Director Carlos Acosta
Curated by Carlos City of a Thousand Trades Imminent Chacona 4 – 6 November 2021
BIRMINGHAM ROYAL BALLET ROYAL BALLET SINFONIA Patron Her Majesty the Queen President HRH The Prince of Wales Vice-President The Lady Sarah Chatto
Director Carlos Acosta cbe Chief Executive Officer Caroline Miller obe
Founded by Dame Ninette de Valois om, ch
Prima Ballerina Assoluta Dame Margot Fonteyn
Founder Choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton om, ch, cbe
Director Laureate Sir Peter Wright cbe
Founder Music Director Constant Lambert
Music Director Laureate Barry Wordsworth
Music Director Koen Kessels
WELCOME We’re delighted to be back at Sadler’s
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza as they
Wells for this sublime triple bill.
head off on their adventures, alongside
Miguel Altunaga’s City of a Thousand
a host of colourful characters. I hope
Trades and Daniela Cardim’s Imminent
you, your family and friends will be
premiered in Birmingham in June,
able to join us for these performances.
alongside the Company premiere of Goyo Montero’s Chacona.
As ever, a heartfelt thanks to each and every one of our supporters. A special
Carlos Acosta. © Johan Persson.
For these performances, Goyo has
thank you must go to the Garfield
created a new pas de deux for Chacona,
Weston Foundation, Aud Jebsen, the
which I will perform alongside the
Michael Bishop Foundation and Oak
wonderful Italian ballerina, Alessandra
Foundation for their extraordinary
Ferri, in her Birmingham Royal Ballet
support in 2021. We are also delighted
to welcome HSBC UK as Principal Sponsor of Birmingham Royal Ballet
Looking ahead, we have a packed
across 2021/22. We are extremely
schedule of live performances to look
grateful for this support.
forward to. We round off the year with the Christmas essential, The
I hope you enjoy the performance.
Nutcracker, both in London and Birmingham. We start 2022 with a tour of my brandnew production of Don Quixote, created especially for the Company. Set in sunny Spain, this lively comedy follows
Cover image: Alessandra Ferri and Carlos Acosta. © Johan Persson.
City of a Thousand Trades
Tyrone Singleton. © Johan Persson.
Music Mathias Coppens Choreography and Co-Director Miguel Altunaga Dramaturg and Co-Director Madeleine Kludje Designs Giulia Scrimieri Lighting Michael Lee-Woolley Poet and Voiceover Casey Bailey, Birmingham Poet Laureate 2020-22
City of a Thousand Trades is supported by the Oakley Charitable Trust and is a Ballet Now commission Ballet Now is generously supported by Oak Foundation’s Special Interest Programme, which provided major funding for the project. Ballet Now is also supported by the Foyle Foundation, The John S Cohen Foundation, and The H Steven and PE Wood Charitable Trust.
Produced in association with Birmingham Repertory Theatre World premiere: 10 June 2021, Birmingham Repertory Theatre
For biographies of the creative team visit brb.org.uk/curated
© Johan Persson.
MEET MIGUEL ALTUNAGA Deborah Weiss speaks to Miguel Altunaga, Choreographer of City of a Thousand Trades Born in Havana, Cuba, Miguel
story! I’m learning a lot about myself,
platform for emerging choreographers.
Altunaga, choreographer, dancer,
how to lead, not to do too much or
There was an idea to do something
photographer and film maker,
too little, finding a balance. Also
that really represents the city. It’s not
best known in the UK for his long
things about scheduling, planning,
only Birmingham, but I wanted to
association with Rambert, recently
meetings – it’s big because it’s a very
make something that audiences could
premiered his first commission for
important company. I’m very proud to
connect to their own city and own
Birmingham Royal Ballet, City of a
be here actually! Ideally I would like to
journey. Birmingham has this name
Thousand Trades, which is described as
continue to dance and choreograph,
in the UK but also across the world.
a love letter to the city of Birmingham.
but to be honest, I really enjoy seeing
It’s known as the workshop of the
dancers and artists doing my work. I
world, with all the opportunities that it
love collaborating and creating.
offers. It’s a city that embraces people’s
When we talked, before the June premiere, he claimed he’d not been
dreams, realises their ambitions. It
sleeping well. ‘As a choreographer,
‘The commission came about because
becomes more emotional, not just
the responsibility is a whole different
I submitted a proposal to Ballet Now, a
about bricks and mortar, but more
human, about the people. What do you trade for a better life?’ The music is an original score by Belgian composer Mathias Coppens. He has managed to reference the different cultural backgrounds within the city, alongside Heavy Metal. Altunaga explains, ‘It’s basically a classical score but it also embraces the different communities. I always try to create a friendship, good chemistry, an honesty where he is allowed to tell me what he thinks and I do the same. When we are working, we’re focused on something that is greater than ourselves. We talked every evening about what to keep, what needed changing. I have also spent hours with Madeleine [Kludje, dramaturg and co-Director from Birmingham Repertory Theatre], trying to work out how to put together something that is cohesive – because I
Yijing Zhang and Brandon Lawrence. © Johan Persson.
want the audience to connect with the piece, with the music, with the dancers and feel that they could be there, be one of them. It’s a challenge because I love things that are abstract, but it’s good for me to work with something that has more literal moments, to get the audience back with me.’ To date, Altunaga has worked mostly within the contemporary genre. It was interesting to discover that he finds ballet dancers thrilling to work with. ‘I
“I want the audience to connect with the piece, with the music, with the dancers and feel that they could be there, be one of them”
love every dance form. My experience is that ballet dancers are able to do everything as long as you coach them workshops. They were so eager, it
musicality, emotions and I know I
was great. We tried to create a cast
have basic things that I go towards,
‘As a choreographer, you physicalise
where there is no hierarchy because
but I really want every single piece I
everything, so they can see what
it’s about the people of the city, so it’s
do to have its own personality. Each
you want. I’ve always loved classical
very diverse. I also wanted a sense of
piece should have its message and it
ballet and thought one day I would
community. It’s about growth, dreams.
shouldn’t be about me. It’s much bigger
well, with the right energy.
be in this position, but in order for them to understand me, I first have to
‘It’s the biggest project I’ve ever done.
understand them. With contemporary
I’m very positive about it but the best
choreographers, they set you tasks
thing is that I’m learning a lot. The
and you find your own voice. Classical
atmosphere in the studio is fantastic,
dancers wait to be told what to do. You
they all work so hard – that’s what
are the choreographer, they are the
I will take with me. It’s been a great
dancer. It’s amazing! The craft
experience, it couldn’t be better.
really sharpens. We did a lot of drama
‘I have my goals. I love the physicality,
Deborah Weiss is a former principal dancer who danced primarily with London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet) and the Bayerisches Staatsballett in Munich. Since 1993 she has been a freelance dance writer and critic.
Amy Stutz speaks to Madeleine Kludje, Co-Producer of City of a Thousand Trades
‘What do you trade to build a
ballet at all and have felt like there has
new life?’ asks City of a Thousand
always been a barrier there, can use this
Trades. Described as a love letter
as a way to get into it. ‘They will get to
to Birmingham, it’s a celebration of
see a ballet that speaks their language
the city’s richly diverse cultural and
because it’s about connection. We hope
people see themselves within the story. ‘We got a real insight into people’s
I spoke to Madeleine Kludje, Associate
experience of Birmingham, and we’ve
Director at The REP, and Dramaturg
used elements of those testimonies
and Co-Director of this new ballet,
within the music of the show.’
about how the city inspired this show. Composed by Mathias Coppens, ‘City of a Thousand Trades looks at the
it isn’t music you’d usually expect
thousands of people who have traded
from a ballet. To carry the narrative,
something to be here. Whether that’s
Mathias has creatively intertwined the
for a better life, or just a different life,’
testimonies with spoken word from
says Madeleine. ‘When people move to
Birmingham Poet Laureate Casey
a new city and they have so much hope
Bailey and sounds within the city.
– hope to build that life that they want.
‘Yes, we have strings because we have
We explore those people’s dreams and
an orchestra playing,’ Madeleine
aspirations in this show.’
explains. ‘But we also have electric guitar which nods to Ozzy Osborne
This ballet tells the story of how
and the heavy metal influence on the
Birmingham became known as the City
city. Everything you’ll hear links to
of a Thousand Trades at the height
Birmingham in some way’.
is about Birmingham but it’s about all cities as well. Every city can connect in some way, as it portrays the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful”
of the Industrial Revolution. Skilled workers migrated to the city from
‘We look at City of a Thousand Trades
throughout the Commonwealth,
in the very literal sense because
creating a melting-pot of cultures and
Birmingham was known for the silk
the city we know today.
trade and the metal industries. We have percussionists on stage that make
Over the course of 20 years, Oral
sounds that represent the factory trade
Historian Helen Lloyd interviewed
in Birmingham. This really creates the
hundreds of different people around
feeling of building a city.’
Birmingham. ‘It was about getting their experiences of what it means to
The dancers, just like Director of
be in Birmingham,’ says Madeleine.
Birmingham Royal Ballet Carlos Acosta,
‘We looked at Lloyd’s interviews and
have fed their stories into the piece too.
interviewed people ourselves.’ These
They’ve lived these experiences moving
stories then shaped this powerful new
to Birmingham to achieve their dreams.
ballet. ‘Carlos was talking to me about how ‘Miguel and I wanted to hone in on
important it is to do a ballet like this,
the storytelling,’ explains Madeleine.
to talk about what people have traded,
‘People who love going to the ballet will
for people to see themselves and their
love this. But people who don’t go to the
experiences reflected on stage,’ says
Technical credits Scenic construction/painting Birmingham Repertory Theatre / Scottfleary Model maker Patrick Cahill Draughtsperson Simon Oliver Oral Historian Consultant Helen Lloyd Costume makers Phil Reynolds Dyeing Sheila White Costume Supervisor Elaine Garlick Production Managers Ben Leveson / David Pritchard
Shuailun Wu. © Johan Persson.
Madeleine. ‘He really connected with
‘This piece is about Birmingham but
‘People think it’s the bricks and mortar
the piece and the emotional journey
it’s about all cities as well. Every city
that make a city, but it’s the people. City
as he reflected on when he first moved
can connect in some way, as it portrays
of a Thousand Trades is a love letter to
to the UK from Cuba, not being able to
the good, the bad, the ugly and the
the people that make this city and the
speak a word of English and learning to
way we all connect, because together
fit into a new environment.
we will thrive.’ ‘We want people to connect
‘I’ve learnt through working on this
emotionally with the stories in this
piece that we all go through the same
ballet. To remember that feeling when
feelings and emotions when moving
they first came to the city and what
to a new city. Because we want to do
they went through to build their life
better, for ourselves and for our families
here. It’s not easy, it’s hard work and we
and to fit in.
all experience the highs and lows.
Amy Stutz is an arts and culture writer based in the West Midlands. Amy runs a successful blog that champions the best in theatre and cultural events across the UK.
THE MUSIC Mathias Coppens, Composer of City of a Thousand Trades
electric guitars were inspired by Black Sabbath, that says enough I think! ”
At the same time we wanted soulful
The score uses a lot of unusual
strings and the cool of electric guitars.
percussion, how was it writing for
All these elements had to blend
all the different instruments – did
together and mix with electronics,
these provide particular challenges?
quite a cocktail of elements! The most
It was a challenge, not only to find an
difficult task was to go organically from
interesting way to combine all these
one scene to another implementing
different sounds and playing technics,
musical material that would connect
but also because the two percussionists
these different worlds and create a
are on these big towers, far from the
other players, not being able to really communicate with the conductor.
The soundtrack is influenced by Birmingham’s industrial heritage –
There’s also not a lot of space for
how did you approach this?
music stands, so they basically have to
Well, the electric guitars were inspired
memorise everything, which I’m really
You compose extensively concert
by Black Sabbath, that says enough
impressed by! And then I also had to do
and film music, is this your first
I think! The score also has a massive
research in how I had to write for non-
commission for ballet?
percussion set up, the instruments are
Western instruments, which patterns
I have written different kinds of music,
broadly divided into two categories,
would work on, for example, a doumbek
including concert music, soundtracks,
with metal instruments representing
or a riq, not really in my comfort zone
theatre and opera. Together with
the trades, and drums representing
being a pianist myself.
conductor Michiel Delanghe, I have
the global ethnic diversity that exists
an ensemble for contemporary music,
within Birmingham. We have an anvil
It also didn’t help that we had to make
completely dedicated to music theatre.
that represents the smithing and large
the entire show using zoom, because
But this is my first opportunity to write
metal industry and a small anvil used
Kevin Earley has a lot of unique
a ballet piece, which I’m grateful for.
in the jewellery business, there is a
instruments, which I could only check
brake drum (from a van) that represents
out online. It’s pretty amazing that
Coming from Belgium and growing
Birmingham’s famous motor industry,
before the premiere in June I’d never
up with the work of Anne Teresa De
there is also a washing machine drum
met Kevin, or anyone else from the
Keersmaeker and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui
representing electrical engineering,
creative team – this show is a real
this is a dream come true. As a pianist
a railway track, some scaffold pipes,
I did accompany dancers at the Royal
because we’re literally constructing a
Conservatory in Antwerp, so I know
city on stage, and we have bottles which
What have you enjoyed most about
some insight into ballet.
are obviously referring to glass making
the collaboration with Miguel,
Madeleine and the rest of the team?
What sort of musical challenges did
We had so many online meetings and
On the other hand all the different
for some unique reason there was
Miguel told me his approach would
drums represents the different
always so much energy coming out
be very cinematic, but he also wanted
communities in the city, orchestral
of my computer screen. It is really an
an intense and very physical show.
percussion for the UK or Europe in
honour to work with such a bunch of
We almost immediately agreed on
general, roto toms for North America, a
super-talented and creative people who
a lot of percussion, since he’s also a
surdo for Latin America (Brazil), bongos
are at the same time kind, humble and
percussionist and as a Cuban he speaks
(Cuba!), djembe for Africa, doumbek for
caring. This is definitely not the last
the language of rhythm very well.
the Middle East and a dagu for Asia.
show we will make together!
For a biography of Matthias Coppens and the creative team visit brb.org.uk/curated
When we see beyond borders we see opportunity everywhere. Visit hsbc.co.uk/opportunity
Haoliang Feng. © Johan Persson.
Imminent Music Paul Englishby Choreography Daniela Cardim Design April Dalton Lighting Peter Teigen Dramaturg Lou Cope Assistant Choreographer Peter Leung
World premiere: 10 June 2021, Birmingham Repertory Theatre
The London performances of Imminent are supported by
Imminent is a Ballet Now commission Ballet Now is generously supported by Oak Foundation’s Special Interest Programme, which provided major funding for the project. Ballet Now is also supported by the Foyle Foundation, The John S Cohen Foundation, and The H Steven and PE Wood Charitable Trust.
