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Friday began differently. I had the morning off so took the opportunity to work on some things for LIPA. I then made my way into The Lowry where I was meeting Sally Powell (Youth Dance Coordinator) and Charlotte Rachwal (Marketing Executive) to discuss my development with The Lowry’s Dance Ambassador Scheme. As I entered the Company Office, the atmosphere was busy and everyone seemed excited. Scientists are making a recent claim that a ballet dancer’s genetic make up of their brain allows them to spin as many times as they do without getting dizzy;http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2434572/Why-ballet-dancer-gets-dizzy-Scientists-uncover-differences-ballerinas-brains-mean-endless-pirouettes.html. ITV News had arranged a visit at short notice for that morning to film some of the rehearsal. Due to the News Access Agreement the only thing to do was to notify all the relevant people – Dancers, Orchestra, Ballet Staff, Stage Management, The Lowry’s Marketing department (Zoe) etc.
Sally, Charlotte and myself spoke about the past year, the present and my future. I was extremely happy to hear that I could continue to be involved as much as possible and had the full support of The Lowry with the development of my career in the Professional Dance Industry. Potential future involvement included opportunities such as facilitating workshops, experience within the programming department and establishing contacts within Dance Xchange (a partner organisation with Birmingham Hippodrome and BRB that focuses on Performance, Participation and Production) that I was particularly excited about!
As I had a spare minute in the Visiting Company Office I shared my now growing blog with my course mates through Facebook, hopefully setting the ball rolling for discussion of placements to take place. Marion Tait arrived back from talking through ITV’s acquired footage and informed us that the news piece would be shown that evening.
Next up on the Company Manager’s agenda were tickets. The role of the Company Manager is ALL about multi-tasking, jumping back and forth between tasks. As the full call rehearsal began I was responsible for manning the office and solving any issues that may arise.
Another learning experience on Friday was when casting alterations occur after the casting sheets have been printed and can no longer be altered. The solution to this is for the Senior Stage Manager (Diana Childs) to complete a FOH announcement prior to the start of the performance. If there is a sound kit on tour, which there was due to the sound specifications of Sleeping Beauty i.e. venues that have poor acoustics regarding the orchestra and thunder for Carabosse’s entrance etc. then this is easy enough. If not, other arrangements need to be made.
During the evening’s performance a lot of my time was spent drafting emails for the actors with the relevant updated schedules. This is where I learnt all about the wonders of Bcc “blind carbon copy” (I didn’t know what this did or meant before!).
I was assigned an important task by John Beadle, Orchestra Director to arrange the recorded delivery of an urgent package to Koen Kessels, Music Director in Rome via Louise Timmins (Christopher Barron’s PA) on the following Monday morning.
A thought to keep in mind for the rest of the tour was to note when the following get in/get out would happen as anything kept in the Company Office flight case wouldn’t be available till then.
Paul showed me how he completes the weekly pay roll for Actors. During this lesson the radio came alive with Diana who was describing that an audience member was taking pictures. The Company Manager’s role is to notify FOH via radio, telephone or stage door; Paul then ensured that they have resolved the situation. All the while I was receiving notification from actors that had received their revised schedules and the occasional shoe size for The Nutcracker children.
As the curtain went up on Act III I was privileged to witness the rest of the performance from Deputy Stage Manager’s (Eliska) viewpoint, prompt corner. As Eliska called the show, providing standby for lights, SFX and staff announcements it all seemed a different language to me. Hearts stopped as César Morales, who was Prince Florimund, exited the stage with a well-executed flourish during the Grand Pas de deux to leave the spotlight for Natasha Oughtred, Princess Aurora before falling to the ground with excruciating cramp pains in both his legs. Principal dancer Jamie Bond was on standby, Diana (Senior Stage Manager) and John Beadle (Orchestra Director) assessed the situation and everyone took position ready to complete whatever was decided. As a true professional César recovered and finished the performance with perfection, receiving admired applause from everyone in the wings as well as the audience. All exhaled a huge sigh of relief and anticipation. The curtain closed without a flaw.
The following morning I arrived and checked my emails, ticking off two more actors as they provided receipt of notice and adding more shoe sizes to The Nutcracker children spreadsheet. I attended to FOH who were enquiring our preference as to where the BRB Friends would sit and watch company class from. I learnt of TRAC (Theatre Royal Applause Club), a separate registered charity from Theatre Royal Plymouth of which the members I looked forward to meeting later in the tour. More of the Supplementary Information forms could be completed, more comp tickets were collected and sorted before arriving back at the Box Office and I was asked by Paul if I would like to “don the suit” for the matinee performance.
However, before then I was involved in the Learning and Development Family Fun Day that was happening in the lookout at The Lowry. I was handed a T-shirt (my new favourite T-shirt) and kitted out with stickers. I was extremely impressed with all that this event offered to a variety of ages. There were costumes available to try on, plenty of glitter, arts and crafts, a face painter and the opportunity to observe the reset of the stage after company class had finished in the auditorium. This was also when Ruth Brill, one of the artists, joined us to complete a make up demonstration. Ruth was very charismatic and had plenty of children hypnotised by her top tips! I really enjoyed myself at this event, the only thing – I wish I could have had my face painted! Maybe at one of the other venues.
As the half hour call approached I changed into my professional attire and made my way, with Paul, to the FOH armed with comp tickets that still needed to be claimed and where we found members of the BRB Friends. As we reached the 5-minute call we made our way to the stage and waited there till the beginners call and then curtain up.
During the afternoon’s performance, organisation continued through the art of multitasking. Johnny Westall-Eyre (Head of Lighting) was in the office and explained all about radio frequencies and in particular, the trouble with radios. Frequencies have to be obtained for use by a company through payment, BRB complete this procedure for every venue they tour to. However, any surrounding unlicensed frequencies can potentially be picked up, especially in more industrial areas e.g. London.
As well as attending to the stage for each 5-minute call before Act I and Act III comp tickets were arranged for that evenings performance including 2 tickets that were released to go back on sale.
As my tasks for that day drew to a close so did my touring week. I had thoroughly enjoyed my time in Salford and was extremely satisfied with all the opportunities I had already received. Next stop was home for the company, Birmingham. I would be moving into my new accommodation and hopefully settling in further for the next 3 months.
The day before opening night, after settling into the company office Paul Grist explained what was planned to happen throughout the day, he also explained that these were his famous last words!
The first job was to liaise with the Salford Actors who were arriving at 10.30am, meet them at stage door, show them to their dressing room and collect their proof of right to work as well as provide them with acknowledgement letters stating the BBC would be filming parts of Wednesday evening’s performance for their documentary (I mentioned in my last post). This allowed me to explore the backstage area further as I made myself familiar with the dressing rooms.
Cast sheets were up next. These are checked against the casting bibles and printed every day, they are then provided online as well as in a smartphone format (e.g. white on black), 2 of which go to Stage Management. Vicky (Publications) arranges the printing of these locally in each venue. All the while morning class was taking place in the studios, which in turn provided us with lost dancers who needed direction.
As well as staying on top of cast lists, stage calls etc. rehearsal times can always be altered and then all the relevant people need to be informed. For example, the actors’ stage call was brought forward half an hour and it was no longer necessary for them to be in costume, they would be in full costume later in the day for the General Rehearsal.
Over the next 3 months I will mainly be working on the Nutcracker performances and particularly concentrating on the involvement of the 18 children; Elmhurst Year 7′s, Elmhurst Associates and Royal Ballet Junior Associates. I was starting to make myself familiar with the relevant documents e.g. master spread sheet, rehearsal and technical schedules etc.
As the day continued there were many scenes that could have been suitable for comedy sketches. Paul and myself checking the cast sheets against the bible; considering there are 16 nationalities in the company the pronunciation of a lot of the names were a guessing game on my part. Although I did find this exercise helpful in terms of learning the dancers! The Lowry’s photocopier put up a bit of a fight and I potentially used a third of BRB’s allowance in attempts. Every time Marion used a ballet term (which was often!) whilst reciting her rehearsal notes for Paul to transcribe resulted in a French spelling lesson. We spoke about the rules of presenting flowers for debut performances, the use of radios and where they live backstage, this is where I was introduced to flight cases Vic and Bob who hold all things electrical, Vic is also the home of an important first aid kit.
