Aladdin: A Magic Carpet Ride from North to South

Emily Withers brings tales from tour as Birmingham Royal Ballet perform UK premieres of David Bintley’s magical tale of love, trickery and triumph.

The Lowry, Salford: 27 Feb – 02 Mar 2013

aladdin 1

Credit: Tom Rogers and Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet in the Dragon Dance; photo: Bill Cooper

The sun is shining gloriously upon Salford, and given its location overlooking the waterfront, the glittering water has truly become a feast for the eyes.

For the tour back in the autumn, the internship began the week after the company had been to Salford, so I’m glad I’ve been granted the opportunity to visit Greater Manchester before it finishes!

I’m currently in the ‘Company office’: a dressing room equipped with a fully working fridge, a fan and a monitor displaying the various ongoing activities on the stage; at the moment the dancers are taking their daily morning class on the stage, but at other times there are rehearsals, stage and lightingwork going on, as well as the performances themselves.

The Lowry has two theatres: the Quays and the Lyric, and Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Aladdin is being performed in the Lyric, the larger of the two. Its neighbouring attractions include MediaCity and the Imperial War Museum North, although I highly doubt I’ll have ample time to visit such places!

It’s great being out on tour again, and considering that this is how I began the internship there is a certain symmetry that makes it easier to see how much I’ve settled in during the six months, the skills I’ve learnt and all that I’ve discovered whilst working for a ballet company. There is now a familiarity with staff and a confidence in my responsibilities that allow a different kind of ease and enjoyment each day.

The project I’m currently working on is the compilation of the blue book for the company’s upcoming trip to Virginia in April, whilst continuing to do ongoing daily tasks required for the current tour, such as updating the cast sheets ready for publication, managing general enquiries, and just absorbing the feel and workings of a new theatre!

This afternoon I will be covering the show, which involves being present in the foyer before the start of each act, for each curtain-up in case anything goes wrong, and also be responsible for ticket allocation for the ballet staff.

This evening I’m watching the ballet. It’s been great having the opportunity to watch a performance in every theatre we’ve visited. Ilike the idea of ticking each one off a list. Each time I watch one of the ballets it’s an alternate cast, which makes a surprising difference and adds a real freshness, especially the more I’ve gotten to recognise individual dancers simply by the way they dance, and the signature they create. My eyesight isn’t the best, so to simply be able to recognise dancers through their movements is a rather helpful practice.

I’m heading back to Birmingham tomorrow, so the trip has felt surprisingly short, but very pleasant nonetheless. The initial friendliness and warmth I was shown by the dancers and staff when I first started has only grown as time has gone by and I can now honestly say that I very much feel part of the company now, and have been fortunate enough to work with many wonderful people.

The Aladdin score by Carl Davis is often playing in the background in the office, a gentle reminder of why we’re in Salford. I trust that the show will be received well and that it will be a mighty success!

Here’s to Plymouth next week…

Theatre Royal, Plymouth: 6-9 March 2013

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Credit: Tzu-Chao Chou as the Djinn of the Lamp with Artists of Birmingham Royal Ballet; photo: Bill Cooper

My first week at BRB kicked off in Plymouth, so in being here once more I feel like I’ve arrived full circle.  What a difference six months makes, and yet I cannot believe my time with the company is nearly at an end!

On a personal note, I was adamant to catch a glimpse of the sea this time. Last time the incessant rain was the main deterrent. However, when living in the midlands, it’s important to take all the opportunities you can to see the ocean; therefore I headed straight down to the waterfront at dusk yesterday evening. It didn’t disappoint. And whilst I now sit in the company office listening to the constant pitter-patter of rain on the windows it seems that was indeed the best time to go.

It seems the opening night last night was a huge success and that there was a real buzz in the foyer, with such a warm reception from the audience. The dancers then respond to this in turn and it makes for an overall great experience all round!

The Company Manager, Paul Grist even bumped into a couple of keen supporters of BRB on the street who proceeded to gush about last night’s performance and how wonderful it was.

There is both a matinee and an evening performance of Aladdin today, the latter of which I will be fortunate enough to attend.  Joseph Caley will be performing as Aladdin and Elisha Willis as the Princess. It is another cast I haven’t had the chance to see dance together so I’m eagerly anticipating it.  It says a lot about the show that I am still very much looking forward to seeing it on my third time!

I was also able to catch a few glimpses of the matinee performance from the wings, and from what I saw Mathias Dingman and Maureya Lebowitz create a beautiful portrayal of Aladdin and the Princess.

I do really enjoy being on tour: along with variety, there is also a distinct familiarity in returning to theatres that BRB have built strong relationships with over many years.

Last time I was in Plymouth, back in October, I saw everything with fresh eyes, almost providing a narrative based on everything I could see. I have however naturally grown accustomed to a lot of these sights, such as dancers in full costume warming up outside the office and encountering many quick changes in the corridors.

I guess it demonstrates how my role has changed since the last tour from that of a privileged observer, to a comfortable member of staff, which is unquestionably a positive transition. Nonetheless, I do certainly still have pinch-me moments, and often feel like a child in a sweet shop when watching pas de deux from the wings.

Well, that’s all for this week. Until Sunderland….



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