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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!

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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!

Tickets to see Birmingham Royal Ballet dance Swan Lake at The Lowry, Salford, this autumn have gone on sale today.

This evening also sees the Company open a week of performances of Beauty and the Beast at the same venue.

Click here for details of all performances.

These performances of Swan Lake will be the first of the 2012-13 season, which begins and ends as the academic calendar. The shows will precede even the Company’s first dates at home venue Birmingham Hippodrome.

You can see a rehearsal clip from Swan Lake, featuring Birmingham Royal Ballet Principals Gaylene Cummerfield and Matthew Lawrence, below.

Birmingham Royal Ballet dance Beauty and the Beast, at The Lowry, Salford, until the end of this week. The production is choreographed by the Company’s own Director, David Bintley. Click here to book tickets now.

With Beauty and the Beast touring to the Lowry, Salford in January 2012, following a week of performances at Birmingham Hippodrome, we’ve uncovered this interview with Choreographer David Bintley, originally published during the piece’s second season of performances in 2005.

When interviewed previously about Beauty and the Beast, creator of the piece and Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet, David Bintley, has spoken a great deal about the story’s theme of how we see animals. ‘We have a funny way of viewing things,’ he says. While we pride ourselves on being a nation of animal lovers, David explained at the time of the ballet’s premiere, we use the term ‘beastly’ to describe someone who behaves with cruelty or arrogance – traits which are fairly unique to humans.

While it is a concept which he obviously enjoyed examining in the ballet, it is not what originally drew him to the work. ‘A good subject for a ballet has got to have both strong characters and strong events,’ he says. ‘The events are what keep things motoring along, and shape the characters, but you couldn’t do a ballet based purely on an event. Take the American civil war – that’s one hell of an event, but you couldn’t put that in a ballet!’

In Beauty and the Beast, the young girl Belle is sent to live with the terrifying Beast in penance for her father’s theft of a rose from the animal’s garden. Dragged from her home and denied access to her family, she is forced to grow up sharply, and confront the terrifying Beast on her own. Over time, she comes to see past his unfamiliar appearance, and is able to love him for the person he is underneath. By the end of the ballet she is a drastically different character from the one she was at the beginning.

Likewise, the Beast begins life as a handsome prince, but one who exhibits the cruelty and arrogance that David highlights as being particularly human faults. Transformed magically into a hideous beast as punishment for his sins, he must alter his character if he is to earn the true love that will break the spell.

The strength and contrast of these character arcs was attractive to David. ‘That’s very much what I look for in a subject for narrative dance,’ he says, ‘because I believe I have to have that outline, that choreographic feeling for the characters, the story and the period.’

Every element must be able to be conveyed in dance, otherwise the piece won’t work. And most importantly, the characters, like Belle and the Beast, must be figures that can be expressed through choreography.

‘Lots of people think that if you just take another great classic novel, it’ll work as a ballet,’ says David, ‘but no, it won’t necessarily. There are so many great stories out there and you could say “why don’t you do that one?” It’s because I have no feeling for it, no empathy. I don’t feel it, and those characters don’t say “movement”.’

Beauty and the Beast however, has proved a rich topic for a narrative work, with the ballet being one of David’s most successful pieces. ‘I knew that Beauty and the Beast would sell because it’s a known title and known titles always sell,’ he says, ‘but that’s not why I made it. I made the ballet because I was absolutely obsessed by it, and had been for 30 years.’

That people are likely to come and see a ballet based upon a familiar story does not guarantee its longevity, however. But with the ballet returning to tour major theatres around the UK, audiences have obviously enjoyed the sight of this Beast.

Click for details of all current performances of Beauty and the Beast

Birmingham Royal Ballet will perform David Bintley’s production of Beauty and the Beast at the Lowry, Salford, 24 – 28 January 2012.

Click here to book and for more information.

A cruel Prince, cursed to spend the rest of his life living in a fantastical castle with the animals he callously hunted, finds salvation in the heart of a beautiful girl. Caught stealing a single rose, Belle’s desperate father exchanges his life for his youngest daughter’s freedom. In his distant castle the Beast, stripped of his handsome features and his very humanity, must win her heart, or spend the rest of his life in bitter solitude.

The ballet was last performed at the venue in January 2004. These will be the only UK tour dates for the production in the 2011-12 season.

You can watch an excerpt from the ballet here:

Back home, tickets are already on sale for our next UK tour. We perform Coppélia in summer 2011, with performances in Salford, Birmingham and Dublin. Click the city names for details.

In the new video below, Company dancers Kristen McGarrity and Steven Monteith introduce some of the costumes from the ballet, including a number that they themselves have performed in.



Bonus: Here you can see the outtakes from our Coppélia costume video shoot!

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

Here’s a brand-new rehearsal video for Romeo and Juliet, featuring Nao Sakuma and Chi Cao in the roles of the young lovers.

Birmingham Royal Ballet performs Romeo and Juliet next week at the Lowry, Salford and the week after at Wales Millennium Centre.

The Company then performs the piece in other venues in the autumn. Visit www.brb.org.uk/romeo for details.

Birmingham Royal Ballet tours Kenneth MacMillan’s romantic classical masterpiece Romeo and Juliet throughout 2010. The Company performs in Birmingham, Sunderland, London and Plymouth this autumn, however audiences in Salford and Cardiff will get the chance to see it before the summer break – nearly three months ahead of everybody else!

Tickets for the shows, at the Lowry and the Wales Millennium Centre, are already on sale, with booking details available via the links below. With a sweeping score by Sergei Prokofiev and soaring choreography from master of modern ballet, Kenneth MacMillan, Romeo and Juliet continues to be the all-time classic love story. These performances bring a close Birmingham Royal Ballet’s 2009-10 season.

Click the venue names for details:

The Lowry, Salford, Wednesday 30 June-Saturday 3 July
Wales Millennium Centre, Tuesday 6-Saturday 10 July

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s website

Birmingham Royal Ballet on twitter