dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Dance aimed at all ages
Dance fans are in for a treat this spring when Birmingham Royal Ballet bring world premieres, a family show and a celebration of young talent to a week-long residency at Birmingham Rep.
The residency begins on May 8 with a celebration of the 25th anniversary of BRB's Dance Track programme which showcases more than 200 former and current students on the programme. The event features new commissions including a new work choreographed by former BRB first artist Ruth Brill.
BRB director Carlos Acosta and assistant director Dominic Antonucci present Studio to Stage on May 10 in which they share an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at how the company creates and performs new ballets.
At An Evening of Music and Dance on May 13-14, dancers and the Royal Ballet Sinfonia perform a host of favourite pieces from much-loved productions including Sleeping Beauty and Agon. And on May 14, Family Music and Dance Saturday is aimed at children aged four and above with a specially commissioned new Cinderella and highlights from Sleeping Beauty, La Fille mal gardée and other classics.
BRB first soloist Kit Holder is choreographing two new works for Dance Track 25 and has been working with young students from the programme. Dance Track offers free classes to children and young people in Birmingham and has supported thousands of young people over the past 25 years.
Kit says: "These are really talented and enthusiastic young dancers and the idea of Dance Track 25 is to celebrate their success. Their journeys started with Dance Track where they are gaining really high level training and, in some cases, going on to a professional career. The great thing about Dance Track is that it's totally possible that these incredible talents might not have been discovered without that training."
A new work is being created on Birmingham teenager Oscar Kempsey-Fagg who trained with Dance Track and is now in his graduate year at the Royal Ballet School. And Kit is working with three younger Dance Track and Royal Ballet School students on a piece set to Schumann's piano and cello duet Vanitas Vanitatum.
He explains: "I'm creating a solo for Oscar which is fun and very upbeat, set to jazz music Harmonia sem chronologia by Huw Warren, Peter Herbert and Martin France," Kit says. "The piece I am creating for the three young ladies is classical but still fun. Those three students are different ages and are at slightly different places in their training so it's a really interesting process. I'm taking the ideas of a 40-year-old male dancer and trying to translate them onto these energetic young female dancers."
Kit, who holds an MA in Choreography, has been creating work for more than 15 years and pieces including Printer Jam, Quatrain and To Fetch a Pail of Water have been performed by students, BRB and Ballet Black. "I really enjoy bringing something collectively together with the dancers which is exciting and interesting. Ultimately it's about creating something that is really special which makes the dancers look good, is entertaining and engages the audience," he says. "I love the process of collaborating with the dancers - it's like problem-solving. No two bodies move the same so it never stops being interesting."
Leamington Spa-based Kit joined BRB in 2000 – and his own route into ballet has strong parallels with the Dance Track youngsters as he trained with BRB's Junior Associates programme and played child roles in the company's Nutcracker. "I fell in love with dance completely at that point. I decided at eight years old that was what I was going to do with my life and it was an incredible opportunity to get that experience at that age," he recalls. "My initial exposure to a potential training route was offered by the company and it's great that Dance Track has been doing something similar for over 25 years."
Encouraging new talent
Laura Day, who is choreographing Cinderella, is aiming to create a new version of the fairy tale, which will feature the Royal Ballet Sinfonia on stage and actress and BRB Board member Shireenah Ingram as narrator. "It's a really colourful family-friendly version of Cinderella all swirled into 23 minutes," Laura says. "The score is by the composer Paul Reade who composed Hobson's Choice and he's done this beautiful composition of narration and music to tell the Cinderella story."
Laura, who joined BRB in 2012 and has danced roles including Clara in The Nutcracker and Vera in A Month in the Country, has been working with 23 students from Birmingham's Elmhurst Ballet School to create the work. "It's been so rewarding to see it all pieced together and see everyone's hard work resulting in something special," she says. "To see the students take something on and for us to tweak something together and to see them grow as dancers. They've given so much to this."
And she adds: "It's the freedom to create something new and in the moment that I enjoy. I really like that stage at the beginning of the project when you do your research. Then when I have a better idea of what I want to say and what I want the audience to feel the fun starts – that's when I ask 'how do I do that?"
Laura, who hails from Cheltenham, has been heavily involved in every stage of the process. "We are making new costumes and props. I was very lucky to have a conversation with Tim Hatley, who designed BRB's Don Quixote, where we talked through some of my ideas. After speaking with Tim, myself and head of costume Elaine Garlick decided we wanted to go down the 1950's route. We decided the Fairy Godmother would be a twist between Mary Poppins and a nice Cruella de Ville character so she's quite motherly and caring but also quite sophisticated. And we went from there to the other characters."
Now Laura is looking forward to sharing the production with audiences. "I'm hoping we've made it so that you get all the emotions – Cinderella being sad, the comedy of the Ugly Sisters, the love. I wanted to do a bitesize version that everyone can relate to, understand and enjoy."
For full information on BRB's Rep Residency and tickets see www.birmingham-rep.co.uk BRB return to Birmingham Hippodrome between June 23-25 with On Your Marks, part of Birmingham International Dance Festival 2022, see www.brb.org.uk for details.