Posts Tagged ‘Tzu-Chao Chou’

Aladdin, Birmingham Royal Ballet, BRB, London Coliseum, March 2013

22 March, 2013

While Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland plays at Covent Garden, the Birmingham Royal Ballet brings David Bintley’s new Aladdin to the London Coliseum. The former is sold out, and the latter deserves to be too, because both are equally great fun though entirely different.

Djinn and Magician, all images ©BRB/ Bill Cooper

Djinn and Magician, all images ©BRB/ Bill Cooper

Aladdin is a ripping yarn based on those Tales of the Arabian Nights, and its luminous story-telling, with a big pas-de-deux for Aladdin and the Princess in each of the three acts, allows more space for classical dancing than Alice. It all starts in the market place, reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, and the multiple dances of Act I recalled the second act of Nutcracker. Aladdin’s dispatch of the magician in Act III reminded me of the Tsarevich and Kashchei in Firebird, and these allusions point to the fact that this array of classical dancing is a feast for the eyes.

A Chinese dragon

A Chinese dragon

Excellent sets by Dick Bird, and the costumes by Sue Blane are lovely — Persian and Ottoman concepts with a splash of Far Eastern magic, perhaps suiting the fact that this ballet was first produced in Japan. With that audience in mind, Bintley relied more on his choreography than on big acting performances, and the whole thing is a wonderfully exuberant show of dance. Mark Jonathan’s lighting helps draw out the magic, and the costume and make-up for the magician made him look like an ancient Sumerian god, which if intentional is a very clever touch.

3.Aladdin - Tzu-Chao Chou as the Djinn - Bill CooperThe whole company danced with great élan, and Jamie Bond and Jenna Roberts made a delightful couple as Aladdin and the Princess, dancing a thrillingly joyful pas-de-deux in Act II. Tzu-Chao Chou was a remarkably airborne Djinn of the Lamp, and his Act II leap above the heads of four men who then hold him up high in a sitting position was a wonder to be seen. Iain Mackay as the magician showed marvellous stage presence with his gliding movements, and Marion Tait as Aladdin’s mother was as ever a musical delight.

The music itself by Carl Davis creates a magical atmosphere already in the overture, and this is a case where choreography and music were created to complement one another. There is not a dull moment, and the orchestra played beautifully under the baton of Philip Davis.

With four more performances in London, two of them matinees, this is a must-see. Do not be put off by associating this to a well known pantomime of the same name. Yes, there is a magic carpet and they float back home after escaping from the magician’s lair, but this is classical ballet with a swing in its step. Performances at the London Coliseum continue until March 24 — for details click here.

Grand Tour/ Faster/ The Dream, Birmingham Royal Ballet, BRB, Sadler’s Wells, October 2012

27 October, 2012

The Grand Tour, a charming ballet by Joe Layton based on Noël Coward’s 1930s transatlantic trip on a liner, is to music by Coward himself, adapted and orchestrated by Hershy Kay.

The Grand Tour, all images BRB/ Roy Smiljanic

It’s a colourful ballet with lovely designs by John Conklin, well lit by Peter Teigen, and in this cast the most striking performer was Laura-Jane Gibson as one of the two stowaways — she was super fun. A fine start to this triple bill Autumn Celebration, but it was overshadowed by the next two ballets.

Faster/ Gittins and Singleton

Faster is David Bintley’s response to the 2012 Olympic Games, a bravura display of athleticism, whose title recalls the Olympic motto ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’. The music in three movements by Matthew Hindson was thrillingly conducted by Philip Ellis, and the dancers excelled themselves in the energetic choreography, making it look far easier than it is, and some of it was tough indeed. The wonderful costumes by Becs Andrews involved changes that gave the ballet huge scope, and in the final movement the colours were glorious.

Performances by the whole cast were so good it is hard to pick out individuals, but the contest with injury in the second movement was superbly performed by Céline Gittins and Tyrone Singleton. His pose at the end was a fitting moment of success, and then just before the curtain lowers he crouches down as if on starting blocks ready to do it all again. Unmissable. Pity the Olympic celebrations didn’t use Bintley’s work, or even just a part of it, as this was far better than anything in the closing ceremony.

Finally came The Dream, with Tzu-Chao Chou as a spectacular Puck, a will-o’-the-wisp who could do real magic, conjuring spinning turns out of thin air. He was fabulous, and the rest of the cast were excellent. William Bracewell as Oberon showed a lovely line, and Natasha Oughtred made a pretty Titania. The lovers were entirely convincing, the fairies delightful, the rustics super fun, and Feargus Campbell as Bottom made a glorious ass, his pointe work done to perfection.

Bracewell and Oughtred as Oberon and Titania

This Ashton ballet works like a charm when done well, and its performance here could hardly have been better. Philip Ellis conducted with a light touch and excellent feel for Mendelssohn’s music, drawing beautiful sounds from the girls’ voices of the Birmingham Cathedral Choir. Performances of one-act narrative ballets don’t get any better than this — it was a delight.

Performances of this triple bill continue until October 27 at Sadler’s Wells, and on October 30–31 at the Wales Millennium Centre — for details click here.

Nutcracker, Birmingham Royal Ballet, BRB at the O2, December 2011

31 December, 2011

Ballet under the big top of the O2 — can it work, or is the audience too far away to see the dancers clearly? Sitting behind the raked tiers of seats, the view was clear if distant, but a closer view was shown on a big screen above the stage. This was very cleverly done, and for example in the Act II dance of the Mirlitons where Clara dances with the four of them, on the screen you see just her and two Mirlitions, providing close-ups and the full effect at the same time. Peter Wright helped revamp his own production for the huge space of the O2, and it works very well.

All photos by Bill Cooper

The dancing was super, and apart from the Rose Fairy in Act II being blithely off the music, most of it was first rate. This was the final performance on December 30th, and Angela Paul was a memorable Clara — she has the looks and the charm, and those close-up screenings gave her a magical presence. The real magician of course is Drosselmeyer with his flowing cape, a role Robert Parker portrayed with great panache, assisted by the acrobatic Tzu-Chao Chou. And talking of acrobatics, Joseph Caley was a remarkable Jack-in-the-Box in his hugely baggy trousers.

King Rat

After the guests have left the party in Act I and midnight has struck, the Christmas tree grows to such a vast size that we see only the bottom branches with huge candles, creating the impression that Clara has become as small as the nutcracker doll and the mice. It’s an Alice in Wonderland-like illusion, and then as we enter the wonderland realm of Act II those set piece character dances were beautifully performed, with Clara occasionally joining in. In his original story, E.T.A. Hoffmann mixes the real and magical worlds very cleverly, and having the real Clara in her nightdress join in with some of these fantastic characters from Spain, Arabia, China, and Russia, along with Mirlitons from the Land of Sweets, and flowers too, is a nice touch. The Spanish dance was brilliantly performed, with Maureya Lebowitz as the girl, and the final pas-de-deux with Iain Mackay as the Nutcracker Prince and Jenna Roberts as the Sugar Plum Fairy was excellent. His coupé-jetés were brilliantly executed and their partnership was flawlessly musical.

Waltz of the Flowers

Tchaikovsky’s music was well conducted by Koen Kessels, and though I miss the acoustics of the theatre, this is a super opportunity for the Birmingham Royal Ballet to show their talents to a wide audience. It’s not my choice of venue, but the more people who go to see serious ballet the better!