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Above: Dancers in Plymouth outside TR2, before morning class; photo: Jonathan Caguioa

Last night was our first performance of Aladdin in Theatre Royal Plymouth, and we were absolutely bowled over by the audience response!

A number of dancers took to twitter to thank the audience for their support, including Steven Monteith, Tzu-Chao Chou, Kristen McGarrity, Lachlan Monaghan and Céline Gittens – click each name to see their thank you messages!

Company Manager Paul Grist also commented: “The audience in Plymouth are always brilliant, but they really were amazing last night. Their warmth and support really lifted the whole performance, and the whole Company were on a real high, feeding off that energy.”

Enormous thanks must also go the venue staff – While there is extensive building and renovation work going on at the theatre, they’ve ensured that this has had minimal impact on our visit.

Again, Paul explained this morning: “They’d liaised with us a long time ago to let us know what would be happening and how they’d be dealing with any issues, and in actual fact it’s been nothing like as disruptive as we were anticipating. As usual, the whole team at Plymouth Theatre Royal has worked seamlessly, and I can’t praise them highly enough.”

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Greetings from the Granada Company Office (or, as you’ll see from the photo, the Despacho companias!) – it’s currently 2302 on Wednesday evening and as I type, the Coppélia stage rehearsal is well underway and the Company are busy rehearsing Act I.

The first Company members flew over on Sunday (John Beadle [Orchestra Director] and Paul Murphy [Conductor] for orchestra rehearsals) with advance management and technical groups following on Sunday and Monday; I flew over with the dancers and ballet staff on Tuesday afternoon and after a good flight (with some interesting sights on the way – Malaga is a popular ‘party holiday’ destination!) we were brought from Malaga up to Granada by coach – a wonderfully cool journey (thanks to great on-board aircon!) through southern Spain.

We’re staying at the Hotel Alixares which is quite literally next door to the entrance to the Alhambra. Our ‘commute’ to work takes approximately four minutes and as well as a great pool, the hotel has a couple of bars and restaurants, including a lovely terrace bar which is open until 2.30am; perfect timing given that the climate has prescribed an unusual schedule for the tour!

The combination of an open-air venue and the daytime heat means that shows start at 2230; we can’t do anything on stage during the day – it’s simply too hot! We even have to take up our rolls of dance floor each day (and can’t re-lay them before 1900 each evening) to stop them from melting in the sunshine! This evening’s class was at 1930 and I think it’s the first time I’ve ever seen the Company wearing sunglasses for barre – keeping the sunglasses on became quite a challenge when it got to centre!

The theatre is absolutely idyllic – nestling in the gardens of the Alhambra at the top of a hill with stunning views down over Granada; the wings and backdrop are trees – perfect for the repertoire (the LX department have promised that the trees will be lit in blue to represent the sea for Grand Tour!). After long lay-ins following the late night (or early morning finishes), afternoons are spent exploring Granada or enjoying the sunshine by the pool – I had a trip into Granada today; I think a swim will definitely be in order tomorrow.

It may sound like a holiday, but there’s still plenty to be done – the stage and lighting departments were busy all night last night (only stopping when sunrise interrupted the lighting session) and an outdoor venue presents an array of unique challenges – the wind had blown a large number of the coloured gels out of the lighting rig during the day, so these all had to be replaced before this evening’s rehearsal. However, everyone seems to be very much enjoying the unusual location and we’re all very excited about playing to two packed houses.

We’re all trying not to get too used to the sunshine – it sounds as though we’ll definitely need our umbrellas at the ready once we’re back in the UK!

Paul

Hello from Sunderland and the start of the autumn tour! Things here are going very well so far this week – the Technical staff arrived on Monday afternoon to start the get-in and the Company travelled up yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon ready for the first stage rehearsal last night. As this is the first time that we’ve danced Fille on this tour, we’ve had more stage rehearsals here than we would normally have in a touring venue – we had a Piano Rehearsal last night and the General this afternoon. Stage rehearsals have gone well and judging by what I can hear over the tannoy, the first performance is going down a treat with the Sunderland audience! Fille looks and sounds great in this lovely auditorium. It’s quite chilly up here but the theatre is unusually warm and so far the rain hasn’t been to bad – even the pony seems quite at home in his temporary stable on the loading bay! Paul (Grist, Company Manager)

Well, we’ve been here for four days now and already we’re thinking about moving on to our second venue! The flight over went very smoothly and we arrived at Tokyo Narita on Tuesday morning to be pleasantly surprised by how warm the weather was. Kamakura is just over an hour from the airport by coach and once we’d checked in to the hotel, people set off to explore the area.

Unfortunately the skies had been clouding during the day and by the end of the afternoon it had started to rain. The rain lasted until Friday morning and has been quite spectacularly heavy at times; particularly on Thursday when those who decided to make the trip from Kamakura (where the hotel is) to Yokohama (where the theatre is) by train got completely soaked on the walk from the station.

The theatre in Yokohama has a large auditorium and a good sized stage but space backstage is very, very limited which has made for an interesting couple of days. The stage and lighting departments have had the equivalent of a giant logic puzzle to contend with as they work out where to store everything, but at least the dressing room allocation was very easy as there are only two; one for all the girls and one for all the boys! The wardrobe department have had just as much fun – ironing and laundry is all happening in the corridors. Well, those sections of corridor that aren’t three deep in rails! Someone has likened the experience to doing Sleeping Beauty on mid-scale – I think that’s probably a fairly accurate description! One up-side for me is that in the absence of a dedicated Company Office, I’ve taken up residence in a corner of wardrobe – I’ve had a fantastic and hilarious couple of days sharing a room with Lili, Vanda, Michael and the wardrobe girls; although I’m sure they’re looking forward to getting shot of me once we get to Tokyo!

As I type, we’re in Act III of the Beauty General – the first performance is tomorrow afternoon and then we’re straight off to Tokyo. Sunday is a day of studio rehearals and then on Monday and Tuesday we’re at the U-Port Hall with the double-bill. Tuesday night’s performance is a fundraising gala in aid of the Earthquake and Tsunami Appeal; we’re all very pleased to be able to do something practical to help. Life in this part of Japan is pretty much back to normal after the disaster – the only really noticeable difference is the power saving; once the sun sets it’s really noticeable how many lights and neon signs remain switched off.

It’s time for me to sign-off now as it’ll soon be time to start rounding people up for the coach journey back to the hotel!

More soon!

Paul (Grist – Company Manager)

**Update**
Although I wrote this yesterday afternoon, I’ve only just got round to posting! Between then and now, we’ve done our first performance of the tour (which went very well – a really great show which was enthusiastically received by a very appreciative audience), the technical staff have packed everything and loaded it back onto the trucks, and we’ve all moved on to Tokyo! Time for bed now – but more soon! P

Hello from a very chilly Salford where the Cinderella tour opened last night to a wonderful audience response! The Technical Department have risen fantastically to the challenge of presenting Cinderella on tour and the show looks absolutely fantastic. We’re playing to packed houses this week and our Plymouth performances next week promise to be the same.

The Royal Opera House exhibition ‘Invitation to the Ballet’ which charts the life and work of Ninette de Valois and the history of the Royal Ballet companies is running in the Lowry Galleries at the moment. Lots of the Company have already made it up to see the exhibition and the feedback has been incredibly positive – I’m hoping to get up there tomorrow afternoon to have a look around, although from what everyone is saying I think I’ll need to allow plenty of time to see everything!

Paul Grist
Company Manager


Hello from Plymouth and the final week of the autumn tour. We’ve had a great tour, starting with a great week in Sunderland (no flooding this time!) – Romeo looked and sounded wonderful at the Empire and was very warmly received by large audiences. Sunderland was followed by Sadler’s Wells and the Company really grasped the opportunity to show the London audience just what we can do with a week of fantastic performances. We played to a week of great houses and spectacular audience responses – especially for Pointes of View!

Although Sadler’s Wells saw a week of great performances, it was also tinged with sadness as the end of the week saw Viktoria Walton’s final performance with the Company. Her departure prompted a slightly unusual end to Saturday night’s performance of Slaughter; at the end of the curtain call, two of the Policemen headed straight for Vika to make an impromptu ‘arrest’ (complete with handcuffs!), dragging her to the front of the stage where Alexander Campbell (the Hoofer) presented her with flowers! Vika will be much missed but everyone is delighted that she’s going to get to spend more time being a mum and we wish her all the best for her new career! ‘Inntit!’

Playing the triple bill at the end of the week meant that the Sadler’s Wells get-out finished in record time (much to the delight of the technical staff!) and Monday saw the start of our final week of the tour; in Plymouth. So far we’ve had fantastic weather – it’s chilly but the wonderful sunshine has meant lots of bright, crisp days. Performances of the triple bill went really well (including some great debuts) and this evening sees the first of four sold-out performances of Romeo.

We’re taking our ‘touring company’ status to a whole new level over the next few days; whilst the bulk of the Company are dancing Romeo in Plymouth, Iain and Elisha are in Tokyo guesting in The Firebird at the New National Theatre whilst Nao, Chi, Bob, Natasha and César are in Salford dancing tonight with the Royal Ballet at a performance to mark the opening of a major new exhibition at the Lowry, charting the history of the Royal Ballet companies. That really is ‘touring’!

On Sunday it’s back to Birmingham and on Monday it’ll be straight back into the swing of things with only just over four weeks until the world premiere of our new production of Cinderella. There’s already a tremendous buzz in Birmingham about this new show, and that seems to be spreading fast around the country – it’s been a hot topic of excited conversation amongst audiences throughout the tour!

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!

Paul.

Well, after a rather mammoth journey the main Company travel group finally arrived in Norfolk on Sunday evening at about 2145 local time (0245 Monday, UK time!).

