Walking into the Nottingham Theatre Royal to a completely open stage (I’d never realised quite how big it is, but with all the tabs and cloths removed, and only some BRB crates and a free-standing barre at the back, you get a real sense of the vastness of the space), you know you’re in for something a bit different. And that’s exactly what you get from Carlos Acosta’s sensational Classical Selection; a mesmerising showcase of the very best of classical and contemporary ballet, performed by members of BRB2, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s junior company which aims to give a starting platform to some of the most talented young ballet dancers from across the world.
The performance begins in silence, as the dancers make their way onto the stage, with all their kit, to warm-up; you feel a little as though you’ve been given special backstage access as you see the dancers chat and change, getting ready to go on stage. As the tabs start to fall into place, the first two dancers run forwards before the backcloth comes down behind them, and the performance begins.
The first dance is Rhapsody, a pas de deux set to Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, and it is danced beautifully by Oscar Kempsey-Fagg and Frieda Kaden. They capture the brightness of the music in their movement, with stunning costumes to match the elegance of their performance. As the dance ends, the backcloth rises again to reveal once more the dancers ‘backstage’ and Olivia Chang Clark and Eric Pinto Cata make their way forward for their playful performance of ‘La Syphide’. This is a really fun piece, as Chang Clark plays the coquettish fairy, enticing and then rejecting the advances of the young kilted man who has entered the forest. Pinto Cata’s feet seem to almost flutter in places with the quickness of movement, and there are some lovely bits of solo dancing from both, as well as working together as a pair.
Mailene Katoch and Mason King are up next with a stunning pas de deux from Swan Lake. Showing the impressive strength and control needed by dancers in classical ballet, this measured and elegant routine is full of emotion and thoroughly captivating.
Possibly the most note-worthy performance of the selection comes next for me; Dying Swans, most famously danced by Anna Pavlova, is reimagined by Carlos Acosta as a duet, and Regan Hitsell and Jack Easton are utterly mesmerising. There is no music for the first half of the dance, only the sound of a storm, and the ability of both dancers to time the sharp movements which punctuate this very fluid routine perfectly together is astonishing. They show off their incredible flexibility with the angular, almost contortionist, shapes they create as they mimic the birds’ struggle for life.
Act One ends with a strong performance of Diana and Actaeon from Beatrice Parma and Enrique Bejarano Vidal, who confidently leap around the stage in a brilliant show of athleticism and control.
Act Two starts, rather ironically, with a piece entitled End of Time. Lucy Waine and Oscar Kempsey-Fagg make a wonderful pairing in this dance, almost moving as one body at times as they represent the last two humans left alive after an apocalypse. Their simple costumes are particularly striking, and enable the audience to see every movement and shape they create in this beautifully emotive dance.
We get a flavour of Argentina next in A Buenos Aires, which incorporates elements of tango, and Frieda Kaden and Jack Easton give a flirtatious performance in this dance, with the stage resembling a nightclub as the other dancers watch on from tables at the back.
Regan Hutsell then rises from her seat to take centre stage for a confident routine to Je ne Regrette Rien, full of character and style, before Enrique Bejarano Vidal staggers forward, bottle in hand, to give a comedic and impressively controlled performance of Les Bourgeois, capturing the humour of the piece perfectly.
Next is Carmen, a passionate and sensual pas de deux performed by Olivia Chang-Clarke and Eric Pinto Cata in their second pairing of the evening, and a complete contrast this time. Chang-Clarke’s assured and sultry character here is a far cry from her coy fairy, showing her versatility.
Lucy Waine then returns for the final solo performance of the evening, an entertaining and surreal piece which is meant to reflect a jewellery box opening to reveal a ballerina. Wearing a crinoline over a leotard, Waine is spellbinding in this unusual routine, with her subtle facial expressions complimenting her confident performance.
The evening ends with a spectacular ensemble routine, Majisimo, featuring 5 of the dancers we’ve already seen this evening with the addition of Ava May LLewellyn, Ryan Felix and Rachele Pizzillo. A celebratory piece consisting of seven dances from different areas of Spain, this piece is a visual delight and the perfect ending to a wonderful variety performance.
As the stage is once again ‘undressed’, the tabs are lifted away and we watch the dancers packing away and embracing before leaving the stage one-by one, taking us back to the open and empty stage we began with, and the privilege we feel as an audience to have witnessed the brightest stars in the future of ballet. Simply stunning.