MEET DANIELA CARDIM Diane Parkes speaks to Daniela Cardim, Choreographer of Imminent
Eilis Small. © Johan Persson.
Imminent explores the sensation of
‘At the same time you saw political
knowing that something isn’t right, that
polarisation increasing everywhere
something inside is pulling at us, and
and it felt like the world was stepping
it’s telling us we need to make change.
backwards, that people were losing
Though the world around us seems to
dialogue and connection.’
be flowing harmoniously, sometimes we need to listen to our instincts, resist
Daniela and Dramaturg Lou Cope then
the status quo and find the strength to
needed to distil this sense of unease
see opportunities in paths unknown,
into a broad theme that could inspire
embracing both the fear and the hope
this new abstract work.
as we do so. ‘I couldn’t do a ballet about climate The initial inspiration grew out of
change, it’s too big a subject and we
Daniela’s concerns about climate
wanted to create a more abstract
change and extreme politics.
work, but Lou and I realised that what we were really talking about
‘I’m from Brazil and when we started
was a situation where we can sense
discussing this work there were these
something bad will happen, yet we
terrible fires in the Amazon forests
choose to ignore it until it’s too late.
“There’s a window of opportunity and we can make a positive change if enough people choose to act.”
and I had been reading all these articles about climate change and
‘This could happen with anything, with
how politicians were making wrong
climate change or even with disease,
decisions about that. It felt so urgent
when all of a sudden you get sick and
and yet no one seemed to be doing
your life changes and there is nothing
you can do but deal with it. You have to
For a biographies of the creative team visit brb.org.uk/curated
© Johan Persson.
make a change, to take risks, to adapt.
working in the supermarkets. Hopefully
worked with a great team who each
Even if it’s scary. It’s strange because we
now we don’t take them for granted as
bring their own expertise to the work.
were talking about this before COVID
much and there is a bit more kindness
Paul Englishby’s music is epic, with
and caring for people. COVID is a
touching melodies, Lou Cope helped
tragedy but hopefully we can learn
me shape what I wanted to say and
COVID’s impact on Imminent was
that we need to respect each other, be
how we could translate that into dance,
immediate. ‘We were about to start
kinder to each other – that we need
April Dalton has created some beautiful
rehearsals last year when COVID
designs, and it has been brilliant to be
happened and everything was
able to work through choreographic
postponed until further notice,’ Daniela
And this new sense of hope has filtered
ideas with Peter Leung. It’s also been
recalls. With the easing of lockdown
into Imminent. ‘If people start to
great to have lighting designer Peter
restrictions, the team returned to
acknowledge the problem, they can
Teigen involved with the project from
work this spring. But the worldwide
begin to address it. And thus now
day one. It’s been a long journey for
pandemic and its effects on people led
we see the inspiration for the piece
all of us, but our relationships, and
Daniela and Lou to re-think some of the
through the lens of people gradually
hopefully the work, has deepened
emphasis in Imminent.
facing up to the need to change,’
because of that.’
says Daniela. ‘There’s a window of ‘We thought about what COVID had
opportunity and we can make a positive
Diane Parkes is a freelance journalist
taught us. It is, of course, a terrible
change if enough people choose to act.’
specialising in the arts. A reporter for more than 30 years, she has worked for
thing but we learned that, if we work together, we can make a difference.
Born in Rio de Janeiro and now based
newspapers, magazines, online and arts
COVID made it more evident than ever
in London, Daniela danced with Ballet
organisations locally and nationally.
that it’s possible to make a change, but
do Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro
we need enough people to choose to
for five years and with Dutch National
do it. So, for example, if everyone locks
Ballet for 11 years before turning her
down then the number of COVID cases
talents to choreography. For Daniela,
comes down but you need everyone to
one of the benefits of this project has
do it for this to work.’
been the opportunity to collaborate with other professionals.
‘And we realised how we depend on people who we took for granted. We
‘Very often, when choreographing,
need nurses, we need people on the
I have worked with only a designer
front line, people growing crops and
and the dancers. For Imminent I have
Technical credits Production Manager Paul Moore Costume makers Parkinson Gill, Phil Reynolds Dyeing and Printing Sheila White Costume Supervisor Elaine Garlick
THE MUSIC Composer Paul Englishby tells us about his score for Imminent How did you go about reflecting some of the ideas and themes of the ballet in the music? In the case of Imminent, we spent a long time discussing what we wanted to express all together, choreographically, musically, design and lighting wise. The piece began in early conversations as a study of the elements fire, water, earth and air, and through brainstorming how we could resonate with a current audience we found ourselves talking about climate change among other things. We wanted to explore the idea of beginning with harmony and order, and that being disrupted, upset or infected somehow, and the ensuing disorder and chaos, ending enigmatically with a possibility of hope; that nature or life will find a way back. So the piece could be a metaphor for our earth and our effect on it through over consumption; it could also reflect a disease of the body or mind, or a
Alexander Yap and Eilis Small. © Johan Persson.
virus; little did we know when we began that our very plans would be
What are the joys and challenges of
view; it’s been fascinating. Daniela is
disrupted and thrown into disorder by
writing for dance? Is it very different
extremely inclusive and encourages
a pandemic. So musically the structure
from composing scores for film or
open discussion. Once our idea was
is as above, beginning with a steady
fairly concrete, I wrote an initial draft
repeated ground bass over which
One of the joys is that the music comes
and made a demo, after which Daniela
a long canon grows and multiplies
first, before the choreography, so it’s
has had requests for extending, cutting,
like natural growth, representing the
a little like writing a score for a film
or further development, and we
Earth, possibly, and harmony. The
before the pictures arrive. There is
eventually arrived at the piece that I
development of that material gets
freedom to express, within a pre-
disrupted, chopped up, disarranged,
organised but flexible structure, which
and eventually destruction is described
is just about the ideal way to write for
Have you got any future plans to
in the orchestra. After which there is a
compose for ballet/dance?
barren spacious landscape from which
I’m lucky enough to work regularly
a small idea creeps through allowing for
What have you enjoyed most about
with choreographer Will Tuckett, and
the possibility of hope.
working collaboratively with Daniela
we have some plans for work next year,
and the team?
and I would obviously love to work with
Very lovely people, and always through
Daniela again, it’s been a joy.
the process of deciding what we are hoping to produce, we have all had our say and expressed our points of
For a biography of Paul Englishby visit brb.org.uk/curated
© Johan Persson.
Chacona Music Johan Sebastian Bach, Chorale Prelude No.3 (arranged by Ferruccio Busoni), Chaconne from Partita No.2 in D Minor Choreography Goyo Montero Costume Designs Verena Hemmerlein, Goyo Montero Original Lighting Nicolás Fischtel, Goyo Montero Additional Lighting Peter Teigen Répétiteur Carlos Lázaro Aquillué Assistant to the Choreographer Ivan Gil-Ortega
Piano Jonathan Higgins Guitar Tom Ellis Violin Robert Gibbs World premiere: Ballet Nacional de Sodre in Montevideo, 2017. First performance by Birmingham Royal Ballet: 10 June 2021, Birmingham Repertory Theatre. First performance with additional pas de deux: Birmingham Royal Ballet, 4 November 2021, Sadler’s Wells, London.
DANCING ON THE EDGE Choreographer Goyo Montero talks to David Mead about his ballet Chacona
‘I have always been in love with the Chacona,’ says Goyo Montero of the final movement of Bach’s Partita No.2 in D Minor. ‘The first time I heard it in a concert as a kid, I was blown away. When I started doing choreography, I always wanted to use this music.’ The opportunity came in 2003 when he was commissioned by the Spanish Ministry of Culture to make a work with important Spanish dancers of the time who were working abroad. The resulting Vasos Comunicantes (Communicating Vessels) used different versions of the Partita for violin, guitar and piano for a series of solos, duets and trios before connecting everything
“The piece is like a marathon but it’s also very rewarding. If you give, it’s going to give you something back”
with the Chaconne. Chacona as a stand-alone ballet came about in 2017 when Julio Bocca asked him to stage it for the Ballet Nacional de Sodre in Montevideo. ‘I think it works because it has a natural curve. Musically it has a unity and something compact about it. It also goes through the feeling of the different instruments. It brings the dancers into the feeling of three different worlds.’ Montero explains that while the piece was made for classical dancers, it uses contemporary technique and has a contemporary heart in the sense that it is of now. Like much of his choreography, it is physically very demanding. ‘I do that to bring honesty out. When you are really tired, when you have the challenge of keeping your energy up, you somehow forget your brain. You are just there and in the moment.’ Besides being open, Montero believes that artists, in all the arts,
For biographies of the creative team visit brb.org.uk/curated
Haoliang Feng and Yuki Sugiura. © Johan Persson.
Momoko Hirata and Yasuo Atsuji with Pianist Jonathan Higgins. © Johan Persson.
are at their best when they feel a
different for each dancer and each
It’s like a living organism, he says,
tiny bit uncomfortable, a little out
company.’ There’s always room for
perhaps a flock of birds or a shoal of
of their depth. ‘I think it’s the only
personal interpretation too. ‘I think if a
fish, something with a heightened
way to evolve, to transform yourself.
dancer feels regarded as an artist and as
state of mind as a group but also full of
The moment you know what your
someone who brings something to the
instrument is, it’s somehow over.’
piece more than just doing the steps, then that dancer is going to bring the
While its parent ballet Vasos
With Chacona, he says he tries to bring
work forward by adding something of
Comunicantes has connections with
dancers ‘to the tip of falling. It’s all
their own. It’s not just then my work,
the book of the same title by French
off balance, it’s all about weight and
it becomes their work, their Chacona,
modernist writer André Breton and
tension’. That has to be there from the
something unique to them.’
its ideas around dreams and reality, Montero says Chacona is basically a
first moment to the last, he explains. ‘The piece is like a marathon but it’s
And for these performances there is
way of connecting with the music. ‘I
also very rewarding. If you give, it’s
a new addition, in the shape of a duet
think it has a strong positive vibe that
going to give you something back.’ It
created especially for Carlos Acosta
is needed in this time of isolation, fear,
also connects with audiences, he feels.
and Alessandra Ferri. Also using music
darkness, insecurity. It’s 25 minutes of
‘Some pieces can be obscure and more
by Bach, this pas de deux is intended
pure energy and pure joy. It’s no more
difficult but this piece you can really
to ‘bring in Chacona or give birth to it,’
get into. You can be at one with the
reflecting the moods and personalities
of the original piece and strongly connected with it.