We’d left the Hippodrome at 0700 on Sunday morning and hadn’t even made it to the supermarket on Thorp Street before one of the coaches had broken down. As with the return leg of the trip to the Embassy for visa interviews, it was the coach I was on – I’ve now got a reputation as a coach jinx-er! So, after a hasty bit of re-arrangement, we got as many people as we could onto the working coach and sent that on it’s way to Heathrow whilst the 21 of us left on the broken coach waited for the coach company to send a replacement. That arrived within about 40 minutes and we set-off for the second time about an hour after we’d set-off for the first time! Everything went smoothly at Heathrow and the flight-time seemed to pass relatively quickly (a glass of wine and a couple of films helping things along very nicely!).

Once we arrived in Washington we had US immigration to get through – 45 minutes of queueing later and we’d all got into the country, collected our bags and started to assemble in the arrivals hall. The Virginia Arts Festival had sent two of their team of volunteers up to meet us: Dan and Sallie who did the same trip in 2007 and loved the Company so much that they’d insisted on being allowed to come and meet us again! Then it was back onto more coaches for the 4hr trip down to Norfolk. Everyone was delighted to arrive at the hotel and most people headed out into town in search of something to eat, before heading back to the fantastically comfy beds – by the time we got to bed, I think most of us had been up for 24hrs!

Norfolk is a really lovely town. The hotel is directly opposite the theatre and both are only a very short walk into the centre of town, although everyone here seems to drive everywhere! The people are really friendly, very welcoming and everyone seems very excited that we’re in town!

The Festival staff and volunteers are also incredibly hospitable and are really taking the trouble to make sure that everyone is well looked after and that everything is taken care of. Everyone seems to have found a different cafe, diner or restaurant that’s become a firm favourite and the breakfasts are particularly popular – most are so large as to negate the requirement for any other meal during the day!

The weather has been incredibly hot and humid for the past couple of days but the storms forecast for today failed to materialise. We’re all keeping our fingers crossed that they don’t come tomorrow as the Festival have organised a trip to the beach for those people who have a free day tomorrow.

Today’s rehearsals have gone very well and the show is looking absolutely fantastic at Chrysler Hall. Phil [Ellis, Conductor] has been rehearsing with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra this morning and everyone is looking forward to hearing them at the General on Thursday.

Anyway, I need to head off and catch the end of the rehearsal – more soon!

Paul.

Greetings from Sunderland and the first week of the Sleeping Beauty tour where the Company are playing to large and enthusiastic audiences. There’s no such thing as a quiet week on tour and this week has proved to be no exception – after a spot of shellac-removal from a dressing room sink yesterday afternoon (who said Company Management wasn’t glamorous?) the fun really started during Act II of last night’s show when water began dripping from the ceiling above one of the entrances to the stage.

A spot of investigation quickly revealed that the source of the problem was in the sprinkler system pump room directly above. The local crew moved swiftly into action with buckets and mops during the interval, an emergency plumber was called and we started Act III without a great deal of concern.

However, a couple of minutes into Act III as one of the guys mopping up the leak turned the valve to stop the supply of water to the leaky pipe, the entire valve (and most of the pipe it was fixed to) sheared off in his hand unleashing a significant torrent of water! Having ascertained that we were safe to carry on with the show, every spare pair of hands was enlisted to keep the water at bay as it ran through ceilings and down staircases; it was mopped, vac’d, swept out of firedoors and every spare towel and blanket was assembled to form an absorbent dam across the doorway to the stage to keep the water away from scenery, costumes and shoes.

Lovely weather for pas de deux

The performance finished uninteruppted with the delighted audience completely oblivious to the drama ocurring backstage (unless they walked past the rear of the theatre on the way home and saw the water pouring out of the building!); Company and orchestra were directed out via alternative staircases and the emergency plumber had a very busy night. Everything was fixed by about 1am and by the time this afternoon’s rehearsals began, everything was dry and back to normal.

What with the significant flooding in the FOH toilets last time we were in Sunderland and the evacuation of the Cyrano Saturday matinee at Sadler’s Wells last autumn when the basement flooded, maybe we should think about getting Birmingham Royal Ballet branded wellies! Fingers crossed that the rest of the tour remains dry both outside and in!

Paul.

Well, we’re back in Birmingham for a week’s rehearsal after a great visit to Plymouth, and I’m grasping the opportunity for some time in the office to catch up on all the things I haven’t managed to do whilst we were away! Both programmes went down really well in Plymouth, everything looked great in the Theatre Royal and as usual the audiences were incredibly responsive.

Paul 'Ice Man' Grist

As you’ll see from the picture, the LX department had some dry ice left over at the start of Act III of the Saturday matinee of Cyrano, so they decided to give the Company Office a more theatrical feel – if only every Company Office were that glamorous! Some more cynical friends have suggested that the dry ice was an attempt to conceal a ‘bad shoe day’!

Paul.

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