Thursday, 26 April 2012

International Dance Festival Birmingham - Royal Ballet Flanders Artifact

The International Dance Festival Birmingham has returned for another year showcasing some of the world's most prestigious and exciting dance performances. Bringing dancers from all over the world the DanceXchange and the Birmingham Hippodrome are putting Birmingham on the map in terms of creativity and premieres. At the press launch for the festival (taking place all over the city from 23rd April - 19th May) we were treated to preview performances from "Home", a free outdoor performance exploring the theme of what "home" means to us. An interesting performance of contemporary dance with a heartfelt meaning behind it - this world premiere performance is free and taking place throughout the city centre.

To kick start the festival, Royal Ballet Flanders (the only classical ballet company in Belgium) brought William Forsythe's "Artifact" to the Hippodrome, a modern ballet with Character in Historical Costume and Character with Megaphone telling a large company of dancers to "step inside" as they dance in stern precision. A ballet in four parts, it had just the right pace and structure to not get boring nor aimless. Eva Crossman-Hecht's composition to accompany part of the performance emotes and is listenable to all evening long. With either a live pianist or a live violinist as music, the simplicity works and allows you to focus on both the sound and the dance at the same time while appreciating both crafts.

Highlights of the evening include dialogue between both the Character's, although the majority of the audience found the repetitive dialogue sending them slightly insane, I found the varying intonation captivating portraying different moods for different parts. Intricate lighting plots create illusions and develop the story whilst the lack of scenery does nothing to develop nor halt the production but forces the attention onto the performers. I've seen many a ballet productions but never have I been able to describe the ballerina's as "flying" during the pas deux sections. Although the majority of the audience had no clue as to what they were watching or the story behind it, the ballet worked.

Artifact is my ideal vision of modern ballet, verging on contemporary, but most of all storytelling, giving the audience members a chance to become lost in their imaginations whilst watching one of the world's most precise ballet companies. A solid opening to the International Dance Festival Birmingham, the festival looks set to be a highlight of the season.