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Emily Withers (BRB’s Cultural Intern) writes her thoughts about her week’s experiences from the Company’s temporary office in Sadler’s Wells Theatre……
We are now halfway through the penultimate leg of the tour and BRB are currently taking up residence in Sadler’s Wells theatre aka ‘London’s Dance House’. The majority of dancers and several of the company’s staff arrived in the misty, rain-drenched capital on Monday afternoon after a rather warm, sleep-inducing coach journey.
Sadler’s Wells theatre is always looking to commission fresh, innovative work and BRB’s two triple bills (Opposites Attract and Autumn Celebration) certainly fulfil those specifications.
It has been a successful start to the week and on Wednesday evening the curtain went down on the first of our two shows as the final performance of Opposites Attract came to an end. With the opening performance of Autumn Celebration tonight (which I am very privileged to be going to see), I am convinced we will have an equally favourable performances in the next two days, especially after having seen the dress rehearsal!!
This is the week in the tour I have been most looking forward to for two specific reasons. Firstly, I simply love London. I cannot imagine spending a single moment in this city at a loss for what to do, and it is always great to see friends and family and catch the odd show (in between work of course).
Secondly, Sadler’s Wells Theatre share a significant history with BRB in that it housed the Vic-Wells ballet from 1931 to 1940, a company that after going through various changes eventually became the BRB we know and love today. Due to this reason, I was very eager to see the theatre (even after its sixth renovation).
Yesterday I attended a couple of meetings alongside Paul Grace (Technical Director), Peter Teigen (Lighting Design Consultant) and Johnny Westall-Eyre (Head of Lighting); the first of which was at London Coliseum (well more accurately it was conducted in Café Neros, which is rather conveniently positioned next door). The purpose of the meeting was to consolidate the technical schedule for the forthcoming season of David Bintley’s Aladdin, which we are taking to the Coliseum in March next year. (As an aside: I did however get to experience a swift tour of the theatre, which is the largest in the UK and it has arguably the most beautiful auditorium I have ever seen).
We went from there onto the Royal Opera House, who are commissioned by BRB to create the set, costumes and props for Aladdin, along with other upcoming productions.
I was fortunate enough to be able to go behind the scenes and discover the untold delights of their Props workshop room, a treasure trove which Paul Grace has fondly termed ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ for many years, which has now quite literally become the case. Seeing the work for the set that has already been undertaken and pairing that with David Bintley’s choreography I can only imagine the show will be nothing short of spectacular.
I’m heading back to Birmingham tomorrow morning, and I cannot believe how swiftly this week has flown by.
Here’s to the final leg in Cardiff next week!!
Greetings from Plymouth! Allow me to introduce myself: I am Emily Withers and I have been granted the incredible opportunity to work for BRB for the next six months as a cultural intern. It’s only my first week and I’m already on tour!
Regardless of the incessant rain, the Company continues to shine (excuse the cheesiness). For the last two days, the Plymouth audience have been treated to Autumn Celebration; a somewhat humorous, effective and dynamic triple bill, featuring The Grand Tour, Faster and The Dream. I was fortunate enough to see the show on Tuesday evening and would happily watch it countless times as it was fresh, captivating and was naturally danced exquisitely.
The majority of the Company (and myself) travelled down by coach on Monday afternoon for the four hour journey. It was made very pleasant by the collective atmosphere coupled with the much-needed coffee stop halfway through.
The first person who struck up a conversation with me was Celine Gittens, one of the soloist dancers, who I had happened to see perform her debut as Odette/Odile in Swan Lake the previous Friday. I must now take the opportunity to mention that it was a stunning portrayal of the Swan Princess and to encourage you to see it in the next couple of weeks in Sunderland or Cardiff if you can get your hand on a ticket!
