‘Hate to be predictable’: Acosta brings Black Sabbath ballet to Birmingham | Ballet
“This is definitely the first time I’ve asked dancers to pirouette and headbang in the same sequence,” said the choreographer Pontus Lidberg after rehearsals at Birmingham Hippodrome.
Minutes earlier, the room had been filled with the sound of heavy guitar riffs, pounding drums and screeching synths, a far cry from the twinkling notes of the Nutcracker that ballet dancers are more accustomed to.
Rehearsals are now under way for Black Sabbath: the Ballet, due to open in September in the band’s home city, in what has been billed as “the world’s first heavy metal dance experience”.
The production is the vision of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s artistic director, Carlos Acosta, who wanted to celebrate what he described as “the most famous, and infamous, cultural entity to ever emerge from the city”.
“Black Sabbath is so different from the world of ballet and I wanted to multiply our reach,” he said. “I hate to be predictable, I hate for the company to be taken for granted. Everyone knows Swan Lake and Cinderella.
“We already know 60% of the tickets that have been bought have come from the world of heavy metal. That’s a great opportunity for us to show people the world of dance.”
The band’s guitarist Tony Iommi, who performed with frontman Ozzy Osbourne in a surprise reunion at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games closing ceremony last year, has given the project his blessing and is helping to lead its musical direction.
“Feedback from our fans has been great. It’s pushing the music outside the box. I like something that’s more adventurous, and that’s exactly what this is,” he said. “Who would have thought Black Sabbath and ballet would go together? But it’s working.”
One of the first challenges the creative team faced was that most Black Sabbath songs had not been put down on sheet music, and where they had been it was most often wrong, said Iommi.
“Most people doing Sabbath stuff, from what I’ve heard, have never quite got it right, it’s always slightly off,” Iommi said. “[Sabbath music] is not always in time, and I think this production has captured that perfectly.”
“The glorious irregularity is important,” added the orchestrator Christopher Austin, who has written a score of Black Sabbath-inspired music for the show. “It’s not just the songs themselves, it’s their spirit.”
The ballet will be split over three acts and features eight of the band’s songs, including their most famous hits such as Paranoid and Iron Man, all of which will be played live by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia.
The dramaturg Richard Thomas said the first act would focus on the music, while the second act would be formed of narrative fragments documenting the band’s most famous anecdotes, including the tale of how Iommi severed his fingers in an accident on his last day of work in a sheet metal factory, jeopardising his guitar playing. It has also been hinted it will cover the infamous moment Osbourne bit the head off a bat.
A guitarist will be on stage for most of the show, with dancers weaving around, placing the band’s music firmly centre stage.
“This isn’t a story ballet, or a tribute act, or a documentary; the music and the dance are the total stars. It is quite simply the Birmingham Royal Ballet meets Black Sabbath, and we see how the concept unfolds,” said Thomas. “There’s also a lot of comedy in Black Sabbath if you look at the archive material, so that is mirrored in the act.”
Historical and new audio recordings of fans and band members, including Osbourne along with his wife, Sharon, will also be played, before the final act focuses on the band’s legacy.
The production is the second in a trilogy of ballets Acosta has planned to celebrate Birmingham’s contribution to the world and bring the artform to new audiences. The first, City of a Thousand Trades, covered Birmingham’s history of immigration and industry.
Iommi said Black Sabbath fans were eagerly awaiting the show, which has already sold out, and he expects them to be singing along in the audience – “something you might not normally see at a ballet”.
He said: “It is another world for me. And we’re bringing along our fans, who have probably never seen a ballet in their life. And hopefully the ballet fans might like some of the music too.”
Black Sabbath: the Ballet will premiere at Birmingham Hippodrome on 23 September.
Shared From Source link Entertainment