sat 15/06/2024

Serenade/Carmina Burana, Birmingham Royal Ballet, London Coliseum | reviews, news & interviews

Serenade/Carmina Burana, Birmingham Royal Ballet, London Coliseum

Serenade/Carmina Burana, Birmingham Royal Ballet, London Coliseum

Balanchine and Bintley showcase BRB's contrasting talents

Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet in 'Serenade'© Geoff Slack

Serenade seems to be one of George Balanchine’s most evanescent works, a floating, delicate skein of movement that is over almost before it begins, leaving nothing but memory behind. In reality, it is tough as old boots, a warrior of a ballet, one that endures, survives – and enchants over and over.

It is, perhaps, a dandelion – one puff, and the wind disperses the seeds on the breeze, and yet like all weeds, it renews itself, finding new roots, as Serenade itself does new audiences. And Birmingham Royal Ballet’s return in this piece is always welcome. BRB has made Balanchine a focus of their repertoire, and they are more confident in performing his speedy yet off-centred moves than many.

A particular joy in this performance was Momoko Hirata, an explosion of energy and yet, simultaneously, a centred, serene presence (her dazzling pirouettes were a bonus). Céline Gittens was a lovely contrast, whose off-balance extensions showed an opposite, and yet equally beautiful, extreme. And the corps of 17 girls was immaculate as they did that most un-English thing, abandoning caution for speed.

A greater contrast than David Bintley’s early work for BRB, Carmina Burana, is hard to imagine (pictured above by Roy Smiljanic). Receiving its first revival in half a decade, the same dancers who had just shown us such fleet calm, now let their hair down to Carl Orff’s mid-20th-century wall of sound, sung with passion and commitment by Ex Cathedra (an especial commendation to their baritone, the resonant William Dazeley). Orff’s re-orchestrated medieval drinking songs, in Bintley’s hands, become the story of three seminarians losing their moral compass in a handful of the Seven Deadly Sins: lust, gluttony, greed, wrath and envy. (It is perhaps sensible that a choreographer leaves sloth untouched.)

Philip Prowse’s design takes equal billing with Bintley’s choreography – sometimes even overwhelming it, from bloodied hanging crucifixes, to dishes sprouting a dancing roast swan (a provocative Jenna Roberts) and a rowdy nightclub. Mathias Dingman gave a fizzling performance as the lustful, raging seminarian left bloodied on the ground. Iain Mackay was equally good as he lost his soul to a red-dressed siren (Samara Downs) who, it turns out, is Fortuna herself, as the wheel turns, and we end up where we began, with the scales being weighed and humanity found wanting by Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi – Fortune, Empress of the World.


Carmina Burana: I first saw the ballet on TV and fell in love with it and was so pleased to find that the ballet was being held in the ENO and it very much campe up to expectation. Dancing, acting, stage sets were perfection, would love to see it again

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters