Birmingham Royal Ballet: On Your Marks! review – Carlos Acosta sketches a bright future

As Birmingham Royal Ballet director Carlos Acosta works out his vision for a 21st-century ballet company, the premiere of Interlinked, by Brazilian choreographer Juliano Nunes offers an interesting blueprint. Balancing appeal to a mass-market audience with stretching ballet’s mould, Nunes gives us unarguably pretty choreography, presented by men and women wearing long romantic-style skirts in various shades of nude to match the multiracial cast. The steps are unisex, and two men dance together in a strong, expressive male pas de deux. It’s technically conservative but socially progressive.

The dancing swirls lightly through its poses – as if from the imagination of a little girl playing ballerinas – while Luke Howard’s music grows dramatically from a simple rising scale to gushing layers. You can very clearly see the steps, which is credit to the dancers, and Nunes gives space for them to explore – and us to notice – their differing qualities. The discovery of the piece is young dancer Eric Pinto Cata, who joined BRB last year. You can feel there’s so much dancer bursting to get out, his shoulders, hips and head pushing against the movement’s edges.

A bigger leap … 24 by Jorge Crecis.
A bigger leap … 24 by Jorge Crecis. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

Another world premiere offers a different vision for 21st-century ballet, and it’s a bigger leap. Jorge Crecis’s 24 is performed with dancers from Acosta’s Havana company, Acosta Danza. A director as concerned about the experience of his dancers as his audience, you can imagine Acosta’s desire for these companies to feed from one another, and for some of the Cubans’ versatility and freedom to rub off. The resulting piece is a test of juggling skills as much as anything else, trainer-clad dancers running across the stage chucking glowing water bottles in great arcs through the air, in an increasingly complicated and artful game of catch. It’s fun, engaging, novel, with the mood driven by the spirited Cubans.

Alongside those is Will Tuckett’s Lazuli Sky. Greeted with joyful relief at its premiere after 2020’s lockdown, I’m happy to say it stands up in the colder light of 2022, especially the lambent pas de deux between Brandon Lawrence and Yu Kurihara.

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