As I mentioned before, we visited Front of House and discussed programmes, merchandise, special effects, latecomers and upcoming events such as the attendance of BRB Friends at tomorrow’s stage rehearsal, students watching company class on Thursday morning and how many people would be attending the Family Fun Day that had been organised by BRB’s Director for Learning; Pearl Chesterman that was set to take place on Saturday.
Plenty of information to take in but I then had to go to the airport to say goodbye to my brother who was going to Australia for 7 months! No envy, I much preferred being in Salford surrounded with the wonders of ballet!
I’ll start with a quick introduction! I am Lauren and I currently take on the role of LIPA Dance Management Intern whilst I join Birmingham Royal Ballet on their Autumn Tour 2013 of Sleeping Beauty and Penguin Café Triple Bill, followed by their Christmas production – The Nutcracker! I’ll be blogging at least every week so stay posted to see what I get up to!
Commencing at The Lowry works well, I know the building and people suitably, it is one of the places I toured to with Heather Knight, it is the theatre where I have watched many shows since I was a child and I have also worked there as a Regional Representative within Merseyside for their Young Dance Ambassador Scheme, which has allowed me countless opportunities over the past year. Not to say I was still nervous, unaware of what to expect from this company in a touring environment.
I arrived at Stage Door, found my name on the BRB staff list (something that caused a contained ‘fan girl’ effect), ticked myself ‘in’ and made my way to the company office. An office that I would be sharing with Chief Executive – Christopher Barron, Director Laureate (ballet extraordinaire) – Sir Peter Wright, Director – David Bintley, Technical Director – Paul Grace, Company Manager – Paul Grist, Communications Director – Keith Longmore and Lighting Design Consultant – Peter Teigen. In my view, my name simply didn’t match up to these leading professionals.
When everyone began to arrive it appeared organised chaos. The magic flight case belonging to the company office had already been delivered during the get in that began the day before. It carried everything you could think of and saved me when a dancer asked for a pair of scissors two minutes later. I was shown the Fire Roll Call and the evacuation procedures and of course the tea and coffee section! The safe and its code were introduced to me; every drawer and removable box was explained. Our TV was turned on and I was happy to see the image of the stage appear where it showed the set that the crew had been busy building. I didn’t have anything to unpack, sitting and observing felt helpless. When asked to deliver sign in sheets to Stage Door (the desk of all knowledge!) and explain current situations I was more than happy to do so.
Later, Paul, and myself made our way to the hotel to check in. I used this opportunity to pick his brains about the week ahead and gather potential information for my assignments.
The 4 official Casting Bibles (of which I had been trying to make sense of the day before on the intranet) were situated in the company office, the dancer’s notice board, wardrobe and the wigs department. If there were to be any changes, the ballet masters would note them on these 4 bibles.
Even though this was the first day it was nonetheless eventful. Stage rehearsals began at 4pm and finished at 10pm with an evening break in between. A first aid situation occurred, a sewing machine caught fire, my first experience of excel during this placement and the BBC were filming for a documentary about the War time ballets; “When Britain fell in love with Ballet”. I was taught about contracted ‘comp’ tickets and we spoke about the following day where my main role would revolve around the Salford actors, I was looking forward to it!
Tickets to see Birmingham Royal Ballet dance Swan Lake at The Lowry, Salford, this autumn have gone on sale today.
This evening also sees the Company open a week of performances of Beauty and the Beast at the same venue.
These performances of Swan Lake will be the first of the 2012-13 season, which begins and ends as the academic calendar. The shows will precede even the Company’s first dates at home venue Birmingham Hippodrome.
You can see a rehearsal clip from Swan Lake, featuring Birmingham Royal Ballet Principals Gaylene Cummerfield and Matthew Lawrence, below.
Birmingham Royal Ballet dance Beauty and the Beast, at The Lowry, Salford, until the end of this week. The production is choreographed by the Company’s own Director, David Bintley. Click here to book tickets now.
With Beauty and the Beast touring to the Lowry, Salford in January 2012, following a week of performances at Birmingham Hippodrome, we’ve uncovered this interview with Choreographer David Bintley, originally published during the piece’s second season of performances in 2005.