Montero adapted the ballet for Birmingham. ‘I am not a choreographer
‘I have always been blown away by
that thinks choreography is sacred.
pieces that make me think and where
It has to fit the dancers. It has to
I can find some storytelling within or
take them to places where they are
that make me associate ideas, colours,
challenged, so it has to be slightly
feelings. I think Chacona is about that.’
David Mead is a choreographer, editor of SeeingDance.com, and also writes for Dancing Times and a number of international publications Technical credits Additional Costumes Parkinson Gill, Phil Reynolds Costume Supervisor Elaine Garlick
YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT’S AROUND THE CORNER Alessandra Ferri in conversation with Jenny Gilbert
‘Life is full of surprises,’ muses Alessandra Ferri, the great Italianborn ballerina who ‘retired’ in 2007. This week, Ferri, 58, makes her debut with Birmingham Royal Ballet in choreography specially created for her and Carlos Acosta, 48. Their duet forms part of the remarkable Chacona, a work by Goyo Montero that features onstage solo performances by a violinist, a classical guitarist and a pianist alongside the dancers of the Company. Rarely is a choreographer able to draw on such mature and finely developed artistry in a leading couple. The pair first danced together many years ago in Cuba, performing the bedroom pas de deux from Manon for a gala in Havana. ‘Sometimes between dancers there’s an instant connection, a sense of common sensibility,’ says Ferri. ‘Each of you knows you want to work with that person again but then life has other ideas.’ Neither she nor he could have guessed how long they’d have to wait for that next project, still less predict the 18-month delay of the scheduled first performance. But we all know what happened in the spring of 2020. Nonetheless, Ferri found the idea of dancing with Carlos again ‘superappealing’. ‘I think it’s quite special that we’re doing it now, at this stage in our lives when we’re different artists from what we once were. Artistically one never stops developing or getting deeper into what dance is.’ Alessandra Ferri and Carlos Acosta. © Johan Persson
Being a mature artist, continuing to perform when others of one’s generation have long since hung up their pumps, is, she says, ‘interesting, even liberating. You liberate yourself from your own image of what you were in your 30s and 40s and you reach a whole new level that was inconceivable then.’ If that makes it sound easy, she insists it is not. ‘It’s very painful dealing with the fact that you can’t do certain things any more. It’s like letting go of somebody who has been very dear to you. But as long as you don’t try to replicate what you once were, you can move forward, because it’s your life that you’re telling when you dance. What changes, when you’re older, is how you play the instrument.’ The bald facts are astonishing. Ferri retired from ballet for seven years, then came back. But did she retire, really? She insists that she did. ‘In 2007, I completely stopped dancing. No performances, no class, nothing. But after a couple of years of just enjoying
my life, my kids and whatever [she has two daughters, now grown up], I started to get physical pain. When your body is so highly trained and you suddenly stop, it’s a shock to your whole skeleton. My back hurt, my legs hurt. Basically I didn’t feel healthy at all.’ She was living in New York at the time and thought maybe a few yoga classes might help, and a spot of Pilates. Then once she started feeling a little better she thought she might join a class led by her old ballet teacher. After a couple of years of this, things snowballed. A chance encounter on the street with the veteran New York choreographer Martha Clarke led to her first postretirement performance. ‘I had thought it would be some little thing off-Broadway, but it wasn’t. Then along came Wayne McGregor and asked me to do Woolf Works for The Royal Ballet, then John Neumeier with a project for me in Hamburg. There was no moment when I actually made the decision to return to dancing. One thing just led to another.’
So, as a distant observer, what does she make of the recent transitions in Carlos Acosta’s career? ‘Well, for a start, he’s a total catch for Birmingham!’ she says without hesitation. ‘I always considered myself very lucky in that when I joined ABT [American Ballet Theatre] my director was Mikhail Baryshnikov, and I see Carlos very much in that mould. When you have a great dancer as a director in the company, it’s very inspiring for a young dancer. You have that great example in front of you. And like Baryshnikov, Carlos brings experience of different ballet cultures to his directorship, and that’s a big plus for the dancers too.’ As for her own plans, Ferri says she doesn’t make them. ‘You never know what’s around the corner. You think something is over, and then you find it’s not.’ Jenny Gilbert is a dance journalist, critic and writer.
© Johan Persson.
