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After 11 weeks with only 1 week to go, an Autumn tour complete, half way point of The Nutcracker, one essay handed in, many technical schedules and cast sheets later as well as a HUGE amount of lessons learnt, my time on placement with Birmingham Royal Ballet is nearly up! In this post, I will attempt to summarise my intern experience with the company, on tour, during The Nutcracker and in preparations for the Spring 2014 season.

In order to help me reflect I nostalgically re-read my previous posts. Looking back to those first few weeks I have learnt an INCREDIBLE amount. Including the pronunciation of the dancers’ surnames, my attempts started as some sort of comedy sketch in Salford and some of which did take me a while. I’m also about 80% of the way there with their first names. Not only that, I can now put the majority of these names to faces, studying their profiles on BRB’s website after rehearsals and performances definitely paid off. As well as this, many logistical challenges were faced along the way, majority of those involved a photocopier/printer. However,  armed with universal photocopier lessons I feel I could now take on the most complicated of their kind, although I shouldn’t speak too soon! It’s safe to say the result of my photocopying is at least better than the 11 blank pages I first produced!

Aside from these, I’ve learnt the importance of detail through child performance licence applications at a variety of different local authorities across England, China Visa applications (‘passport’ photos have a variety of different dimensions!) and all things technical e.g. schedules and crew calls. Gmail has become very familiar, I’ve learnt and experienced the usefulness and necessity of folders and ‘Bcc’! Leading on from this – organisation is key, particularly in the sense of time management and combined with a tidy desktop, both on the computer and physically.

Such lessons I can take anywhere with me and practice throughout my career – my confidence, eye for detail, stamina, work ethic and most importantly knowledge about the industry have all been massively developed.

On top of this, this placement has provided me with countless opportunities I wouldn’t have received anywhere else, I am incredibly grateful and thoroughly enjoyed every minute. I’ve been able to watch a variety of dance, from traditional ballets (Sleeping Beauty/The Nutcracker) to contemporary pieces (E=mc²), whilst also being allowed a real insight into the everyday life of an extremely prestigious company, witnessing the workings of Wardrobe, Technical and Administration. As well as travelling to and spending time within many different theatres around the UK. All of which cannot be described as work for me, particularly those Department for Learning Family Fun day’s!

As I begin to attempt to summarise all what I have learnt and experienced in a portfolio and evaluation I leave BRB extremely grateful to every member of the company, in particular, my mentors Paul Grist (Company Manager) and Paul Grace (Technical Director) who have both been so fabulous!  I gained exactly what I wished to and more from my placement. I can’t thank you enough.

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!

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s website

Birmingham Royal Ballet on twitter