Birmingham Steals the Show from London
8 0ctober 1997 - The Royal Ballet, now without a permanent London home,
has opened it's 1997/98 season at the Labbat's Apollo, Hammersmith
with a performance of Romeo and Juliet. Productions of Giselle
and The Sleeping Beauty will complete their three week
programme, neither particularly imaginative nor exciting, but one
which should please the crowds and fill the 3,800 seat theatre, too
large for classical dance and where many sightlines are poor.
After a brief tour to Madrid with The Sleeping Beauty (28
November-3 December), their Christmas season follows at the Royal
Festival Hall which is even less suited to dance.
But artistic director Anthony Dowell is optimistic , seeing the
season as a "challenge" to the dancers who have the "opportunity"
to dance in more theatres in front of more people. His brave words try
to mask the reality of a lack of funding for a more innovative
repertoire in more suitable venues.
Meanwhile, redevelopment work has begun on the 140 year old Royal
Opera House, Covent Garden, badly in need of extensive repair, and
where no real maintenance work has been carried out since the 1960's.
This task, entrusted to the interior designer David Mlinaric who
already worked on the refurbishment of the building thirty years ago,
will include restoring the sharpness of the colours in the auditorium
to make it "look like it does now, but not so tired."
Air- conditioning will be installed as well as a long-awaited lift
to the amphitheatre. This will be good news for those who cannot climb
those 120 steps and who resented the fact that the amphitheatre was
previously separated from the rest of the house.
Part of the £ 214 million funding will go to rebuilding and
enlarging the magnificent Victorian Floral Hall, damaged by fire in
the 1950's and to the construction of a second 400-seat auditorium ,
allowing small-scale experimental works to be performed.
Not least will be the modernisation of back-stage technical
facilities and the installation of more low-priced seats. As of today,
work is said to be on schedule and should be completed in time for the
The Royal Ballet is not the only dance company in the U.K. On April
1st the British public acquired a "new" ballet troupe, the
flourishing Birmingham Royal Ballet Limited( ex- Sadlers Wells,
latterly Birmingham Royal Ballet), which is no longer managed by the
Royal Opera House. It now has its own board of directors and receives
direct funding from the Arts Council, thus assuming full
responsibility for its artistic and financial affairs.
The Birmingham season at the Hippodrome opens on October 9th with
Edward II (choreography David Bintley,music, John McCabe). The
ballet, based on Christopher Marlowe's play, was created for the
Stuttgart company two years ago but has not yet been danced in
Britain. This will be followed by an equally interesting programme of
Balanchine, where the dancers will be working alongside the Balanchine
Far from being a "second company", the centre of dance in
Britain seems to be switching from London to the Midlands.
Patricia Boccadoro writes on
dance in Europe. She contributes to The Observer and Dancing Times and was
dance consultant to the BBC Omnibus documentary on Rudolf Nureyev. Ms.
Boccadoro is the dance editor for Culturekiosque.com.