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GET CLOSER: BECOME A SUPPORTER Becoming part of our Dancers’ Circle or BRB Friends is a hugely rewarding and engaging way to support the work of Birmingham Royal Ballet. Your support will help us deliver our extraordinary work, on stage and in communities, and will help ensure the future success of the Company.
As a thank you we offer our supporters a programme of benefits that include:
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SUPPORTERS’ EVENTS CALENDAR
Taking every chance to dance Welcome to your Events Calendar
Sarah Crompton catches up with Carlos Acosta and Caroline Miller
You never know what’s around the corner
We have curated a range of free events which you can enjoy from the comfort of your house via Zoom. Events include:
Back to the future
An opportunity to socialise with our fantastic dancers, musicians and production team, and to ask any questions you might have about their careers.
To Book Events To book any of the events, simply visit Birmingham Royal Ballet website brb.org.uk/supporters-events All online events are free, but please book your space and details of how to join the event will be emailed to you.
Dancers’ Circle roundtable Guests from across Birmingham Royal Ballet will give an insight into their careers and experiences within the arts.
Jenny Gilbert talks to Alessandra Ferri
Exclusive Supporters’ talks First Soloist, Jonathan Payn, in conversation with guests.
and more... December 2020 – April 2021
For more information and to become a Supporter visit brb.org.uk/support-us
Beatrice Parma and Brandon Lawrence © Sam Robinson
WELCOME: CHARLOTTE POLITI The Royal Ballet Sinfonia’s new Constant Lambert Fellowship Conductor tells us about her passion for music.
Named after the Founding Music Director of the Royal Ballet companies, the Constant Lambert Fellowship is a joint initiative with The Royal Ballet designed for conductors aspiring to gain the particular skills required to conduct for ballet. The mentoring is led by Koen Kessels, Music Director of both companies, and Paul Murphy, our Principal Conductor. This autumn we are delighted to welcome Charlotte Politi.
How did you discover your passion
What are your memories of your first
As a child I loved playing in orchestras.
My first professional engagement was
Later I became passionate about
in opera. I loved the feeling of being
scores, recordings of orchestral music.
involved in a theatre production that
Conducting came slowly and naturally
includes not only music, but also stage
to me. I can’t think of a specific
direction, costume design, set design,
moment where I decided I wanted to
and so forth. Conducting a show of
become a conductor. Now when I think
over three hours flew by, because of
back, it seems it’s something I always
how everybody was so connected in the
wanted to do, even before I could put in
words what it means to be a conductor. What do you hope to get out of the How did that lead to conducting for
I hope to learn from every musician, to
What attracted me to ballet is the
be inspired by every artist I will get to
wonderful repertoire. Furthermore,
work with. I hope I will be able to give a
I’ve always liked the idea of working in
positive constructive contribution and
collaboration with art forms other than
at the same time to develop my skills
music. I love the theatre company life,
and grow in my profession.
and the spirit of collaboration between arts.
“Charlotte is a very talented young conductor I am looking forward to mentoring her throughout this unique process and observing her development in the speciality of conducting for dance.’’ Paul Murphy, Principal Conductor 19
BIRMINGHAM ROYAL BALLET Director Carlos Acosta cbe Assistant Director Dominic Antonucci Chief Executive Officer Caroline Miller obe Acting Chief Executive Officer Anna Williams fca, dcha Music Director and Conductor Koen Kessels Birmingham Royal Ballet Board of Directors Sir David Normington gcb Chair Barry Allen Marverine Cole Anthony Coombs Sandra Crossley Michael Elliott Jane Hackett Shireenah Ingram Jeanetta Laurence obe Christine Ondimu Hemma Patel Councillor Carl Rice Deborah Spence
BALLET STAFF Senior Répétiteur Michael O’Hare Répétiteur Carmen Piqueras Rehearsal Director & Coach Marion Tait Benesh Choreologist / Video Archivist Patricia Tierney DANCERS Principals Yasuo Atsuji Tzu-Chao Chou Mathias Dingman Samara Downs Maternity leave Céline Gittens Momoko Hirata Brandon Lawrence César Morales
Enrique Bejarno Vidal Anna Ciriano Rosanna Ely Ryan Felix Callum Findlay-White Tori Forsyth-Hecken August Generalli Miles Gilliver Josue Gomez Sarria Tessa Hogge Isabella Howard Regan Hutsell Sofia Liñares Hannah Martin Apprentice Eric Pinto Cata Emma Price Matilde Rodrigues Javier Rojas Hamish Scott
Anna Williams fca, dcha Company Secretary
