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Birmingham Royal Ballet is heading back to America this week, to perform Coppélia at the Virginia Arts Festival.

Here you can see Principal casting for the performances, which take place at Chrysler Hall, Norfolk:

Friday 19th (matinee)
Swanilda: Maureya Lebowitz
Franz: Joseph Caley
Dr. Coppélius: Valentin Olovyannikov

Friday 19th (evening)
Swanilda: Nao Sakuma
Franz: Chi Cao
Dr. Coppélius: Michael O’Hare

Saturday 20th (evening)
Swanilda: Carol-Anne Millar
Franz: Jamie Bond
Dr. Coppélius: Rory Mackay

Sunday 21st (matinee)
Swanilda: Ambra Vallo
Franz: Tyrone Singleton
Dr. Coppélius: Jonathan Payn

Photo: Andrew Ross

Photo: Andrew Ross


Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Chief Executive Christopher Barron writes about the past 12 months for the Company:

The 2009-10 season has been a magnificent year for Birmingham Royal Ballet’s touring activity.

Two visits to London ensured the Company’s quality was well and truly noticed – the opportunity to perform at the Coliseum shows the Company in its full glory. I was taken aback (!) to discover that our Sleeping Beauty has not been seen in London for over 20 years and delighted to find that it is now properly recognised to be simply the best in the land (no bias!).

We were sorry to see the Northcott Theatre go into administration this spring but wish Exeter University all the best in getting it up and running again. We also look forward to working more closely with Rosemary, Howard and team at the Ambassador’s Theatre Group as they take on the Live Nation theatres including the Sunderland Empire.

Not to be missed was the return visit to the Virginia Arts Festival in sunny Norfolk, USA, this May. The performances of Swan Lake were exceptional and wonderfully received. The Learning team gave an impressive number of workshops to a wide mix of participants strengthening the Company’s relationship in the Norfolk community. The company was given an extremely warm welcome – Rob Cross and team were the epitome of generosity and made the visit particularly enjoyable including selected tours of the harbour to see the fleet amongst other interests. Did you know that the USS Enterprise has 6000 personnel and costs $1m a day to run – that’s half of the annual UK arts spend via Arts Council England!

Birmingham’s Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress, Cllr Michael and Mrs Vivienne Wilkes, graciously accompanied us on the visit following a visit by Norfolk’s Mayor Paul Frame to Birmingham the previous December. At the welcome dinner, we saw probably the best exchange of presents I’ve ever seen between dignitaries (forget pandas…for now…). Michael Wilkes presented a beautiful set of crafted silver spoons and historic buttons, made in Birmingham. Mayor Frame produced a large model railway train to appeal to the Lord Mayor’s engineering interest. And we have the invitation to make a third visit in 2013 – Whoopee!

I am pleased to say that we traded just ahead of budget in financial year 2009-10 as we face what appears to be a long period of public funding reduction. After the years of bounty we face a tough regime as the UK fights to come round from the banking crisis and recession. Many current assumptions will change for good, that is clear. However, we will find new ways of making sure Birmingham Royal Ballet continues to create first-class ballet, that it pushes the art form forward and takes its productions to audiences around the country and abroad.

On with the future full of aspiration and opportunity…

Christopher Barron

Here’s the final video diary from Virginia, recorded once Swan Lake had opened. Included is part of a speech made by Director David Bintley at a post-show reception, with the news that we’ll be back again!

For those in the UK, the Company will be peforming Swan Lake as part of its 2010 summer season at Birmingham Hippodrome! Click here for details.

Media and PR Manager Simon Harper was interviewed by Veer TV about our performances of Swan Lake. You can see the clip here:

While Birmingham Royal Ballet is over in the USA, a few people stateside have been recording short video diaries, so that members of the Company back at our Birmingham HQ can see how things are going.

Here you can see footage from Tuesday and Wednesday:

Principal dancer Nao Sakuma’s silhouette is adorning various promotional items over here – most impressive is probably the enormous flags, but we love the coffee cup holders!

Birmingham Royal Ballet is currently in Norfolk, Virginia, to perform Swan Lake at the Virginia Arts Festival.

Some people out on the road recorded short video diaries for members of the Company who had remained back home at Birmingham Royal Ballet’s HQ in the UK. Here you can see excerpts from the clips recorded on Sunday and Monday at the beginning of this week:

Hello everyone! I just thought I’d grab a couple of minutes during the Swan Lake General to post an update on what’s been happening in the last couple of days.

As everyone is now working right through until we arrive back in Brum on Tuesday morning, yesterday (Wednesday) was a free day for most of the Company – although the LX department were in all day working on the lighting. The Festival organised a trip to the beach yesterday afternoon and the 40 Company members who went had a fantastic time. Everyone also managed to return sunburn-free which is something of an achievement – and particularly important for the swans given that if the skin under their white make-up is sunburnt, they turn purple under the lights!! I think that most people who didn’t go to the beach went shopping; I certainly spent a couple of hours in the mall and will be returning with a heavier suitcase!

It was back to work for everyone this morning; after class we had a two-hour stage call on Acts II and IV (the ‘white’ acts) and the General rehearsal started at 4pm; I think most people are keen to get back to the hotel and start following the election results online once we’re done here!

The local interest in our visit continues and we’ve had lots of press activity going on today which is great for our profile aswell as for ticket sales which are going extremely well. Tomorrow will be an early start as we’ve got a School’s Matinee at 10.30am – this will consist of a performance of Acts III and IV, introduced by Marion and Dom; it’s the culmination of a busy week of workshops by the Learning Department and having heard great feedback from those sessions, I think everyone is looking forward to the students seeing the show.

Quite a lot of people (me included) are still having trouble adjusting to the time difference over here – although no-one seems to have suffered as spectacularly as a certain Mr Tom Stevens on Tuesday morning. Having set his alarm for 8am, Tom thought the jet-lag was to blame for his tiredness when the alarm went off. It was only 15 minutes later when he’d got up, pottered round his room, had a shave, opened the curtains and been surprised to see that it was still dark outside, that he realised that it was actually 3.15am – the clock on his iPhone had automatically reset to UK time at midnight!


The dancers had class on stage a few days ago, led by Ballet Mistress Marion Tait. Here’s a shot from the back of the theatre:

The Company is over in the USA at the moment, preparing to perform Swan Lake Friday to Sunday as part of the Virginia Arts Festival! You can find out more about the festival, and book tickets for the shows, but clicking here.

Here’s a newly published clip showing Principals Gaylene Cummerfield and Matthew Lawrence in rehearsals back in Birmingham last month:

The Company also performs Swan Lake as part of its 2010 summer season at Birmingham Hippodrome. Click here to find out more and for links to booking details.

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s website

Birmingham Royal Ballet on twitter