I have already been awarded a great insight into life on tour, even though I have only been here for a couple of days. I am currently seated in the Company’s makeshift office in Plymouth’s Theatre Royal, with the Swan Lake score playing gently through the speakers. Given the fact the office is located right across from the stage, dancers will regularly be warming up just outside the door and we are never without frequent visitors. There is also an exercise bike that takes residence in the area and I have encountered the atypical scene of a cycling swan endeavouring to recover from an injury.
I have also witnessed the fall out when a dancer in a lead role becomes ill, along with their cover dancer and the outstanding knock-on effect therefore produced. This exact scenario came to light on Tuesday morning, resulting in the hasty selection of a couple of replacement male dancers. I was amazed to discover that they then proceeded to learn two lead roles that morning and were in dress rehearsal that very afternoon, ready to perform that evening (the performance I went to see). You would not have been able to guess that they had undertaken any fewer rehearsals than the rest of the cast. Everybody was suitably impressed.
I was readily welcomed as the newest member of the team and have been privileged to see firsthand the consistent warmth shown throughout BRB, from the dancers, the staff and those audiences members who continue to be faithful supporters show after show, year after year, who are as much a part of the legacy as those who work for the Company.
In the next three weeks I shall be joining the company for the remainder of the tour, visiting Sunderland, London and Cardiff, before returning home to Birmingham. I am very excited and grateful to be part of the adventure..
Hello from Sunderland and the start of the autumn tour! Things here are going very well so far this week – the Technical staff arrived on Monday afternoon to start the get-in and the Company travelled up yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon ready for the first stage rehearsal last night. As this is the first time that we’ve danced Fille on this tour, we’ve had more stage rehearsals here than we would normally have in a touring venue – we had a Piano Rehearsal last night and the General this afternoon. Stage rehearsals have gone well and judging by what I can hear over the tannoy, the first performance is going down a treat with the Sunderland audience! Fille looks and sounds great in this lovely auditorium. It’s quite chilly up here but the theatre is unusually warm and so far the rain hasn’t been to bad – even the pony seems quite at home in his temporary stable on the loading bay! Paul (Grist, Company Manager)
NBS Japan posted some new backstage photos via twitpic yesterday! Here’s a couple of them – you can see the rest by clicking here.
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Ben Roomes and Shaun Mclaughlin, Graduate Students of Elmhurst School for Dance, have sent an update on their experiences on the Japan tour:
Tuesday 17 May
Now having been in Tokyo a few days, today was the day of the Company’s Gala performance where the company performed Daphnis and Chloë and The Dream (starring Miyako Yoshida), both ballets choreographed by Sir Frederick Ashton. The show was received very well by the audience who contributed very generously to the donation boxes and bid for a tutu once used in the Company’s performances. Miyako was wonderful to watch as Titania and César Morales and Alexander Campbell were brilliant as Oberon and Puck. Jamie Bond and Natasha Oughtred also did a fantastic job of Daphnis and Chloë.
Before the tour the staff and students of Elmhurst worked together to make 1000 origami cranes as a token of support and appreciation for Japan through the difficult times. Presenting 1000 origami cranes is a symbol of world peace and according to ancient legend grants the bearer a wish. At the end of the night, we handed them over on stage on behalf of our school. It was wonderful to present this to the Japanese and it was a very heartfelt moment amongst us all.
Wed 18th May
Today was the company’s free day however as students we still have our upcoming school summer show approaching! Marion was kind enough to rehearse the ones of us on tour so that during the two weeks we are spending here we don’t get rusty on what we need to know! We took class in the Tokyo Ballet Studios with Tokyo Ballet which was a very enjoyable class partly because the studio we were in was HUGE, which left lots of space for travelling and jumping! Once class was over we had some time before our rehearsal and we were fortunate enough to be able to watch the rehearsal beforehand with Tamara Rojo and Ian Mackay for the upcoming Sleeping Beauty show in the Bunka Kaikan. I think we can definitely say that we’re looking forward to seeing the two of them on stage.
