyrone Singleton.

Hang on a minute, I hear you say, these dancers are relatively long established.

Yes, indeed. Nevertheless, they have all, to some degree, invariably been in the shadow of the great Nao. But no longer - for their time does appear to have finally arrived.

The starter for this sumptuous three-course banquet was George Balanchine’s unearthly and ethereal Serenade, a piece that is visually stripped bare to allow our eyes to feast on the dancers’ prowess and our ears to delight in the glories of Tchaikovsky’s music.

All the pieces provided ample proof of why BRB is never less than always ahead of the game. And the welcome return of Iain Mackay, presumably and hopefully now fully recovered from injury, gave the performances an impetus that was stunning to behold.

Out of the limelight for far too long, Mackay’s high-energy work in Lyric Pieces and In the Upper Room showed that this fabulous performer was indeed back with a vengeance.

Likewise Elisha Willis and Celine Gittens, always a joy to watch in action, especially when given free rein to show what they can do. Willis’s dramatic and romantic approach finds its fitting counterpoint with Gittens’s razor-sharp precision moves, a pairing that always captivates.

Both excelled in Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room, the portrayal of a city that never sleeps. The unforgiving, crashing chords of Philip Glass’s music was probably about as heavy metal as conductor Paul Murphy’s Royal Ballet Sinfonia gets, and would certainly have earned a few approving nods from the Who’s Pete Townsend.

And it was also a pleasure to see Chi Cao show some of the young guns what a real sharp shooter can do. Yet in many ways, his regal presence was a reminder of past glories.

For things seem to be on the move at Thorp Street… perhaps not the end of an era, rather a changing of the guard. Moving Stateside runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday (February 21).

John Phillpott