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Youth takes over: James Kudelka creates ballet for Bintley's Birmingham.

BIRMINGHAM, England--When British choreographer David Bintley took over as artistic director of Birmingham Royal Ballet in August 1995, one of his first goals was to introduce new work [See feature, page 70, this issue]. He chose a contemporary, Canadian James Kudelka, as the first outside choreographer to create a work for the company, commissioning a Le Baiser de la Fee to Igor Stravinsky's music. The commission was agreed upon before Kudelka accepted his new post as artistic director of National Ballet of Canada.

Bintley, who has known Kudelka since 1982, finds that ballet choreography has developed along different routes in Europe and North America, because of the influence of George Balanchine. In North America, he says, "there's a predominance of abstract or semiabstract dance. Although most of the pieces I'd seen by James were of that nature, I knew he'd done some story ballets with NBC.... I thought James would do something very interesting with Stravinsky's Baiser."

Kudelka says the Stravinsky music is "a score I knew and liked. And when David asked me, I thought, `I'd love to do that.' " The result opens September 26, on a program with Frederick Ashton's 1937 Les Patineurs (new to BRB) and Bintley's new The Nutcracker Sweeties, to Duke Ellington's jazz version of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite.

Ashton created a Baiser de la Fee in 1935, which had the first important role for Margot Fonteyn; Balanchine created a divertissement to the music in 1937; and Bintley used the same Hans Christian Andersen story of the Fairy's Kiss for his Snow Queen.

The story is of a young man who is kissed by an ice maiden, his difficult life, his return to the land of his inspiration, and the fairy's reclaiming of him. "In working on it," says Kudelka, "I felt that Stravinsky was talking a lot more about Tchaikovsky. So I've taken the Tchaikovsky route. It's the idea that the young man is kissed at birth by inspiration, and is taken away by inspiration later in life. Stravinsky's dedication in the score is to Tchaikovsky, and he used a lot of Tchaikovsky themes and orchestrations."

When Kudelka accepted NBC's offer of the directorship last spring, he made it clear that he wanted to fulfill the Birmingham commission. "I knew David as a young director who was ten months ahead of me [in taking over a company], so while being there I thought he possibly could help me. I like David very much; he's one of the few people who do what I do. We have a lot to share."

The triple bill shared by Bintley, Kudelka, and Ashton tours Britain until BRB returns to Birmingham November 29 for the Christmas season run of Peter Wright's Nutcracker.

To make all of this more accessible, Bintley has instituted a policy of low prices for new works, wherever possible. It has been adopted in Birmingham and Sunderland, so far, and helped sell out the capacious Birmingham Hippodrome last May for an evening of choreography by eleven company members to Mozart's Mass in C Minor.
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Title Annotation:David Bintley's Birmingham Royal Ballet
Author:Parry, Jann
Publication:Dance Magazine
Date:Sep 1, 1996
Words:507
Previous Article:Letter from London.
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