© Johan Persson
The City of a Thousand Trades, writes Rupert Christiansen, was more “depressing” than “festive” – Johan Persson

No matter the distant rumbles of the pandemic, Carlos acosta had his work cut out for him when he took charge of the Birmingham Royal Ballet in January 2020. His longtime predecessor, David Bintley, had bequeathed him a repertoire focused on full narrative ballets of varying quality that sold tickets but didn’t never deviated from it. in the middle of the road.

While beautifully appointed, the company’s home at the Hippodrome is far too big to fill, and its demographic audience is too heavily weighted (with all due respect) to middle-aged women. The company performs well as a team, but is sorely lacking in lead dancers with star quality and strong personalities (in the past it has nurtured people like Marion Tait, Joseph Cipolla, Robert Parker and Monica Zamora).

Things have to change for Acosta to have the same electric effect as Simon rattle had when he took over the Birmingham City Symphony Orchestra in the 1980s. I wonder if he should consider a policy that focuses on revisiting the neglected 20th century classics from his catalog (The Ashton Rendezvous , for example, or Le Boutique fantasque de Massine), rather than putting so many eggs in the risky basket of new orders.

The past year must have been extremely difficult for all concerned, but one potentially positive initiative that has emerged is a partnership between BRB and the Birmingham Repertory Theater. The latter offers a stage and auditorium more suited to new works than the sprawling Edwardian Racecourse, and it was chosen as the location for this welcome return to live performance, greeted with enthusiasm by loyal supporters.

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Sentiment aside, alas, the program was pretty dire. City of a Thousand Trades is a tribute to the creative energies of Brum, imagined by choreographer Miguel Altunaga in collaboration with Madeleine Kludje of Birmingham Rep. The set showed concrete blocks in which steel posts are repeatedly inserted to the accompaniment of a score by Mathias Coppens which weighed heavily on the percussion, channeling the bores and blows from which the objects are made.

a group of people playing instruments and performing on a stage: Imminent, by Daniela Cardim, tackled ecological issues without much depth - Johan Persson

© Provided by The Telegraph
Imminent, by Daniela Cardim, addressed ecological issues without much depth – Johan Persson

Meanwhile, verses from Birmingham poet laureate Casey Bailey were recited on the tannoy, highlighting the lonely experiences and sacrifices of migrant workers rather than any positive spirit of material creation. The dance by a body of 12 is frantic but aimless; men seemed more comfortable with the idiom than women. Overall, the effect was depressing rather than festive.

What followed was downright weak. Brazilian choreographer Daniela Cardim envisioned Imminent as a response – guess what – to the climate crisis, and “signaling virtue” would be too kind of a description. On a thunderous and cheeky score by Paul Englishby à la Malcolm Arnold, 16 dancers make imploring or alarmed gestures in front of a setting showing an iceberg in which a large hole has appeared. If this is what the environmental debate boils down to, then we are indeed on the verge of disaster.

The temperature rises slightly with Chacona, Goyo Montero’s answer to JS Bach’s Partita No 2, in which a phalanx of dancers in black responds to the symmetry and elegance of baroque music. But none of this seemed in all respects a good place for Acosta’s new start.

Until Saturday. Tickets: brb.org.uk, 0121 245 3500

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