Some of Black Sabbath’s heaviest tracks are being turned into a ballet

Black Sabbath performing live
(Image credit: Dave Hogan/Getty Images)

In one of the more surprising guitar-related news stories of the week, Black Sabbath’s music is being turned into a new ballet, which has been dubbed the “world’s first heavy metal dance experience”.

Set to take place in the band’s hometown of Birmingham, England, Black Sabbath: The Ballet was created by Birmingham Royal Ballet director Carlos Acosta, who has sought to reflect the city’s cultural heritage through dance since his appointment to the company in 2020.

In this vein, some of Acosta’s previous productions include City of a Thousand Trades, which focused on Birmingham’s immigration and industrial history.

As such, eight of Sabbath’s heaviest tracks will soundtrack the three-act ballet, which will also feature newly composed music inspired by the band’s wider repertoire. The songs set to feature in the Sabbath ballet include Paranoid, Iron Man, War Pigs and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.

Black Sabbath, Solitude, Orchid and Laguna Sunrise complete the Sabbath-specific setlist.

Each song has been reorchestrated for the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, which will also incorporate drums and, unsurprisingly, electric guitar. The latter’s inclusion is a no-brainer, really – Black Sabbath without guitar wouldn't make any sense.

Ballet dancer with an SG-style guitar

(Image credit: Birmingham Royal Ballet)

Whatever the case, the prospect of seeing elite professional dancers gracefully dancing to heavy Sabbath riffs sounds like it will make for one hell of a show.

“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.”

Tony Iommi – who performed alongside some of the show's dancers at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony – has voiced his support for the production, saying the pairing of ballet and Black Sabbath has “got a nice ring to it”.

He commented, “Black Sabbath have always been innovators and never been predictable, and it doesn’t come any more unpredictable than this. I’d never imagined pairing Black Sabbath with ballet but it’s got a nice ring to it.” 

Carlos Acosta and Tony Iommi

(Image credit: Drew Tommons)

Iommi also confirmed he’s attended a rehearsal for the ballet already – which he found “fascinating” – and says he hopes the show will “attract both our fans and ballet fans”.

And, with the Royal Ballet Sinfonia recruiting a guitar player for the production, Acosta has voiced his desire to get Iommi to cameo during one of the shows.

“He’s a cool guy,” Acosta said of the guitar legend. “The band’s enthusiasm for the project is a huge endorsement. 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.”

Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Acosta waxed lyrical about the significance and relevance of Black Sabbath’s music, saying, “War Pigs is so relevant today, how sometimes politicians and governments hide behind words. And all the wars happening at the moment... it's timeless.”

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

To find out more, head over to Birmingham Royal Ballet's website.

In other Sabbath-related news, the band’s frontman Ozzy Osbourne recently announced his retirement from touring and canceled his remaining shows, saying he's not “physically capable” of a life of touring anymore.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.