BRB2: Carlos Acosta's Classical Selection
Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House
As part of the Linbury Theatre’s Next Generation Festival 2023, Birmingham Royal Ballet director Carlos Acosta showcases his new youthful company, BRB2, the future. Where better to show them off than at his former stomping ground with a concept he honed in 2013 at Sadler’s Wells and 2015 at the London Coliseum.
The difference this time is that these are new joiners, recent graduates, supported by artists from the company, being given a chance to shine. And shine they do: newbies Frieda Kaden, Maïlène Katoch, Oscar Kempsey-Fagg, Mason King and Jack Easton are joined by artists Enrique Bejarano Vidal, Olivia Chang Clarke, Regan Hutsell, Sofia Liñares, Eric Pinto Cata, Lucy Waine, soloist Riku Ito, and by special guest, principal Momoko Hirata.
The plan is that these inaugural five will be joined by six more next season and so on. An embryonic idea typical of Acosta; a celebratory gala, a mixed bill of classical, neo-classical and contemporary… A tasting menu of twelve short pieces.
Thirty-five minutes of five classical before the interval and forty-five minutes of a more eclectic range after. All show off the range, the dynamics of dance and its fun. What more can we ask for…
Created for Mikhail Baryshnikov and Lesley Collier, Ashton’s 1981 romantic Rhapsody opens. Imagine stepping into those shoes: Kaden is living the romance and Kempsey-Fagg is a noble partner.
Chang Clarke and Pinto Cata are the perfect couple in Bournonville’s La Sylphide, she a flighty, teasing sylph, he a buoyant James. His ballon is remarkable, his port de bras beautiful and his smile dazzling—gosh is he enraptured by her. I remember Chang Clarke from the BBC Young Dancer of the Year 2022. They dance a brief Acosta Carmen pas de deux in the second half. They are made for each other. Great joie de vivre.
The Swan Lake Act II pas de deux is safe and sure. Katoch and King prepare the way for Acosta’s amusing, bold take on Fokine’s The Dying Swan. The Dying Swans, Hutsell and Easton, come close to the Trocks parody, but thankfully miss it by a few inches. Both sincere, both in a world of their own, Easton brings superlative elasticity to his part, Hutsell sincerity. I remember Easton in Unite for Ukraine dancing his own choreography. One to watch I thought then; now I can’t take my eyes off him.
The final piece before the interval, Vaganova’s Diana and Actaeon, raises the temperature. Virtuoso leaps from Ito and perfect timing from Hirata. Their variations are pure Soviet bravura. A benchmark for the youngsters perhaps, though I must say Bejarano Vidal matches Ito’s leaps in Ben van Cauwenbergh’s witty Le Bourgeois solo halfway in the second half. And with personality to spare.
Ben Stevenson’s nocturnal End of Time after the interval is moody and interesting—Rachmaninov’s Cello Sonata in G minor, played off stage by Antonio Novaïs, says it all. Waine and Kempsey-Fagg in identical unitards are equal partners in acrobatic moves.
But then the mood shifts to a café society, people sitting at tables. À Buenos Aires by Lorenzo Mollajoli, music Piazzolla: femme fatale Kaden and lithe Easton are sexy and fluid movers, they capture the Latin tempo well. His leaps are fabulous.
Staying in that café, Van Cauwenbergh’s Je Ne Regrette Rien gives Hutsell a chance to show off her acting skills. A drunken man (Bejarano Vidal) joins the café clientele—yes there’s a story going on here. It segues into Le Bourgeois and can that drunken man dance. He was just faking it. You want barrel turns—I can do that.
Will Tuckett’s Nisi Dominus to Monteverdi (Vespers) is a palate cleanser—a solo for Waine in a crinoline over a unitard flecked with red—before Jorge Garcia’s full-out Latin Majísimo to Massenet’s music from Le Cid. The café atmosphere is back. Four couples in Spanish dress, women flamenco dancers, men matadors, fine figures all.
Then it’s back to those ballet barres at the back of the stage, off come the costumes, back go the work clothes over hot bodies. Bags over their shoulders, bonding and chatting, they saunter off the stage. Such is their life. This is the reality. It takes hard work to create these ephemeral illusions for our entertainment.
Reviewer: Vera Liber