We have had a few chances to explore Tokyo on previous days however as there haven’t been any more rehearsals for Sleeping Beauty yet, visiting places such as Shibuya and Harajuku. In Shibuya we came across a Chacott dance shop and were pleasantly surprised to find out we could get a 20% discount because we were on tour with Birmingham Royal Ballet! We also used the opportunity exploring to get presents for people back home… and a few sneaky things for ourselves too!
Thursday 19th May
We checked out of our hotel in Tokyo this morning to make our way to Nagoya for one quick show of Sleeping Beauty. We got to travel by bullet train which was fantastic however we had to shift ourselves because no matter what, it will always be on time! They only leave 60 seconds with the doors open so if you’re not on or off once they close then you’ve had it! Once you’re on however, it’s very comfy and there’s so much space, it makes a very nice change to Virgin trains!!!
Once we arrived in Nagoya we quickly checked in to our new hotel then made our way to the Aichi Performing Arts Centre. We had class and then did our show in the evening. After the performance we promptly made our way back to the hotel ready to leave again in the morning to travel back to Tokyo.
Saturday 20th May
Yesterday was the first day at the Bunka Kaikan for our next three performances of Sleeping Beauty, two of which with Tamara Rojo. We had a rehearsal to get used to the stage. The walls of the theatre are full of history as certain sections and pillars in the backstage are covered with markings of when previous companies had performed in the theatre and at the side of the wings there is a giant collection of signed posters and t-shirts hailing from such companies as the Mariinsky Theatre Ballet, La Scala and ABT (to name a few!). There were two BRB posters there as well from the tours in 1995 and 2008.
Today’s matinee was one of the Ian and Tamara shows, and it was absolutely fantastic! The applause from the audience was tremendous and several of us couldn’t help but grin at the noise as we stood at the sides as court ladies and gents.
We only have a few days left in Japan, but our time here has been absolutely fantastic! We’ve seen so many new things and have been to lots of new places. This is definitely a trip to remember and it would be amazing to come back again. Now back to school!
Ben Roomes and Shaun Mclaughlin.
An update on our arrival in Tokyo from Simon Harper, Media and PR Manager:
Saturday 21 May and the first two performances of The Sleeping Beauty at Tokyo’s Bunka Kaikan Hall played to full and enthusiastic houses (2300 people for each performance!). Following the first performance, company members made their way out of theatre to find a huge crowd waiting for them at the stage door. Many dancers signed programmes and met members of the audience who all expressed their delight that Birmingham Royal Ballet had gone ahead with the tour.
Amongst those dancers signing autographs were Iain Mackay and guest Principal Tamara Rojo (Tamara and Iain danced the roles of Aurora and Florimund this afternoon) with Alexander Campbell and Victoria Marr also happy to meet their fans.
Nao Sakuma and Chi Cao danced the principal roles for the later performance today and once again, an eager, satisfied crowd waited for them, and other cast members, post show. Both shows received rapturous applause from audiences that were clearly enthralled by the company’s presence in Japan.
Between shows it was a quick turnaround for the technical crew to pre-set, for the company to grab something to eat and for Marion to hit a few poses for the blog camera!
Tomorrow sees one more performance of The Sleeping Beauty at Bunka Kaikan before we make our way to Osaka on Monday morning…
Last night’s fundraising gala was a fantastic success, thanks to everybody who supported the event! We’re delighted to have been involved in such an amazing evening.
Here are some photos of Birmingham Royal Ballet dancers collecting additional donations after the performance, published early this morning on the @NBS_Japan twitter feed!
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Well, we’ve been here for four days now and already we’re thinking about moving on to our second venue! The flight over went very smoothly and we arrived at Tokyo Narita on Tuesday morning to be pleasantly surprised by how warm the weather was. Kamakura is just over an hour from the airport by coach and once we’d checked in to the hotel, people set off to explore the area.
Unfortunately the skies had been clouding during the day and by the end of the afternoon it had started to rain. The rain lasted until Friday morning and has been quite spectacularly heavy at times; particularly on Thursday when those who decided to make the trip from Kamakura (where the hotel is) to Yokohama (where the theatre is) by train got completely soaked on the walk from the station.
