Last Wednesday I treated myself to a ballet trip. I adore the ballet, particularly story based ballets. I have also seen ballets that were purely dance and music and found the dance both stunning and impressive, but I miss the expression and depth of feeling that story ballets have.
I have seen the Birmingham Royal Ballet several times before and have always enjoyed their performances. I don’t have any expertise in ballet but I have always found them to be excellent performers. I was particularly impressed with the gentleman who was playing the Beast, his dancing was very dramatic and passionate, he really brought the audience into his anguish and love, I felt huge sympathy for him.
This ballet was actually written by the people of the Birmingham ballet so the music and the choreography fit together perfectly. I thought the main female dancers, Belle and the fox-lady, were both very talented (I’m always envious of the grace of the dancers) and they had beautiful costumes.
I particularly liked Belle’s ball dress at the Beast’s castle and the costumes of the birds. The ball dresses in general were rag chic (if that’s a term, I like it anyways); multi-layered skirts made of slim, ragged ended pieces of cloth in a variety of colours with corset tops (with that skin coloured neck and sleeves they have to have to make sure they don’t fall down). The bird costumes were sheer skirts in the front with a puffy, multi-layered back which was a very effective tail.
The stage itself was also very dramatic with the different scenes opening and closing like an inside out book. The merchant’s house descended from the ceiling and there was also a forest scene which opened up to reveal the Beast’s garden, which opened to reveal the inside of the Beast’s castle. Most of the scene changes were done either by ‘servants’ moving furniture or dark clad minions moving it. The scenery was beautiful, particularly the very grand Beast’s castle. I thought that the dull mirror on the back wall really accentuated the solo/duet dances. The castle also had floating candelabras, a chair that glided across the stage on it’s own and pitchers that filled glasses on their own, small touches that added that bit of magic and sparkle. The lightening in the castle was very dark, just picking out the dancers and small parts of the scenery which again added to the cursed feeling.
And at the end everything became light! The beast’s transformation into the Prince was cleverly done, somehow he was the Beast on the funeral bed and then, in one flourish of the shroud, he was in a completely different costume and his mask was gone! The other creatures turned humans came on from off stage and pulled down all the darker colours on the walls (and the lightening was upped) transforming the dark, oppressive castle into a palace of love and joy! Ta da! I love a happily-ever-after ending.
All pictures are from the Birmingham Royal Ballet site (since you can’t take pictures during the performance!):
Both of these pictures feature Nao Sakuma and Iain MacKay who were the dancers at the performance I saw.
And I tried to find one of the dress, even if it is different performers. If you can’t tell the colours are golds and pastel pinks. This picture is from the lowry page on the ballet: