Birmingham Royal Ballet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Birmingham Royal Ballet 

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Cultural identity and cross-pollination can be subtle. Critic Edwin Denby, writing in 1953 about "foreign classicism," noted that "dancers who grow up in a city naturally move in the way people around them have moved all their life. And that makes a difference in the overall or general look of a whole company, even if it doesn't show in one dancer doing a particular step. But classicism is so naked and enlarged a way of moving that any tiny unconscious residue in it of...habit or of character...shows." The Birmingham Royal Ballet--formerly the Royal Ballet, formerly Sadler's Wells, descended from the London Academy of Choreographic Art started by Ninette de Valois in 1926--has a long history and a distinct character formed by the British choreographers associated with it: de Valois herself, Frederick Ashton, Kenneth MacMillan. Its past reflects the gentle, diffident styles of these artists and England's theatrical heritage. But the program for the company's Chicago stop on its first U.S. tour is "Jazz Triple"--three dances set to American jazz. The first, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, was choreographed by George Balanchine--a quintessentially American artist despite his Russian roots--in 1968 to music by Richard Rodgers. Birmingham Royal Ballet artistic director David Bintley choreographed the other two: The Shakespeare Suite, which pays tribute to Duke Ellington even as it explores some of the Bard's most famous characters, and The Nutcracker Sweeties, set to the Duke Ellington-Billy Strayhorn arrangements of Tchaikovsky's famously saccharine music. Sorting out the strains of American brashness and English restraint in these pieces could be tough. Wednesday and Thursday, October 5, at 7:30; next Friday, October 6, at 8; and next Saturday, October 7, at 2 and 8 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress; $20-$55. Call 312-902-1500 for tickets; 312-922-2110, ext. 0, for subscriptions to the Auditorium's dance series; 312-922-2110, ext. 4, for rates on groups of ten or more.

--Laura Molzahn

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bill Cooper.

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