Category: Pictures

Rehearsals for Cinderella began fully last week, with preparation taking place in all four of our Birmingham studios. As discussed by Delia Mathews here last week, Monday saw five principal couples share a studio to go through a duet between Cinderella and the Prince. Company Notator Denis Bonner was also present, armed with a copy of the score and an archive recording of the ballet for referral purposes (as shown above).

For those who had danced the roles in 2010/11, it was a return for familiar territory, while others were learning the choreography for the first time. In some cases, couples had simply not danced with one another before, and so it was a chance to establish a working partnership.

As shown in these photos, the atmosphere was one of support, as the intensive preparations began.

Click each thumbnail to expand the image:

Cinderella returns to Birmingham Hippodrome, 21 November-9 December 2012. Click here to book your seats now.

The painted costumes of Cinderella

For the costumes worn throughout Cinderella, John Macfarlane created a suite of hand-painted designs. The challenge was then to create physical items of clothing as richly detailed as his illustrations.

These never-before-published photos, from the Wardrobe department’s own reference folder, reveal some of the ways in which this was done.

In many cases, John broke down the surface of the costumes into smaller pieces, drawn with feathered edges to mimic the brush strokes of his designs. In the photos above you can see a top worn by one of the men in the ballroom scene in Act II broken down in this way.

The outline of each of these shapes was copied onto a master sheet, which John then hand-painted in rich inks that matched his designs. You can see an example of this below. Once complete, the sheets were photographed, and printed onto fabric.

Each individual piece was then cut out by hand, resulting in a jigsaw puzzle of brushstrokes. These pieces were hemmed, and stitched into place on the costumes. The Wardrobe department’s own reference folder contains additional examples of these pieces, one of which you can see here, along with a finished example:

You can also see close-ups of the outfit in this costumes gallery.

As well as allowing us to physically realise the depth of John’s designs, it also saves time when producing replica costumes for the difference dancers who will dance each role over the three-week season. The technique also proved invaluable when creating the costume for the Autumn fairy – a tutu made from dozens of leaves in deep autumnal colours!

Here you can see an example of one of the individual sections produced for another tutu worn in Act II, as well as the final costume:

Cinderella returns to Birmingham Hippodrome, 21 November-9 December 2012. Click here to book your seats now.

Delia Mathews interview

Having finished the 2012 autumn tour, Birmingham Royal Ballet returned to our Midlands HQ on Monday, for a full week of Cinderella rehearsals.

Over the course of the winter season, seven different ballerinas will take to the stage as Cinderella, each with a different male dancer partnering them as the handsome prince.

One of them is First Artist Delia Mathews, who has already made her debut this autumn as the lead in Swan Lake (‘I really enjoyed it!’) and was among five Principal couples who on Monday shared a studio rehearsal.

‘We had a few rehearsals during the recent tour’, says Delia. ‘We had one in Cardiff last week, between the triple bill and Swan Lake. To be honest my mind was fairly full of Swan Lake, so it didn’t really go in, but at least it was a chance to try things out. We can focus properly now.’

The dancers are been a great support to each other at this early stage, with the shared rehearsal providing a chance to learn from one another.

‘That’s been great, because there’s a lot to learn’, confirms Delia. ‘It’s been especially good having the chance to work with Elisha and Iain, because they created those roles, so they know them inside out. They know exactly what David’s thought processes were when the characters were first made, so it’s been great having their support.’

In these photos, taken during Monday’s rehearsal, you can see Iain and Elisha helping Delia and partner Tyrone Singleton with one of the lifts. Also featured is Ballet Master Wolfgang Stollwitzer.

‘A lot of it is about co-ordination between partners,’ Delia explains, ‘as well as balance. If you don’t end up right above his head, it’s much harder for your partner to support you.’

‘The guys usually tell you not to try to help too much, and to just let them lift you. If you jump even a second earlier than they’re expecting, then they can end up having to catch you on your way down and lift you back up, rather than just push you into the air in one movement.’

This is the first time that Delia has danced with Tyrone Singleton. ‘I’ve heard he’s a great partner,’ she says, ‘so I’m really looking forward to working with him this season.’

But her work on Cinderella does not end with the title role. Across the three-week run in Birmingham, Delia will be playing a total of five characters. ‘I’m dancing Cinderella, Winter, one of the Stars, one of the Eight Ladies (the guests at the Prince’s Ball) and the Fairy Godmother! It’s a lot to learn, and in not much time, but I’m excited.’

In the story, Winter is one of four fairies, each representing a different season, who help the Fairy Godmother to transform Cinderella for the ball. It will be a particularly special role for Delia, having created the character for the original 2010 production.

It will also give her a chance to help those new to the role, in the same way that Elisha has supported Delia herself. And of course it also means that she is already familiar with the choreography.

‘It’s really nice to go back to something that’s already in your muscle memory, so you can work on it further’, she says. ‘It’s amazing how quickly it comes flooding back. When you put the music on, your body just does it!’

Click here to book for Cinderella now.

In Cinderella, The Four Seasons are fairy-like characters who are conjured up by the Fairy Godmother as she transforms the sooty young girl into her ballgown.

Back in 2010 when Cinderella was first created, David explained that they were four of the final costumes to be designed. When we spoke to him about the characters in August, he’d not yet seen two of them at all. Such was his confidence in Designer John Macfarlane, however, that he was not concerned.

