“I know three kinds,” Jill Swinburne once said* about jazz music, “hot, cold and what time does the tune start?”. As Dave Brubeck doesn’t fall anywhere in Trevor’s All Time Greats, I like to imagine that he would fall into the ‘hot’ kind of jazz on account of the fact that Brubeck’s music is pretty awesome. I’ve been listening to Brubeck for a few years now ever since I stumbled across Torvill and Dean’s amazing routine to Take Five and it’s the kind of music that gets under your skin, stuck in your head and you find yourself abstractly tapping out the beat of on your desk. Naturally as soon as I discovered Birmingham Royal Ballet had a piece to Brubeck’s music in their rep it went pretty much to the top of my wish list. It took a few years but finally my wish has been granted – I think I near exploded with excitement on spotting the advert in their Spring Passions programme earlier this year – and this autumn Take Five was on the Opposites Attract bill for their Sadler’s Wells visit.
Last time I was in Islington it was to see the San Francisco Ballet followed by the SUPER SEKRIT SPEAKEASY at which the Puppini Sisters performed and it was an all round day of win really. Not that I was then raising the bar too high for BRB, not at all, I have every faith in their ability to deal with my metaphorical bar(re)s.
The programme kicked off with Take Five which is smooth and snazzy, preceded by the jazz band having a bit of a jam before curtain up to set the mood. It’s a safe, solid and reliable piece of choreography by David Bintley playing tidily within the music. Joseph Caley’s Flying Solo was a winner of a piece – I think he quite literally was flying at points – and Céline Gittens and Tyrone Singleton’s Two Step was achingly, fluidly beautiful. It may not be choreography to set the world on fire, but it’s a fun piece, a good curtain raiser and, frankly, any excuse to visit Brubeck’s music is a good one. The costumes are pretty ace as well – where can I get me one of those sailor dresses from Three to Get Ready?!
Lyric Pieces by Jessica Lang is a totally different change of direction. Set to Grieg’s piano pieces of the same name and incorporating molo concertina-fan-esque props it’s twenty six minutes of ‘which came first: the chicken or the egg’ intrigue, the chicken and egg in this instance being the props and the choreography. There’s a strong solo for Mathias Dingman (In Ballad Style) and the final pas de deux between Jenna Roberts and Iain Macaky (Phantom) is tender and beguiling. It’s a piece that could have easily been overshadowed by the molo creations but it isn’t, they blend well into the choreography: pathways, bridges, obstacles. I found myself left mostly perplexed, but in a good way, and wanting to see it again (okay mostly so I could muse more on the chicken/egg concept…).
The final piece was Hans van Manen’s Grossee Fugue originally choreographed on Nederlands Dans Theater and is one I really, really am still not quite sure what to make of it. I left feeling like I’d been punched in the face (in a good way) with a complex mass of ~feels floating around that I couldn’t grasp and pin down. It’s a very strong piece, a battle of the sexes for dominance coupled with a lull into a false sense of security over which was the dominant one. The costumes aid the fact that the piece is visually striking: the men’s dominant skirted trousers which are ripped off to become shorts, the women’s corsets which seem to change from fragilely submissive to glamorously Amazonian. It’s a fascinating piece and one of those rare ones that is perfectly timed. It’s quite definitely on the list for a ‘must see again’ if only so I can try to work out how I ~feel about it…
Of course, the obvious question is: is it Friday and time to see BRB again now?
[All images via the Google Machine: click to link back to original source]
*The Beiderbecke Connection, Alan Plater