Photography: Chris Walter/WireImage
A ballet with music by Black Sabbath as its soundtrack will premiere in September, Birmingham Royal Ballet director Carlos Acosta has announced.
Billed as “the world’s first heavy metal dance experience”, the three-act ballet will feature eight songs by the band Brummie, including Paranoid, Iron Man, War Pigs and the eponymous Black Sabbath, re-orchestrated for the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, with Added drums and electric guitars. The rest of the score will be a new composition, inspired by the band’s music.
Since Cuban ballet star Acosta joined the Birmingham Royal Ballet as artistic director in 2020, his goal has been for the company to reflect his hometown, both in the diversity of its dancers and in the subject matter of its ballets. They previously staged City of a Thousand Trades, about the city’s history of immigration and industry.
“Black Sabbath is probably Birmingham’s biggest export, the most famous and infamous cultural entity to ever emerge from the city,” said Acosta, “so I was naturally drawn to the idea of a collaboration between what most people could think they are the most unlikely of partners.”
Setting up a ballet to rock music is not entirely new. Wayne McGregor’s 2006 ballet Chroma, which was a hit for the Royal Ballet, used White Stripes songs orchestrated by Christopher Austin, who is also working on the Black Sabbath programme, along with composers Marko Nyberg and Sun Keting.
Black Sabbath co-founder and guitarist Tony Iommi is fully behind the project. “Black Sabbath has always been innovative and has never been predictable, and it doesn’t get more unpredictable than that,” he said. “I never imagined combining Black Sabbath with ballet, but it sounds good.” Iommi praised Acosta’s infectious enthusiasm and the energy of the dancers, with whom he performed at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. Acosta hopes that Iommi can make a cameo onstage. “He’s a great guy,” he said. “The band’s enthusiasm for the project is a great endorsement,” continued Acosta. “They’re putting their trust in us to deliver something completely new and original, and that’s a big responsibility, but we’re beyond excited to take it on.”
Black Sabbath: The Ballet will not be a biography of the band, but is “conceptual” and “visually guided” according to Acosta, although rehearsals don’t start until April so the piece has yet to take shape. The principal choreographer is Swedish dancer Pontus Lidberg, who previously worked for Acosta’s contemporary dance company, Havana-based Acosta Danza, as well as the New York City Ballet and the Paris Opera Ballet. , and there will be additional choreography by Cubans. the dancer Raúl Reinoso and the Brazilian Cassi Abranches. The playwright will be Richard Thomas, best known for writing Jerry Springer: The Opera, with designs by Cuban artist Alexandre Arrechea.
Acosta’s mission in Birmingham is to bring new audiences to ballet and make dance reflective of the contemporary world, while continuing to master the classics; on that front, the company kicks off a national tour of Swan Lake on February 15, but they’re also bringing excerpts from that ballet to Birmingham’s Hockley Social Club street food market, to reach audiences who might not go to the theater . Other recent developments include the formation of BRB2, a new graduate company for some of the most talented UK and international dancers aged 18-22. The dancers will have two years with BRB2 to gain vital experience in their professional careers and the opportunity to play leading roles at a young age. They begin their UK tour this April.
• Black Sabbath: The Ballet will premiere at Birmingham Hippodrome on September 23, with more dates to be announced in Plymouth and London.