Now that the ballet has been performed in full, we can to compare John’s original designs with photography of the finished costumes. Here are the sketches and paintings for each, alongside images from the final show:

Cinderella returns to Birmingham Hippodrome, 21 November-9 December 2012. Click here to book your seats now.

Dancing with the Stars

One of the visual inspirations for Cinderella was the night sky. The Guests at the Prince’s ball dress in rich costumes the colour of twilight, and the ceiling of the ballroom itself fades into twinkling stars.

The Stars also feature at the end of Act I, played by a stagefull of ballerinas in glittering tutus who accompany the Fairy Godmother’s transformation of Cinderella into her ballgown.

The costumes were designed by John Macfarlane, who also designed Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker.

Here you can see some of John’s original designs for the tutus (Click each photo to enlarge)

From John’s designs, the tutus were made by hand, including all of the decoration. Here you can see photographs of the Stars’ costumes being created ahead of the 2010 premiere, as well as a shot of them being worn in the wings during a performance.

When not in use, the tutus are hung upside-down in order to preserve the bounce(!) For example, the tutus in the picture below are worn by Cinderella in the ballroom scene, and at first glance look relatively plain, as the silver patterning seen on stage is hidden underneath.

While Birmingham Royal Ballet are away on tour this week, a skeleton wardrobe staff have remained back at our Thorp Street HQ. They are currently checking over the star tutus and all of the rest of the costumes to ensure that no repairs need to be made ahead of the new performances of Cinderella this winter.

Click here to book for Cinderella now.

Cinderella’s kitchen

Acts I and III of Cinderella show the title character in the sooty basement kitchen where she is kept by her wicked stepmother.

Back in 2010 when the ballet was first being created, we had a number of peeks at the set prior to curtain up.

Back in March 2010, shots of the original modelbox offered the hint of how it would look. Choreographer David Bintley also revealed at the time that the kitchen would at first appear quite small:

‘John [Macfarlane, designer] has been quite brave in that he has deliberately designed Cinderella’s kitchen to be small. I’ve seen versions of Cinderella set in some of the largest kitchens I’ve ever seen in my life, with vast prosceniums and suchlike. But John said no, it must be credible, like a real kitchen.’

In an extended modelbox video, we also saw how the kitchen would melt away during the magical transformation scene.

The level of detail in the final set was extraordinary. At first we didn’t realise that the sink and surrounding wall in this preview photo were actually part of the set when it was sent up from the warehouse where it was being built!

It was only when the production made it onto the stage, however, that we got a chance to see just how impressive this set – one of a number used throughout the ballet – actually was. Here you can see for yourself, in these photographs from stage rehearsals of the full production:

See it for yourself this winter at Birmingham Hippodrome. Click here to book now for Cinderella.

2010 vs 2012

Cinderella opens again at Birmingham Hippodrome on 21 November 2012 – in only 43 days’ time! During this week in 2010, when the production was first created, choreographer David Bintley had only recently begun working with large groups of the corps de ballet, having previously concentrated on the principal characters.

‘It’s a very different dynamic when you’ve got 40 people in a room, compared to just one or two’, he said at the time.

‘I’m looking round the room to see who is picking upon the idea and focusing upon them. If I’m working with eight couples, for example, one couple will be more forthcoming, or do something slightly different, and I’ll tell the rest of the room to follow their lead.’

One of the busiest scenes naturally takes place at the Prince’s ball, where the dancers sweep across the stage in rich costumes the colour of twilight. Here you can see photographs from the finished production, including the scene pictured above in early studio rehearsals!

Click here to book now for Cinderella at Birmingham Hippodrome and see the magic live on stage.

The ‘Dumpy’ costume.

Carol-Anne Millar as DumpyIan on Facebook asked us about the ‘Dumpy’ costume, and what stopped us making the character even fatter.

He wondered if there were issues of manoeuverability for the dancer playing the part, which is indeed one contributing factor, as was a desire to move away from the pantomimic tone of previous productions of the story. The characters deserved to be laughed at, but they had to retain a realism in order for the threat that they posed to the heroine to be believable.

David himself explained another factor however. ‘There wasn’t a way of making their hands or the heads any fatter, so if we’d made the bodies bigger and bigger and bigger, eventually the character would have looked ridiculously out of proportion. We can pad every other part of the suit, but not the hands and especially not the head.

Here’s another chance to see one of David’s earliest video diaries, recorded nearly a year ago, in which he discusses the roles of the sisters.

With the Cinderella tour now over, the sets, props and costumes have been put into storage. This gave us a chance to grab you a close-up of a prop that will until now only have been seen from afar: the letter that Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters receive inviting them to the Prince’s ball!

The original design for the invitation was composed and hand-painted by John Macfarlane, and from this master copy duplicates were made for the various performances throughout the tour.

New poster artwork

With the show having opened at Birmingham Hippodrome we’ve now got a wealth of production images, as you’ve already seen. This of course means that we’ve been able to produce a new poster design for the remaining Cinderella performances in London at the end of March/start of April.

Here you can see the newly designed poster, featuring the heroine in her carriage and the Fairy Godmother waving her off to the Prince’s palace. We’ve included a few more images along the bottom showing other scenes too.

We’ve also been able to add a few more stars to the sky above her head – specifically in the top left of the poster(!)

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