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On Sunday afternoon the final curtain came down on performances of Swan Lake here in Tokyo.

Capacity audiences were ecstatic with the world-class performances given by the company over three days here at the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, as displayed by the masses of ballet fans waiting at stage door following curtain down waiting for autographs and photos.

As the dry ice faded and the towering gothic set was dismantled, the magical starry skies of Cinderella were being erected leading us to opening night tonight!

Final rehearsals are taking place on stage as we speak and last minute preparations are being put in place by the costume, wigs and shoes departments.

Take a look at some of the final touches in the gallery below…

 

 

 

Over 20 hours since departing our Birmingham home, the Birmingham Royal Ballet company arrived in Tokyo on Tuesday evening.

After a day of adjusting to the eight hour time difference, we are now populating the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan theatre with hundreds of costumes, wigs and shoes as well as scenery filling the docks and rehearsals taking place throughout the building.

Add to that photos and interviews with the Japanese press and its safe to say that the company are back to working flat out ahead of the opening performance on Sunday.

Full run-throughs begin tonight with a piano rehearsal as we progress to the general rehearsal in costume and makeup with a full orchestra tomorrow evening…updates to follow! In the meantime, take a look around backstage of our Tokyo home (look out for some vintage signed BRB posters…)

The vivid colours and unusual shapes of the Prince of the Pagodas costumes have been packaged up in cases and covers, and packed onto trucks now heading for Salford.

While there was little space to move in the Wardrobe Department yesterday, only the labels hinted at the unusual items stored away on covered rails and wicker skips.

‘SEAHORSE HEADS’, ‘PAGODA WOMEN – FRAGILE’ and an entire skipful of ‘SPARE FABRIC’ were all securely packed up, however one curious pair of eyes could still be seen peering from an open box…

WickerSeahorses

Cardboard

Rails

Yokai

Click here for details of our performances at The Lowry, Salford, Thursday 30 January – Saturday 1 February 2014.

On our Facebook page, we’re currently running through an alphabetical list of forthcoming hightlights in the 2013-14 season. Today we’ve reached E, for E=mc², a one-act ballet that this autumn returns to the stage for the first time since its debut tour in 2009. Here’s why we’re so excited about it:

E=mc²

A few years ago, Company Director David Bintley commented that for each new work he created, he liked to head in a completely different creative direction to that of the piece before it.

In 2009 he certainly did that. Arriving between the frothy comedy of his reworked Sylvia and the festive fairytale sparkle of Cinderella, E=mc² was an abstract one-act sucker-punch that pinned you to your seat; a narrative-free contemporary dance piece based upon Einstein’s 1905 theory of mass-energy equivalence, which now returns to the stage as part of our Autumn 2013 Penguin Cafe triple bill.

Structurally, the piece is simple, with three main choreographic movements representing the equation’s elements of Energy, Mass and Celeritas (speed). A short interlude also appears part-way through. Entitled ‘The Manhattan Project’, it references America’s development of the Atomic Bomb, which they embarked upon after President Roosevelt received a written recommendation from Einstein himself, who feared that the German’s would harness its power first.

EMC7002 copy

But while the ballet’s structure came straight from the different parts of the famous equation, a great deal of the piece’s power comes from its creative elements. E=mc² is another in a long series of successful Bintley collaborations, and the team that David gathered together could not have been more perfect.

Peter Mumford’s lighting designs use the Company’s rig in ways never seen before. At times they bombard the auditorium with illumination, at others they create laser beams that frame the stage, and elsewhere drop to a strobe-like flicker, outlining the dancers and leaving you wondering where one body ends and another begins.

Costume Designs by Kate Ford also accentuated the dancers’ bodies, with the clothing pulled tight across their torsos and limbs. When the Company produced a book shortly after, charting 20 years of performances in glossy photographs, it was a still taken from E=mc², showing two dancers dressed in Ford’s figure-hugging outfits that was picked to adorn the cover.

E=mc²

But it was the marriage of music and choreography that garnered the most praise. The piece was the first collaboration between David and Australian composer Matthew Hindson, who would later return to write music for 2012’s Olympics-inspired ballet, Faster.