When interviewed previously about Beauty and the Beast, creator of the piece and Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet, David Bintley, has spoken a great deal about the story’s theme of how we see animals. ‘We have a funny way of viewing things,’ he says. While we pride ourselves on being a nation of animal lovers, David explained at the time of the ballet’s premiere, we use the term ‘beastly’ to describe someone who behaves with cruelty or arrogance – traits which are fairly unique to humans.
While it is a concept which he obviously enjoyed examining in the ballet, it is not what originally drew him to the work. ‘A good subject for a ballet has got to have both strong characters and strong events,’ he says. ‘The events are what keep things motoring along, and shape the characters, but you couldn’t do a ballet based purely on an event. Take the American civil war – that’s one hell of an event, but you couldn’t put that in a ballet!’
In Beauty and the Beast, the young girl Belle is sent to live with the terrifying Beast in penance for her father’s theft of a rose from the animal’s garden. Dragged from her home and denied access to her family, she is forced to grow up sharply, and confront the terrifying Beast on her own. Over time, she comes to see past his unfamiliar appearance, and is able to love him for the person he is underneath. By the end of the ballet she is a drastically different character from the one she was at the beginning.
Likewise, the Beast begins life as a handsome prince, but one who exhibits the cruelty and arrogance that David highlights as being particularly human faults. Transformed magically into a hideous beast as punishment for his sins, he must alter his character if he is to earn the true love that will break the spell.
The strength and contrast of these character arcs was attractive to David. ‘That’s very much what I look for in a subject for narrative dance,’ he says, ‘because I believe I have to have that outline, that choreographic feeling for the characters, the story and the period.’
Every element must be able to be conveyed in dance, otherwise the piece won’t work. And most importantly, the characters, like Belle and the Beast, must be figures that can be expressed through choreography.
‘Lots of people think that if you just take another great classic novel, it’ll work as a ballet,’ says David, ‘but no, it won’t necessarily. There are so many great stories out there and you could say “why don’t you do that one?” It’s because I have no feeling for it, no empathy. I don’t feel it, and those characters don’t say “movement”.’
Beauty and the Beast however, has proved a rich topic for a narrative work, with the ballet being one of David’s most successful pieces. ‘I knew that Beauty and the Beast would sell because it’s a known title and known titles always sell,’ he says, ‘but that’s not why I made it. I made the ballet because I was absolutely obsessed by it, and had been for 30 years.’
That people are likely to come and see a ballet based upon a familiar story does not guarantee its longevity, however. But with the ballet returning to tour major theatres around the UK, audiences have obviously enjoyed the sight of this Beast.
Birmingham Royal Ballet will perform David Bintley’s production of Beauty and the Beast at the Lowry, Salford, 24 – 28 January 2012.
A cruel Prince, cursed to spend the rest of his life living in a fantastical castle with the animals he callously hunted, finds salvation in the heart of a beautiful girl. Caught stealing a single rose, Belle’s desperate father exchanges his life for his youngest daughter’s freedom. In his distant castle the Beast, stripped of his handsome features and his very humanity, must win her heart, or spend the rest of his life in bitter solitude.
The ballet was last performed at the venue in January 2004. These will be the only UK tour dates for the production in the 2011-12 season.
You can watch an excerpt from the ballet here:
In the new video below, Company dancers Kristen McGarrity and Steven Monteith introduce some of the costumes from the ballet, including a number that they themselves have performed in.
Bonus: Here you can see the outtakes from our Coppélia costume video shoot!
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!
The Company then performs the piece in other venues in the autumn. Visit www.brb.org.uk/romeo for details.
Birmingham Royal Ballet tours Kenneth MacMillan’s romantic classical masterpiece Romeo and Juliet throughout 2010. The Company performs in Birmingham, Sunderland, London and Plymouth this autumn, however audiences in Salford and Cardiff will get the chance to see it before the summer break – nearly three months ahead of everybody else!
Tickets for the shows, at the Lowry and the Wales Millennium Centre, are already on sale, with booking details available via the links below. With a sweeping score by Sergei Prokofiev and soaring choreography from master of modern ballet, Kenneth MacMillan, Romeo and Juliet continues to be the all-time classic love story. These performances bring a close Birmingham Royal Ballet’s 2009-10 season.
Click the venue names for details: