Tales From the BRB Tour…

University of Birmingham graduate Emily Withers successfully interviewed for a six-month internship at Birmingham Royal Ballet, as part of the University of Birmingham Cultural Intern Scheme 2012. During her first month in post, Emily was whisked away on the BRB Autumn tour…

WEEK ONE: Plymouth 

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 naturally, was danced exquisitely.

Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet; photo: Roy Smiljanic
Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet; photo: Roy Smiljanic

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!

Photograph of Celine Gittens and Tyrone Singleton in Swan Lake.
Celine Gittens and Tyrone Singleton in Swan Lake.
© Roy Smiljanic.

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..

WEEK TWO: A Capital Adventure!

 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.

Photograph of the exterior of Sadler's Wells Theatre in London
Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London
Photo: Morley von Sternburg

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).

Photograph of Ninette de Valois and dancers at Sadler's Wells in 1931
Ninette de Valois and dancers, Sadler’s Wells, 1931.
Image courtesy: http://ninette.roh.org.uk

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 experienced 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 have been 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!!

To read more about Birmingham Royal Ballet, please visit http://brbathome.wordpress.com/

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