With this diverse triple bill, Birmingham Royal Ballet may be out of their home territory, but they are by no means out of their depth on the London stage.

City of a Thousand Trades is billed as a love letter to Birmingham, and evokes all the frenetic, alienating activity of an industrial city. Though dramatic, the mob-like synchrony creates a sense of anonymity and lack of connection. Percussion is literally centre stage: loud clangs and drumbeats are played on scaffolding-like platforms, as dancers below use rods to emulate heavy machinery. Later, interviews with immigrants take the place of music, interpreted as balletic solos.

Immanent examines the wrongness of modernity: a lack of balance which unsettles as much as it motivates. Dancers who begin the piece perfectly in sync are drawn apart as they fall out of time, and the emotional wrench of stepping beyond the status quo is made literal through the use of a mysterious door. Heavy-handed? Perhaps. But the piece is charming, and the emotion palpable.

Finally, the big hitter. Chacona is a vehicle for a pas de deux by the legendary Carlos Acosta and Alessandra Ferri (48 and 58 years old, respectively), yet it dazzles with far more than its star power. The ensemble form into dystopic, martial lines which dissolve and reappear; women are dragged, spun and puppeteered. The set is built more from light than from matter, and the relationship of the dancers to the music is made palpable by the presence of the solo musicians onstage.

Playing 4 – 6 November 2021 at Sadler’s Wells.

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