Acosta brings Black Sabbath ballet to Birmingham

Acosta brings Black Sabbath ballet to Birmingham

Acosta brings Black Sabbath ballet to Birmingham

“This is definitely the first time I’ve asked dancers to do pirouettes and headbangs in the same sequence,” choreographer Pontus Lidberg said after rehearsals at Birmingham Racecourse.

A few minutes earlier, the room had been filled with the sound of heavy guitar riffs, pounding drums and screeching synthesizers, a far cry from the shimmering notes of the Nutcracker to which dancers are more accustomed.

Rehearsals are now underway for Black Sabbath: the Ballet, which is due to open in September in the band’s hometown, 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,” she said. “I hate being predictable, I hate that society is taken for granted. Everyone knows about Swan Lake and Cinderella.

“We already know that 60% of the tickets purchased come from the heavy metal world. This is 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 Commonwealth Games closing ceremony in Birmingham last year, has given his blessing to the project and is helping steer its musical direction .

“The feedback from our fans has been fantastic. It’s pushing music outside the box. I like something more adventurous, and that’s exactly what it is,” she said. “Who would have thought that Black Sabbath and ballet would go together? But it’s working.

One of the first challenges the creative team faced was that most of Black Sabbath’s songs hadn’t been written on sheet music, and where they had been was often wrong, Iommi said.

“Most people who do Sabbath stuff, from what I’ve heard, never quite get it, it’s always slightly off,” Iommi said. “[Sabbath music] he’s not always on time, and I think this production has captured that perfectly.

“The glorious unevenness is important,” added orchestrator Christopher Austin, who wrote a Black Sabbath-inspired score for the show. “It’s not just the songs themselves, it’s their spirit.”

The ballet will be split into three acts and features eight of the band’s songs, including their biggest hits such as Paranoid and Iron Man, all of which will be performed live by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia.

Playwright Richard Thomas said the first act will focus on the music, while the second act will consist of narrative fragments documenting the band’s most famous anecdotes, including the tale of how Iommi cut off his fingers in an accident at his last working day at a sheet metal factory, jeopardizing his guitar playing. It has also been hinted that it will cover the infamous moment where Osbourne bit off the head of a sledgehammer.

A guitarist will be on stage for most of the show, with dancers winding their way around, placing the band’s music firmly center stage.

“This is not a story ballet, or a tribute act, or a documentary; the music and dance are the absolute stars. It’s just 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 archival material, so it’s mirrored in the act.” .

Historic and new audio recordings from 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 art form to new audiences. The first, City of a Thousand Trades, covered Birmingham’s history of immigration and industry.

Iommi said Black Sabbath fans have been eagerly awaiting the show, which is already sold out, and expects them to sing along with the audience — “something you might not normally see at a ballet.”

She said: “It’s another world for me. And we’re bringing our fans with us, who have probably never seen a ballet in their lives. And hopefully ballet fans will enjoy some of the music too.”

Black Saturday: the ballet will make its debut at the Birmingham Hippodrome on 23 September.

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