Birmingham Royal Ballet have recently unveiled David Bintley’s latest dance-work, a 35-minute, four-movement ballet, inspired by Einstein’s ‘Theory of Relativity’, and set to a commissioned orchestral score by Australian composer Matthew Hindson.
The press have been fulsome in their praise and referred to Hindson writing “one of the best pieces of new dance music this side of Stravinsky.” The ballet is something of a departure for BRB’s Artistic Director Bintley, who has created his first non-narrative ballet for almost 20 years.
Following the successful dates at Birmingham’s Hippodrome, the production tours to Plymouth and Sunderland before coming to Sadler’s Wells on 10 and 11 November.
‘... a riveting orchestral score by the young Australian Matthew Hindson (of whom we shall surely hear more)’
The Independent (Jenny Gilbert), 15 November 2009
Birmingham's David Bintley thrills to Einstein... ‘With E=mc², however, he has ventured light years from his comfort zone. The key to this investigation of Einstein's equation is Matthew Hindson's brilliant orchestral score, to which Bintley responds with force fields of gleaming, pared-back dance. In the first section, "Energy", the fury of the interactions suggests a particle storm...The second section, "Mass", is announced by shivering strings and a delicate buzzing...What makes this work so memorable is the economy with which Bintley responds to the challenge of Hindson's score.’
The Observer (Luke Jennings), 15 November 2009
‘... The galloping strings and guffawing brass of Matthew Hindson's score underpin the metronomic movement before the dancers congeal into a single entity...’
Daily Express (Neil Norman), 13 November 2009
DANCE: BINTLEY'S BALLET IS SET TO LAST
“THERE is something unique about David Bintley and movement. It is more than just dance that he creates, there is an added depth and truth all of his own. The watcher has neither to scramble after meaning nor perform gymnastic mental rigours. Whatever Bintley wishes to convey to an audience is revealed as an added dimension. Bintley’s gift is happily focused in his new work, E=mc2, blazing away between the two enjoyable but lesser pieces, Stanton Welch’s Powder and The Centre and its Opposite by Garry Stewart. They didn’t stand a chance.
Yes, it is Einstein’s 1905 nuclear fusion theory. Can you imagine a less attractive subject for a fun night out?
However, Bintley’s explosive talent is matched by composer Matthew Hindson’s writing one of the best pieces of new dance music this side of Stravinsky. Led by Elisha Willis and Joseph Caley, and driven by Hindson’s disturbing music of the spheres, a splintered mass of bodies emerges from the chaos. They spark energy all over the place as Bintley visualises the random merging into matter. No easy task but Einstein’s thought process is as transparent as outer space.”
Sunday Express (Jeffery Taylor), 27 September 2009
“Physics = an unhappy school experience and so the concept of a classical ballet based on Einstein’s equation did not appeal. Yet – miraculously – thanks to this 35-minute demonstration, E=mc2 is now relatively clear. David Bintley’s latest piece for Birmingham Royal Ballet is far removed from the choreographer’s usual work but it was well received and an exciting addition to his company’s repertory.
The first section of E=mc2 is E for energy. Big and brooding, the limbs and twirling hands of the 20 dancers work as a giant machine building up its colossal power. Mass, the second movement, sees a shift of mood with lovely lifts and balances illustrating stillness, inertia and gravity, or defiance of it. The short symbolic third movement is titled Manhattan Project – the codename for developing the American atomic bomb in Second World War. A white-masked Japanese dancer dressed in pure white postures enigmatically with a red fan before a rectangle of red light. Then the auditorium reverberates with the sound of an atom bomb being released. One could safely conclude the dancer represents Hiroshima.
The final section Celeritas squared (Latin for swiftness and standing for speed of light) is fast-paced and slick with dancers clad in silver and blue against a dazzling wall of spotlights.
Bintley commissioned Matthew Hindson – who shares his interest in science and the cosmos – to create the score and the result is a powerfully emotive partnership in which choreographer and composer attempt to simplify Einstein’s theory of relativity. It’s well worth the lesson.”
Birmingham Post (Susan Turner), 25 September 2009
“These three one-act ballets - Powder, E=mc² and The Centre and its Opposite - represent some of the most extreme work Birmingham Royal Ballet has undertaken to date. The evening rocks, it screams and at one point gives us an atomic explosion.
