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Black Sabbath Ballet

Rock band to lend eight songs to the ‘world’s first heavy metal dance experience’ performed by Carlos Acosta’s Birmingham Royal Ballet in September

Artistic director Carlos Acosta has promised fans that the production will be 'the next best thing' to having Osbourne himself on stage (pictured: Sofia Linares who stars in Black Sabbath - The Ballet and Carlos Acosta)

A ballet soundtracked by the music of Black Sabbath will premiere in September, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s director Carlos Acosta has announced.

Eight of the band's classic tracks – including Paranoid, Iron Man, War Pigs and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath – have been re-orchestrated for the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, Birmingham Royal Ballet's permanent orchestra

Billed as “the world’s first heavy metal dance experience”, the three-act ballet will feature eight songs by the Brummie band, 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 newly composed, inspired by the band’s music.

Ever since Cuban ballet star Acosta joined Birmingham Royal Ballet as artistic director in 2020, his aim has been for the company to reflect its home city, both in the diversity of its dancers, and 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 might think are the most unlikely of partners.”

Setting a ballet to rock music is not entirely unprecedented. Wayne McGregor’s 2006 ballet Chroma, which was a hit for the Royal Ballet, used songs by the White Stripes orchestrated by Christopher Austin, who is also working on the Black Sabbath show, along with composers Marko Nyberg and Sun Keting.

Black Sabbath’s co-founder and guitarist Tony Iommi is fully behind the project. “Black Sabbath have always been innovators and never been predictable, and it doesn’t come any more unpredictable than this,” he said. “I’d never imagined pairing Black Sabbath with ballet but it’s got a nice ring to it.” Iommi praised Acosta’s infectious enthusiasm and the energy of the dancers, whom he performed alongside at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony. Acosta is hoping Iommi might make a cameo on stage. “He’s a cool guy,” he said. “The band’s enthusiasm for the project is a huge endorsement,” continued Acosta. “They are putting their trust in us to deliver something completely new and original, and that’s quite a responsibility but one that we are beyond excited to take on.”

Black Sabbath: The Ballet will not be a biography of the band, instead it is “conceptual” and “visually led” according to Acosta, although rehearsals don’t begin until April so the piece is yet to take shape. The lead choreographer is Swedish dance-maker Pontus Lidberg – who has previously made work for Acosta’s contemporary dance company, the Havana-based Acosta Danza, as well as New York City Ballet and Paris Opera Ballet – and there’ll be additional choreography from Cuban dancer Raúl Reinoso and the Brazilian Cassi Abranches. The dramaturg 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 that reflects the contemporary world, as well as continuing to master the classics – on that front, the company begins a national tour of Swan Lake on 15 February, but they are also taking extracts from that ballet to Birmingham street food market Hockley Social Club, to reach audiences that might not go to the theatre. Other recent developments include the formation of BRB2, a new graduate company for some of the most talented young UK and international dancers aged 18-22. Dancers will have two years with BRB2 to gain vital experience in their professional careers, and a chance to perform leading roles at a young age. They start touring the UK this April.

Black Sabbath: The Ballet will premiere at Birmingham Hippodrome on 23 September, with further dates in Plymouth and London to be announced.


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