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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…
Thankfully our Media and PR Manager, Simon Harper, seems to have avoided any bad luck that Friday 13th might have tried to throw at him, and has sent us the following update from Japan!
After two days, the rain has finally stopped and the sun is shining down on the Kamakura Performing Arts Centre, where we open the Japan 2011 tour with Peter Wright’s The Sleeping Beauty.
Preparations are well under way and within 24 hours the theatre has been transformed. Sets, lighting, costumes and the Tokyo City Philharmonic orchestra stands all in place ready for the first rehearsal this afternoon and General this evening. The 1500-seat Kamakura theatre is approximately 30 minutes by bus from the Yokohama hotel, but many people making their own way to the venue on the JR Tokaido train line.
David Bintley arrives into Yokohama today before making his way to the Kamakura theatre to watch this evening’s General rehearsal. Diane Parkes arrives from the UK to begin a week-long report of the tour for the feature desk of the Birmingham Mail.
You’ll see from photograph below that the Company remains very popular in Japan, with newspaper clippings displayed outside the theatre covering Chi and Nao’s recent press trip to Japan, when they both experienced the earthquake first-hand.
The first of the tour’s ten performances starts at 3pm tomorrow with Nao Sakuma as Princess Aurora and Chi Cao as Prince Florimund. Rehearsals continue in Tokyo on Sunday where we’ll be joined by Miyako Yoshida and Tamara Rojo, both guesting with the company during the tour.
Birmingham Royal Ballet dancers, technical staff, the company manager and Jerwood staff, along with students from Elmhurst School for Dance, arrived in Japan on Tuesday and made their way to Yokohama for the start of the Japan tour. With per diems and hotel keys collected, dancers and Company staff found their pre-allocated rooms in the 30-floor hotel, no doubt to get some well-earned rest after a long journey from Birmingham.
The company were greeted by a large number of hotel staff as two full coaches arrived at its destination just a few miles from Yokohama bay. We received another warm reception from the NBS (tour promoters) press staff as they were keen to document the company’s prompt arrival! I was told a few days ago that the Japanese audiences were eager to see proof (in the form of photographs) of the company arriving. With a small number of companies cancelling tours following the earthquake, photographs taken by the NBS staff would help to show Japan that the tour is very much on! You will see from yesterday’s images that the male principal dancers are popular too!
Along with per diems and keys, each member of the company also collected Japan’s version of the London Underground’s ‘Oyster’ card – a travelcard credited with the exact number of metro journeys he/she will need to make between venue and hotel during the stay in Japan. Once you have conquered that first journey, the metro proves very straightforward here, extremely punctual and very quiet as Japanese people go on their way minding their own business. Cities seem to come to life at night as many people work long days and seek entertainment after work with friends or colleagues.
The company has a free day tomorrow plus the option of doing class at the Kamakura Performing Arts Centre. Yokohama is a wonderful shopping district with many traditional restaurants, so I am sure these areas will be checked out with gusto too!
Simon Harper is our Media and PR Manager. He and a small party of senior staff flew out to Japan ahead of the rest of the Company to ensure all was in place for our forthcoming performances there. Here he explains what he’s been up to so far:
I arrived in Tokyo on the evening of Saturday 7 May with Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Keith Longmore (Communications Director) Paul Grace (Technical Director), Doug Nicholson (Head of Scenic Presentation) and Johnny Westall-Eyre (Head of Lighting).
Before heading to Yokohoma and the Kamakura theatre today (Monday), we all had the opportunity to see our Director David Bintley’s Aladdin at the New National Theatre in Tokyo. I’d already seen two of the Aladdin pas de deux danced at the Symphony Hall over the last 2 years at the Evening of Music and Dance performances, and so when the opportunity came up to see the New National Ballet Co. perform the entire piece I jumped at the chance. And what a performance and what a ballet! Fingers crossed Birmingham Royal Ballet has the chance to perform this work at a later date. Watch this space!
Visiting the NNTheatre I also met with Benika Mori [David's PA in Japan, where he is Artistic Director of the New National Ballet]. Over the past year Benika has very kindly helped to arrange interviews with David (not always easy with the +9 hr time difference) so it was great to finally say hello and thank her face-to-face.
Today we travel to Yokohama to meet the remaining travelling company who arrive tomorrow late afternoon. Diane Parkes from Birmingham Mail will also be joining the Company for the first week in Japan, to report on the tour and fundraising gala for our local Midlands audience.
Reflecting on the March 11th earthquake and from what I saw of Tokyo and its residents today, the city remains vibrant and buzzing and just like January 2008 (our previous tour) the capital feels very safe and ‘business as usual’. You can’t help but think about those families further north affected by the terrible events 2 months ago, but from what I witnessed at NNTheatre yesterday the huge passion for ballet continues here and there is a sense that the show, and every day life, very much goes on.
Media and PR Manager Simon Harper was interviewed by Veer TV about our performances of Swan Lake. You can see the clip here: