Acclaim for Bintley and Hindson's new orchestral ballet, 'Faster'

Acclaim for Bintley and Hindson's new orchestral ballet, 'Faster'
'What Hindson is doing with Bintley, as Julian Anderson and Gavin Higgins have done with Mark Baldwin, is generating an exhilarating new revival of serious music in the dance theatre, fascinating for the audience and challenging to the dancers.'
The Arts Desk (Ismene Brown), 28 June 2012
In 2009, the first collaboration between leading UK choreographer David Bintley and Australian composer Matthew Hindson, E=mc2, was widely acclaimed and scooped the highly prestigious South Bank Show Award for Dance for commissioners, Birmingham Royal Ballet.  Now BRB have premiered Bintley and Hindson's second creation, Faster.

It's a 35-minute celebration of athleticism, inspired by the Olympic motto 'Citius, Altius, Fortius' ('Faster, Higher, Stronger') and reveals Bintley to be at the height of choreographic powers, marshalling his 21 dancers with consummate ease, fuelled by Matthew Hindson's newly-commissioned orchestral score.
 
There were six initial performances at the Birmingham Hippodrome from 27-30 June, and then the work comes to London, Cardiff and Plymouth as part of BRB's "Autumn Celebration" from 9-31 October 2012.

Read David Bintley on his new ballet here, and an interview with Matthew Hindson about his new score here

The press have been unanimous in their praise for the new ballet:
I suggest the Olympics crawl to Bintley fast and ask him to make his new ballet a big feature of their opening ceremony, expanded to arena size, because it’s a credit to a rather higher level of aspiration and imaginative collaboration than LOCOG appear capable of.  This is a very good piece of work, fast, strong, theatrically clever and musically powerful, a smart use of athletics motifs in a balletic aesthetic, making riches of slender resources and a credit to British endeavour.

Faster fields dancers very fetchingly clothed in skin-tight sports outfits by the new young designer Becs Andrews, attractive takes on gymwear, swimwear, cycling bodysuits, basketball sweats and track athletes’ two-pieces, with a lot of long beautiful legs and washboard stomachs on view.  It opens as the opening ceremony, athletes in ranks making the ancient salute to the crowds and the gods, while peremptory fanfares arrest our attention, and then Bintley breaks them into an intricate and richly woven carpet of top-speed movement.  It has echoes of the multi-screen effects of American modern dance of Twyla Tharp and Merce Cunningham as your eye switches between groups of “athletes”, but you keep spotting discreet motifs, the archer girls’ lovely bow-drawn ports de bras, the tae-kwondo’s kick becoming a swift ballet développé.

Teams suddenly break through the medley of individualists: the basketball boys bouncing and leaping, the synchro swim girls smoothly flowing.  The impressive setting-out sharpens into a gorgeous trio for Ambra Vallo, Jamie Bond and William Bracewell, fusing with a delicate touch the elasticity and clarity of ballet into theoutré physical marvels of gymnastics, the suspenseful lifts hanging in silence between blasts of horns. (There are shades there of the lovely Venus pas de trois lost in Bintley’s Planets ballet long ago.)

A slightly less magnetically devised duet comes amidships between male and female fighters, Iain Mackay and Elisha Willis, in which she is melodramatically “injured” and there’s a dark night of the soul involving what may be physiotherapy and a shaky recovery.  This may well look better as the performers become braver in it.  The finale floods the stage with runners, whose vim and mesmerisingly attractive bodies as revealed in their brief outfits makes a stunning sight. 

It’s ballet, but it’s athletics too, and what makes it good art is that it is musical expression too - this is another confident step in the new renaissance of music-driven ballet, spearheaded by Bintley at BRB and by Mark Baldwin at Rambert.  Bintley seems finally to be coming into a rich maturity in his talent for sheer balletic movement, more confident in recent years, working not with narratives… but with really exciting new scores.  This one is again by the hugely impressive Matthew Hindson, the Australian composer who composed the music for Bintley’s 2010 ballet, e=mc2.  What Hindson is doing with Bintley, as Julian Anderson and Gavin Higgins have done with Baldwin, is generating an exhilarating new revival of serious music in the dance theatre, fascinating for the audience and challenging to the dancers.
The Arts Desk (Ismene Brown), 28 June 2012

The pace picks up ten-fold via the aptly named Faster, by BRB's artistic director David Bintley.  How could it not given Matthew Hindson's excitingly alert, brassy and jangling new score?  It was this same Australian composer who fuelled Bintley's physics-themed hit, E=mc2, in 2009.  Their latest collaboration feels like another keeper despite its seemingly short-lived topicality.

Faster, you see, derives its creative energy from those who go for gold. In terms of craft and sheer drive this abstract ensemble piece is enough — at least temporarily — to dispel pre-Olympics fatigue.

Bintley’s writing is all about forward momentum as 21 dancers, fighting-fit in Becs Andrews's tight, eye-catching costumes, try to capture the gymnastic grace, punishing effort and aspirational glory of world-class competitive sports.  Some of their actions, including fencing and swimming, are more literal-minded than others.  I especially enjoyed the all-male basketball quartet whose invisible ball-dribbling possesses a neat boogie rhythm.

But the overall tone is hardly playful.  This is an arena for potential injury and even shame, sub-themes most evident in a slower central duet in which Iain Mackay's god-like support works wonders for Elisha Willis’s recovery.  Then, as a climax, Bintley sends the full cast racing towards the finish line.  Faster may not offer a total endorphin high, but at its best it comes close.
The Times (Donald Hutera), 29 June 2012

I think they should scrap the opening ceremony for the Olympics and just have BRB perform David Bintley’s new ballet, Faster, based on the games’ motto of Faster, Higher, Stronger.  Nothing could be more awesome or more illustrative of the dedication, intensity, aspiration and power of elite athletes.

In 35 minutes of brilliant and complex choreography, the 21 dancers capture not just kinetic movement and energy but the mental processes of competition too, the relentless advance towards a single goal.  It’s rapid, untiring, full of grace as well as athleticism.  There are epic moments in Matthew Hindson’s thrilling score, and some heart-stopping ones too, not least the notes sustained on a single string when Elisha Willis and Rory Mackay so exquisitely dance the conquest of pain and injury in the second movement.’
The Stage (Pat Ashworth), 28 June 2012

‘This, however, is merely the limbering-up.  Faster, the triple bill’s main event, is a new piece by David Bintley – an Olympic-year tribute to the sporting spirit – with a driving, pumping, excitable new score by Matthew Hindson.  The work looks fantastic, with the 21 dancers dressed in sports kit to which designer Becs Andrews has added a sharp, knowing twist of glamour.

In the first section, various Olympic sports are represented in a series of short dances that blend the literal and the abstract to a carefully judged degree.  The atmosphere changes for a stern, tactile duet between Elisha Willis and Iain Mackay, which conveys both tenderness and the impersonality of the competitive ethos, and the piece ends with the company running en masse to the point of exhaustion.  It is a dynamic new work, and its effect, interestingly, is to bring home the brutal physicality of dance, as much as sport.’
The Telegraph (Laura Thompson), 28 June 2012

‘Sharp as knives fencers dart towards and away from one another as synchronised swimmers harmoniously bob around the stage while athletic gymnasts and basketball players prove their prowess with powerful movements.

This is Faster.  BRB director David Bintley’s latest ballet inspired by the London 2012 Games.

The award-winning choreographer was forced to change the name of his work, inspired by the Olympic motto “Faster, Higher, Stronger”, due to stringent red tape set down by the International Olympic Committee.

But this has not restrained the kinetic-like energy produced by the dancers as their beautifully gamely motions light up the theatre while they run, jump and slide with the dramatically enthralling score by Matthew Hindson.

Human emotions are portrayed through the 21 dancers' portrayal of painful injuries and determination to win clad in sporty costumes and fluorescent trainers.’
Birmingham Mail (Fionnuala Burke), 29 June 2012

‘The premiere in this triple bill is inspired by the British Olympic games.  I wouldn’t exactly say it celebrates them because the dance is about endurance, concentration, determination, pain, need to do better and better, victory and more pain.  I suppose you could say it celebrates the athletes and their achievements.  No matter; it’s a cracking piece – engrossing, thrilling and all-encompassing…

Choreographer David Bintley has his second collaboration with composer Matthew Hindson for Faster and has a large company of dancers, too – 21 of them.  If winning in sport is all about pushing yourself to your limits (and beyond), then Bintley’s dancers seem to be pushing themselves beyond their limits.  Dance metaphor and the real world merge before our very eyes in an explosive display of physical grace, power and beauty.

The dance never seems to stop, dancers approach a pose, but move on as soon as it’s achieved.  There is no rest.  It is this, more than anything else, that draws us into this world.

The first section is about aggression, the need to win.  Dance partners Hindson’s score perfectly, for the music is all metal – from brass to bells – and percussion. (Is this an echo of Mars I hear before me?)  Later, Hindson’s score builds on minimalist rhythms, small patterns endlessly repeated.  The dance too is stripped away; this is about speed, it’s about repetition over marathon time, it’s about single-minded perseverance.

Yet from this Bintley-Hindson find time for repose, a sequence of lyrical beauty.

For this section of the programme we see before us, not dancers, but athletes. This marvellous, ensemble work will surely thrill us for years to come.
Reviews Gate (Alexander Ray), 27 June 2012