Suddenly three weeks in China seem a receding memory! Jet lag (and colds that awaited our return) are a reminder, though, of a hugely successful and enjoyable tour. The full effects of the company’s engagement in China will gradually become clear in time but it is obvious that Birmingham Royal Ballet made a substantial impression in China and particularly in the theatres in Beijing and Shanghai.

Sell-out performances were not necessarily guaranteed – the Company was new in China and Chinese New Year was imminent – however, there was no doubt that the world’s biggest migration of people (for China’s Spring Holiday) certainly did not affect our audiences and might have worked in the company’s favour.

Potential outcomes from the tour include:

1. Return visits to perform an ambitious repertoire – I believe we have a particularly suitable (and substantial) repertoire for China

2. Ongoing involvement with the British Council and Chinese organisations in learning and training programmes

3. Further ambassadorship for Birmingham and the West Midlands – we and our funders entertained some 400 individuals and organisations during the 2009 tour – these included big industrial giants like EADS (Airbus), Coca Cola (and McDonalds!), many universities and training institutions, trade organisations, hospitals, government ministries and development departments etc – our tour was used extremely well for business purposes

4. Greater access to non-public funds

Of course a big question was connection with audiences. Numbers were very good but I was especially interested in the reactions and attentiveness. The audience in Shanghai seemed clearly the most experienced – the Grand Theatre has been opened 10 years (so why don’t their lights and LX crew work?) – and this was obvious in terms of responsiveness. The beautiful NCPA in Beijing has only been open for 16 months – audiences were certainly warm and a great social mix. Goodness knows who pays £110 for a seat – we’ll never understand the ticketing arrangements and I certainly wouldn’t consider a future deal which involves the box office (we didn’t this time for info – phew)!

Performing at the Baiyun International Convention Centre in Guangzhou was a one-off pending the opening of the exciting new opera house in the city. It looks as though it will open in 2010 and certainly in time for the city to host the 2010 Asia Games. We are keeping in touch with the various authorities in Guangzhou – it would be great to be the first ballet company in the new (Zaha Hadid – designed) opera house. Perhaps we should wait for a few of the technical hitches to be ironed out but then how long is a piece of string?

I was thrilled with the Sinfonia’s concerts in Beijing and Shanghai – extremely good concert halls and wonderful playing – bravo Paul, Robbie, Jonathan and the Sinfonia. We are very fortunate to have these skills in-house. There seemed in both halls to be an obvious concert-going audience – particularly young in Shanghai and a good, enthusiastic reception. I believe this was the first Birmingham Royal Ballet tour in which the Sinfonia gave concerts – it won’t be the last…..

We are writing reports for our funders and our own records. Congratulations to the whole company for making the tour the success it was. Stresses and strains there were but the final result is something to be truly proud of. Well done to everyone and thank you very much!

Christopher Barron

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