My Hansel and Gretel Designs are finally complete! My idea was for them to be dressed as normal modern kids, then when they arrive at the witch’s cottage, she dresses them in candy covered outfits. Gretel’s dress is covered in sugary lemon drops with a macaroon trimmed skirt, a sucker hair clip, and skittle covered shoes. Hansel is wearing a peppermint broach, liquorish shoelaces, and a taffy wrapper bow-tie.
Arcadia, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Birmingham Hippodrome, review: Atena Ameri’s designs are strikingly beautiful
David Bintley, Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet for over twenty years, believes in ballet’s ability to tell a story. Before the turn from abstraction to narrative became fashionable, before Liam Scarlett’s Hansel and Gretel, Wayne McGregor’s Raven Girl or Northern Ballet’s Casanova, Bintley filled Birmingham’s Hippodrome with characters and plotlines. But, can classical ballet provide an emotional language complex enough to transcend infantilising bedtime stories? With a hollow story, even technical accomplishment and sumptuous staging can seem purposeless.
Ruth Brill’s first main-stage commission, the world premiere of Arcadia, explores the ‘dual nature’ of Pan and his psychological transition from egotistical God to harmonious ruler of Arcadia. Atena Ameri’s designs are strikingly beautiful as she fills the stage with delicate forest latticework. Arcadia aspires to psychological narrative, but Brill does not find movement capable of expressing the process of transformation. Instead Pan’s arms flail around his head to signal tumultuous thoughts. Brill’s choreography better captures Pan’s sexuality. Foregrounding Tyrone Singleton’s impressive physicality she combines snaking upper-body movements with saxophones to good effect. Ray, Shang and Stanciulescu are delicate, graceful nymphs while Delia Mathews’ expansive arm movements embody the all-encompassing glow of the moon. Finishing with a celebratory image of Arcadia, Brill references national dances with deconstructed skips and polonaise prances. Perkily performed by a smiling corps de ballet wearing sashes and headbands, this pastoral finale reinforces the impression of choreography enthralled to tradition.
The remainder of the triple bill provokes further questions about repetitiveness and relevance. Choreographed and staged multiple times Le Baiser de la fée’s storyline has proved difficult for choreographers to master. Based on Hans Christian Anderson’s story The Ice Maiden, Michael Corder’s version moulds crisp classical vocabulary into enjoyable technical divertissement. There are moments of drama: the opening storm and Jenna Roberts’ sinister Fairy presence. Beyond this, the plot functions as an excuse for technical display.
Pineapple Poll, John Cranko’s 1950’s blockbuster, finishes the evening with an image of Goddess Britannia complete with trident and shield. Based on the Bab Ballads of WS Gilbert and inspired by Gilbert and Sullivan’s light operas, Pineapple Poll provides a classic pantomime plot of lusty sailors, mistaken identity, and love. Cranko’s choreography remains inherently characterful. As brightly coloured caricatures the company perform with conviction and charm. In particular, Kit Holder shines as the lovelorn Pot Boy. However, Goddess Britannia and images of sailors strangling their wives result in an uneasy nostalgic charm. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the piece will be replaced by Still Life at the Penguin Café when Birmingham Royal Ballet goes to Sadler’s Wells in November.
I am very proud to present my Hansel & Gretel Candy Cottage. I’ve tried to add as much detail as possible, from the liquorish and cotton candy trees, to the frosting roof, waffle cone walls, gum drop garden, peppermint walkway, cake pop decoration, macaroon door frame, and the frosted pretzel window. When I was finished, I thought it would be fun to make it into a postcard with the Witch presenting her sweet house in a sinister way. I made the text and added in the Candy Witch