With the cool classicism of Stanton Welch’s Powder kicking off this extraordinary performance, David Bintley’s talented company proves it can take on anything going and carry it off successfully...Here is a ballet which will repay further visits. The same can be said of Bintley’s remarkable and dazzlingly clever E=mc², for which you don’t require a degree in advanced physics. In feverish groups, fingers stroking the air like moving fern fronds, the dancers come and go through a quartet of intensely-shaped sequences which explore the dynamism of the creative energy, which leads on to the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
As the black up-stage screens open slowly to reveal a scarlet rectangle, a solitary Japanese woman moves her paper fan in traditional style as the soundscape changes to a huge rumbling. The world crumbles insanely and the woman, symbolising human frailty, goes with it.
This is a dance masterpiece, pushed beyond conventional limits, overwhelming and marvellously exciting with some great dancing, as ultimate power is negotiated and explored in settings where the lighting (by Peter Mumford and Michael Mannion) is as stunning as an art installation.”
The Stage (Richard Edmonds), 24 September 2009
“Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) premiered David Bintley's new piece last night and I think it's a great success - paradoxically because it's not a Bintley piece. E=mc² has Bintley's sense of theatre there for sure, but he deliberately set out to do a non-Bintley work and in this he has been very successful, though if he so readily illuminated what the famous equation is really about (his other ambition) I'm not so sure. But that matters not because he floods the stage with excitement - dance excitement, musical excitement (from Australian Matthew Hindson), lighting excitement from Peter Mumford and costume excitements from Kate Ford.
E=mc² is split into 4 sections. Energy opens with with mad raucous and discordant orchestra sounds - huge drums and blaring trumpets and with the stage oddly side-lit with horizontal shafts of probing light. All the movement is powerful, bullish and empathetic with rippling arms that seem to spark as dancers zoom all over the stage without any letup. There actually is a slightly more quiet section but my overarching remembrance is the thrill of seeing such collective Energy. Mass is perhaps harder to convey and what we got was Bintley's take on the abstract romanticism we more often associate with Christopher Wheeldon's recent work, coupled with the other-worldliness of Ashton's Monotones - the music particularly conveyed that feel. Clothed in soft grey/black this was deeply beautiful movement, particularly the three mirrored pas de trois with Gaylene Cummerfield, Celine Gittens and Jenna Roberts at their centre and draped with idyllic finesse about their men. Pummelled by Energy, this was mesmerisingly light indeed. Manhattan Project follows as an all-white Geisha with a red fan, dances traditionally while a huge, theatre-shaking, explosion rumbles on for a couple of minutes. I expected to see the Geisha wither and become subsumed by what was a nuclear explosion but perplexingly she just dances on... All is pared back, not least the tight and tiny costumes created by Ford, with all the men bare chested. The stage is full of movement again but it's the movement of sprites and some delicious backwards running that I always associate with Twyla Tharp. These are more dancers being dancers as they happily shimmy, hop and run, none more so than the newly promoted Principal, Carol-Anne Millar. All up a really refreshing and pacy piece that's a keeper. Bintley should experiment more!...”
Ballet Magazine (Bruce Marriott), September 2009
“Birmingham Royal Ballet’s new season has kicked off to an explosive start.
Tonight marked return of the company with two new incendiary pieces to add to the repertoire, and this launch into the new year showcased some of their best work yet...But the audience quietly anticipated director David Bintley’s hotly-awaited debut – E=mc². Broken into four segments, each chapter looking at an element in the relativity equation, the ‘ballet’ reaches revolutionary ground in exploring the relationship between science and dance. ENERGY was an arena of power. The dancers exploded from each other in a variety of compositions and arrangements, and their curling hands (reminiscent of the end of Christopher Wheeldon’s Commedia) and motoring repetitions made the corps appear both mechanical and chaotic. The atmosphere altered rapidly for MASS, where Kate Ford’s vibrant costumes in the first piece were replaced with soft hues and moody lighting. Bintley works in trios – with two males slowly lifting one female dancer and spinning them off each other like meteors twirling through space. The effect was beautiful and gave the idea of ‘mass’ a sombre sensuality...Finally, for CELERITAS the stage was luminated with a wall of spotted lighting. Carol-Anne Miller’s light-footed nimbleness was delightful and the corps sprang across the stage to Matthew Hindson’s fast-paced score with perhaps more energy than the first piece. Even without knowing what E=mc² stands for, audience members could not fail to know instantly something of the elements each dance aimed to replicate by Bintley’s carefully thought out movements and composition. This is surely the director’s greatest work yet, and a testament to the talent in the company that he can create such an unprecedented exploration of physics and chemistry on stage.”