“The key to this investigation of Einstein’s equation is Matthew Hindson’s brilliant orchestral score, to which Bintley responds with force fields of gleaming, pared-back dance”, said Luke Jennings in The Observer. “The result has an extraordinary new-minted brightness.”

“The most meaningful commissioned music for ballet I’ve heard for years”, wrote LondonDance.com’s Graham Watts, while Jeffery Taylor in the Sunday Express commented: “Bintley’s explosive talent is matched by composer Matthew Hindson’s writing one of the best pieces of new dance music this side of Stravinsky.”

Many chorused that David has indeed achieved something quite unlike his existing body of work.

“Not only looks as urgent and brainy as the physics it evokes,” wrote Judith Mackrell in the Guardian, “but is unlike anything he has choreographed before.”

Debra Craine agreed in The Times: “A stunning advance on most of what has gone before… Bintley has mined a fabulous new enthusiasm for structure and sense of pure dance… Bristles with excitement and a light-hearted unpredictability”.

Now returning to the stage for the first time since its debut season, E=mc² will be joined by two other Bintley ballets to make a full evening’s (or afternoon’s) entertainment. With both originating from earlier in his career, the programme will allow audiences to judge for themselves if he succeeded in breaking his own mould, and creating a new winning formula.

Click here for details of all 2013 performances of E=mc².

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..

Birmingham Royal Ballet will be flying out to Spain next month, to perform as part of The International Festival of Music and Dance in Granada.

The Company will be performing Coppélia as well as a triple bill of one-act ballets: The Grand Tour, Take Five and The Dream. Click each show title for booking details.

Here you can see rehearsal footage and backstage videos for many of the pieces that we will be performing:

Birmingham Royal Ballet are currently overseas, performing a programme of three one-act ballets in Munich. For those of you unable to attend, here are three videos showing rehearsal footage of each of the three pieces being performed!

Tyrone Singleton and Céline Gittens in studio rehearsals for Two Step, part of Take Five. Music by Dave Brubeck, choreography by David Bintley.

Victoria Marr rehearses the role of the Black Queen in Ninette De Valois’ Checkmate. With Jonathan Payn as the Red King. You can see more Checkmate rehearsal videos by clicking here!

Sir Anthony Dowell and Dame Antointee Sibley coach Natasha Oughtred and Joseph Caley in The Dream. Along with extended rehearsal footage, Marion Tait, now Assistant Director, explains the value of first-hand experience in keeping choreography alive.

In two weeks’ time, Birmingham Royal Ballet will be touring to Sunderland and London, with performances of the classical charmer Coppélia.

When the piece was performed in Birmingham in 2011, it became the subject of a collaborative project between 27 different designers, who each created original artwork based upon its plot.

Contributors weren’t required to present Coppélia as a ballet, and many had not previously seen the production.

The results were revealed on 13 June 2011 at http://www.pointeblank.co.uk, where they are still available to view.

Speaking of the collection, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s New Media Officer, Rob Lindsay, said:

‘The response from the contributors was overwhelming, and the volume and diversity of ideas was amazing. It was great to see how everybody brought their own skills and styles to the brief, producing a collection that was better than anyone involved could ever have dared hope for.’

Following last year’s project, a new collection of artwork is also due to be unveiled this evening, this time inspired by Hobson’s Choice. The new pieces will be posted on the project site at www.PointeBlank.co.uk.

Here are two video clips from Beauty and the Beast, choreographed by our own Director David Bintley.

In the first, we see the two title characters meet for the first time, with the Beast’s humanity struggling against his animal instincts.

This second clip comes at the start of Act II, and sees the Beast throwing a lavish ball for Belle. She has been living at his castle for some time now, and is starting to see beyond his terrifying appearance. However she does not share the love that he feels for her, and rushes from the room in tears when he asks for her hand in marriage.

Birmingham Royal Ballet dances Beauty and the Beast at

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s website

Birmingham Royal Ballet on twitter