Governors of the Royal Ballet Companies and School Dame Sue Owen Chair Leanne Benjamin am obe Vice-Chair Sir Matthew Bourne obe Anne Bulford obe Hilary S. Carty bma ccmi Lady Alison Deighton Stephen Jefferies Jeanetta Laurence obe Iain Mackay Sir David Normington gcb Derek Purnell Luke Ritter cbe Christopher Rodrigues cbe David Ross Lindsay Tomlinson obe
Rory Mackay Valentin Olovyannikov Jonathan Payn Artistic Enrichment Officer Yaoqian Shang Soloists Laura Day Karla Doorbar Yu Kurihara Max Maslen Lachlan Monaghan Beatrice Parma Yijing Zhang First Artists Reina Fuchigami Haoliang Feng Gus Payne Rachele Pizzillo Alys Shee Daria Stanciulescu
Lennert Steegen Lynsey Sutherland Amelia Thompson Lucy Waine Shuailun Wu Alexander Yap ROYAL BALLET SINFONIA Principal Conductor Paul Murphy Conductor Philip Ellis Guest Conductor Martin Georgiev Constant Lambert Conducting Fellowship Charlotte Politi First Violins Robert Gibbs Leader Vanessa David Amanda Brown Deborah Schlenther Philip Aird Caroline Ferriman
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Alan Taylor Flute Sandra Skipper Piccolo Oboe Maxwell Spiers Cor anglais Clarinets Ian Scott Harry Penny Bassoon Llinos Owen Contra bassoon Horns Andrew Littlemore Neil Mitchell Chris Pointon Trumpets Michael Allen Christopher Deacon Trombone Amos Miller Tuba David Gordon Shute Timpani Grahame King Percussion Kevin Earley Paul Parker Company Pianists Matthew Drury Ross Williams Jeanette Wong
Chief Commercial Officer Paul James BRAND, MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Director of Sales and Marketing Janina Mundy Head of Marketing Kate Howells Marketing Executive – Campaigns Kesha Beaupierre Marketing Executive – Audience Joe Palfrey PR & Media Executive Lauren Morton Creative Digital Producer Tom Rogers Senior Design Executive Lee Armstrong Design Executives Vicki Costin Matt Davis Social Media Executive Tia Cham LEARNING, ENGAGEMENT, ACCESS & PARTICIPATION Director of Learning, Access, Engagement & Participation Pearl Chesterman Head of Creative Learning Lee Fisher Participation Manager Rebecca Brookes
Trusts & Foundations Officer Rhianna Swancott
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Individual Giving Manager Chris Smith
Company Physiotherapists Esther Collacott mcsp srp Khushnum Pastakia mcsp srp
Development Events Manager Hope McGoldrick
Masseur Jason Boyle
Individual Giving & Events Officer Ella Cockerton Corporate Partnerships Officer Emma Thompson
Stage Technicians Paul Fisher-Bazan Tom Reilly Alex Bacciochi Paton Lighting Design Consultant Peter Teigen Head of Lighting Johnny Westall-Eyre Deputy Head of Lighting Andy Wilson Senior Lighting Technicians Alastair Phillips Andy Rumble Lighting Technicians Scott Smith Marcus Trombley Apprentice
Human Resources Director Claire Owen
Executive Producer Abigail Reeve
Finance Manager Kamla Korotane
Head of Costume / Costume Supervisor Elaine Garlick
Senior Human Resources Administrator Sam Howe
Systems & Management Accountant Finance Jocelyn Addlington
Costume Production Coordinator Vanda Hewston
Human Resources Administrator Tania Muthuparakunnel
Finance Officers Deseree GreenawayWilliams Ruth Whelan
Production Costume Cutter & Maker Anna Willetts
Receptionist & Administrator Karen Fisher Business Administration Apprentice Lucy Tranter Health, Safety, Facilities & Risk Manager Oliver Drain Facilities Co-ordinator Glenn Rudge Caretaker Philip Pearsall COMPANY OFFICE
Participation Coordinator Katherine Field
Company Manager Will Mauchline Sabbatical
Engagement Coordinator Hannah MacGregor
Acting Company Manager Tristan Rusdale
Acting Assistant Company Manager Leanne Ward
Senior Manager – Trusts & Foundations
Chief Operating Officer Anna Williams fca, dcha FINANCE & PROJECTS
Engagement Manager Kasia Kraus
Director of Development Matt Freeman
Medical Advisors Bellevue Medical Centre
Senior Stage Technician Steve Hegan
Finance Assistant Charlotte Rowley ORCHESTRA STAFF Orchestra Director John Beadle Orchestra Manager Andrew Bentley TECHNICAL Technical Director Paul Grace Senior Stage Manager Diana Childs Deputy Stage Manager Eliska Robenn Assistant Stage Manager Gracie Adlington
Production Costume Technician Joanna Shilton Touring Costume Manager Shermaine Goucol Costume Technicians Lucy Cook Rebecca Jones Jennifer Priestly Gabrielle Raven Shoe Supervisor Michael Clifford Head of Wigs Lauren FitzGerald Deputy Head of Wigs Fay Johnson Wigs Assistant Lizzie Mcquire
Head of Scenic Presentation Doug Nicholson
CEO / DIRECTOR
Head of Stage Ben Leveson
PA to CEO & Director Jessica Rupert
Deputy Head of Stage Paul Moore
Birmingham Royal Ballet’s repertory is recorded in Benesh Movement Notation by qualified choreologists trained at the Benesh International, 36 Battersea Square, London SW11 3RA
© Ty Singleton.
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