West Midlands Dance, 24 September 2009
“One of two new works in Birmingham Royal Ballet's Quantum Leaps triple bill, E=mc², by BRB boss David Bintley, sets out to convey in dance nothing less than the E (energy), m (mass), and the c (light-speed) of Einsten's famous equation. And, as if to remind us what grim use mankind has put such wisdom to, it also shoehorns in a short passage called "Manhattan Project'' (the name given to the development of the first atom bomb) in which a geisha poses in front of a livid red oblong to the sound of an unholy roar.
It's all a bit chaotic and not exactly unpretentious, but not exactly dull either. Set against an arresting backdrop of primevally swirling smoke, "Energy'' tackles an even bigger bang - the birth of the universe - with a cluster of dancers bathed in golden light, their arms flickering like solar flares, suddenly separating in an explosion of leaps and lifts. "Mass'' (blue square) has three pairs repeatedly coalesce into clusters of matter, while "Celeritas2'' has 18 company members skipping, twirling and bobbing along in a hypnotic perpetual motion against hundreds of radiant little suns. Sometimes, Matthew Hindson's score helps: there's an appealing chug to "Celeritas2'', an attractive calm to "Mass''...”
Daily Telegraph (Mark Monahan), 25 September 2009
“The definitions of modern dance and contemporary ballet might need a bit of re-wording, after the Birmingham Royal Ballet exploded on stage with a riveting triple bill named Quantum Leaps. These three potent and contrasting ballets ran a coach and horses through the traditional pomp and ceremony usually associated with ballet, giving out an eclectic and invigorating fusion of imagery, vibrancy and light. Many in the audience seemed a little taken aback, but I was astounded in a good way by these three terrific performances. It seemed to me that you could actually see the company enjoying themselves for once...
The world premiere of Birmingham Royal Ballet's director, David Bintley's new ballet E=mc² was an unforgettable experience.
Set to music by Australian composer Matthew Hindson, this is a powerful piece of dance theatre that illustrated the high technical precision of the company and the superb vision of the director... Purists may foam at the mouth at all this, but I found this bill completely exhilarating.”
The Leicester Mercury, 26 September
“It is probably entirely fitting in this year of Darwin mania that the notion of the rational should loom large in our artistic consciousness. After all, there are no mysteries, are there? Everything can be explained in neat packages and delivered with textbook precision with all the assurance of the current fashionable orthodoxy.
The interesting thing about David Bintley’s world premiere of E=mc² – yes, it’s a hugely absurd title for reviewing purposes – is that its mathematical certainties are also endowed with the curse of scientists everywhere.
For basically, there’s no escaping that element of magic, the hint of the ethereal, this notion of there being more things in heaven and earth… Suffice to say that Elisha Willis and Joseph Caley literally explode upon the stage, mesmerising us with their technique, balletic and athletic in equal measure.
This is without doubt a superb piece, Matthew Hindson’s strangely hypnotic score matching Bintley’s inspired direction. Albert Einstein would have been pleased – and not a little intrigued – by this homage to his famous equation on the theory of relativity.”
Worcester News (John Phillpott), 24 September 2009
“Birmingham Royal Ballet likes to sell its triple-bill programmes under a catchy overall title, and the latest — which opened at the Birmingham Hippodrome — is Quantum Leaps. The title of the world-premiere piece is E=mc². David Bintley, as choreographer, and the composer Matthew Hindson have taken Einstein’s equation for his theory of relativity as their starting point.
The first section of this piece, Energy, bursts on us with tremendous excitement, as, against a monochrome decor of smoky clouds, a huge cast in black comes into light as a primeval pulsing organism; then limbs shoot out sideways like sparks or flashes, fingers flickering and trickling in a motif of cascades. Elisha Willis and Joseph Caley are the featured couple; the choreography is fascinating in its kinetic complexity… Hindson’s music builds to blaring bombast… Mass, which follows, has eerie, tinkly music, a slow and more sculptural structure… Against a rectangle of vivid red light, a white-faced and robed geisha (Samara Downs) twirls a scarlet fan; then, suddenly, we have the thunderous explosion, an almighty din of crackles and fallout that, it seems, shakes the theatre walls. Celeritas2 (the “c” of the equation being the speed of light) sets Carol-Anne Millar and Alexander Campbell with ensemble jigging, skipping and counter-crossing, nonstop, against an array of yellow light spots. This is all joy…”
The Sunday Times (David Dougill), 4 October 2009