The theatre in Yokohama has a large auditorium and a good sized stage but space backstage is very, very limited which has made for an interesting couple of days. The stage and lighting departments have had the equivalent of a giant logic puzzle to contend with as they work out where to store everything, but at least the dressing room allocation was very easy as there are only two; one for all the girls and one for all the boys! The wardrobe department have had just as much fun – ironing and laundry is all happening in the corridors. Well, those sections of corridor that aren’t three deep in rails! Someone has likened the experience to doing Sleeping Beauty on mid-scale – I think that’s probably a fairly accurate description! One up-side for me is that in the absence of a dedicated Company Office, I’ve taken up residence in a corner of wardrobe – I’ve had a fantastic and hilarious couple of days sharing a room with Lili, Vanda, Michael and the wardrobe girls; although I’m sure they’re looking forward to getting shot of me once we get to Tokyo!
As I type, we’re in Act III of the Beauty General – the first performance is tomorrow afternoon and then we’re straight off to Tokyo. Sunday is a day of studio rehearals and then on Monday and Tuesday we’re at the U-Port Hall with the double-bill. Tuesday night’s performance is a fundraising gala in aid of the Earthquake and Tsunami Appeal; we’re all very pleased to be able to do something practical to help. Life in this part of Japan is pretty much back to normal after the disaster – the only really noticeable difference is the power saving; once the sun sets it’s really noticeable how many lights and neon signs remain switched off.
It’s time for me to sign-off now as it’ll soon be time to start rounding people up for the coach journey back to the hotel!
Paul (Grist – Company Manager)
Although I wrote this yesterday afternoon, I’ve only just got round to posting! Between then and now, we’ve done our first performance of the tour (which went very well – a really great show which was enthusiastically received by a very appreciative audience), the technical staff have packed everything and loaded it back onto the trucks, and we’ve all moved on to Tokyo! Time for bed now – but more soon! P
As well as being the travel day and the Truro get-in, the Thursday of the SW tour was Arthur [Lewis, Stage Technician]‘s birthday – and a rather special one to boot!
Word had spread around the Company and plans had been made! I wasn’t entirely truthful when I told Arthur where the coach to Truro was departing from and so whilst a few of us gathered at the ‘meeting point’ and bemoaned the driver’s poor timekeeping, the rest of the Technical team were round the corner decorating the coach with balloons, streamers and banners. Arthur was finally led round to the coach and greeted in a shower of party poppers (all diligently cleared from the pavements of Yeovil before we departed!) before heading off. Once we arrived in Truro, Arthur was given his ‘birthday sash’ and the bundle of balloons (see picture) ready to head off to the theatre with birthday greetings from complete strangers along the way! There was even a busker with a set of bagpipes to ‘pipe’ Arthur’s arrival!
Things quietened down a bit after that and Arthur could have been forgiven for thinking that he’d got off lightly. However, we weren’t having any of that and before class the assembled Company gave a rousing chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ along with cake, card, and even balloons descending from the grid for the occasion! After the presentation of a mop bucket full of very appropriate presents ingeniously sourced by Eliska (Robenn, Deputy Stage Manager) and Sarah (Burton, Wardrobe Assistant), the dancers were allowed to carry on with class and Arthur got to open his presents in the sunshine!
Hello from a very chilly Salford where the Cinderella tour opened last night to a wonderful audience response! The Technical Department have risen fantastically to the challenge of presenting Cinderella on tour and the show looks absolutely fantastic. We’re playing to packed houses this week and our Plymouth performances next week promise to be the same.
The Royal Opera House exhibition ‘Invitation to the Ballet’ which charts the life and work of Ninette de Valois and the history of the Royal Ballet companies is running in the Lowry Galleries at the moment. Lots of the Company have already made it up to see the exhibition and the feedback has been incredibly positive – I’m hoping to get up there tomorrow afternoon to have a look around, although from what everyone is saying I think I’ll need to allow plenty of time to see everything!