Category: Videos

Director’s commentary – the Stars

While choreographing Cinderella throughout 2010, David Bintley recorded a number of studio sequences on his smartphone. These allowed him to review progress each evening, as well as during the summer break.

Here you can see some of this material for the very first time, along with footage shot by the Company Choreologist for archive purposes, and material from one of the very first full stage rehearsals, shot just days before the premiere.

David has also recorded an exclusive commentary for the sequence, which shows the Stars who appear to escort Cinderella to the Prince’s ball:

Birmingham Royal Ballet dances Cinderella at Birmingham Hippodrome, until 9 December 2012. Click here to book your seats now.

During the creation of Cinderella in 2010, we posted a selection of videos showing the work that goes into bringing such a major new production to the stage, as well as sneak previews of the ballet.

With the show back on stage at Birmingham Hippodrome next week, we’ve looked back at some of our favourite individual moments from these videos, some of which you may have missed the first time around!

1. Tiny cardboard dancers

One of David’s first Cinderella video diaries provided an insight not just into the forthcoming production, but into the process of creating all full-length ballets.

Featuring Designer John Macfarlane’s exquisite 1/25 scale model of the set, the video allowed us to see what Cinderella’s kitchen looked like in Act I. However a cutaway shot revealed a fantastic cluster of additional figures, cut from cardboard, hinting at more heavily-populated scenes at the Prince’s ball. At this early stage, they were an exciting extra glimpse of things to come, even if the characters were dwarfed by a mug of tea…

Skip to 00:37 to see the figures.

2. We accidentally film David accidentally filming us

Some moments of footage we planned, and some we captured by accident.

Back in the summer of 2010, we accompanied David to one of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s warehouses, to see parts of Cinderella’s kitchen for the first time. David would later be recording a video diary explaining the intricacies of the set, so we wanted to capture some appropriate footage of it. With David also recording his own reference materials on his smartphone, we were keen to remain in the background.

Skip to 01:17, however, when we pan around the set only to find ourselves standing face-to-face with David, doing exactly the same thing…

3. John Macfarlane’s shoes

John Macfarlane proved a fantastic host when we joined him at the Royal Opera House workshops to see him working on the full-sized cloths for Cinderella. Covered in paint, he explained how they were used in layers to filter different levels of light to give the impression of a night sky.

The scale of the work that John was undertaking to paint those cloths by hand was remarkable, and over the morning he had become speckled in thousands of drops of blue and purple paint. While his hands were the most heavily covered, we loved his flecked footwear!

Skip to 01:00 to see John’s shoes:


This video diary was recorded just a few days before the premiere. David reports on a weekend of rehearsals that had gone from bad (“catastrophic is a good word”) to good (“I wrote a list out this morning of things that were worrying me and it was… not too long!”).

But the highlight for us is near the end, after he explains that he’s now off to try on animal heads. Reports have reached him that those playing the frogs and mice and lizards, that are transformed into Cinderella’s entourage for the ball, are having trouble seeing through their masks.

Skip to 01:41 to see for yourself, when the camera shoots from inside a Mouse’s head:

5. A montage of unseen material

We wondered if David would have the energy to record his thoughts the morning after the premiere, or if the workload that led up to that point would leave him in need of a lie-in. But the following day he was back, with camera in hand, and the relief that it had all come together was visible on his face.

Another highlight, however, was the selection of bonus shots of the production process that crept up throughout the video. Included in a montage of clips shown halfway through were the stunning modelbox of the Prince’s ballroom, sun-drenched studios full of waltzing dancers and footage of Marion Tait in rehearsals that David himself had shot on his iphone.

Skip to 01:01 to see for yourself:

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

Seven Cinderellas

This year Birmingham Royal Ballet will perform Cinderella 23 times at Birmingham Hippodrome. A total of seven dancers are currently preparing to dance the lead role, to spread the demanding workload evenly throughout the Company.

Here’s an introduction to our seven Cinderellas, along with notes on where you may have seen them before…

Elisha Willis

Elisha originally worked with David Bintley to create the role of Cinderella back in 2010, and was featured in the BBC broadcast of the ballet. She has danced the lead female role in a number of David’s pieces, including Edward II, The Orpheus Suite, Cyrano and Hobson’s Choice. David describes Elisha as having ‘a fearless technique’. Here you can see a video diary recorded by the Director during the creation of Cinderella, including footage of Elisha in the title role at approximately the 1 minute mark.

Nao Sakuma

Another Principal dancer with Birmingham Royal Ballet, Japan-born Nao is a virtuoso calssical performer. She has danced every major ballet in the Company’s repertory, and appeared as Cinderella during the production’s first season. She is a regular performer at the annual ArtsFest in Birmingham’s Centenary Square, and well as Gala events world-wide. Here you can see her in studio rehearsals for Le Corsaire, with Chi Cao:

Natasha Oughtred

A wonderful classical dancer, Natasha has worked with David in both narrative ballets (Far From the Madding Crowd, Sylvia) and abstract work (The Dance House, Galanteries). She returns to the role of Cinderella, which she danced throughout the premiere season, including Birmingham Royal Ballet’s last performance of the show in April 2011 in London. David has praised Natasha’s affinity for the ‘English’ school of ballet, as well as her versatility as a dancer.

Jenna Roberts

This marks Jenna’s first year as Principal, having been promoted at the end of last season. She may well be recognisable even to non-theatre going audiences, having appeared in the Channel 4 documentary Ballet Hoo! In the programme, she was one of only a handful of professional dancers who joined a group of young people to perform Kenneth MacMillan’s production of Romeo and Juliet. Jenna’s sister, Callie, is also a dancer with the Company, and will coincidentally be taking on the role of one of Cinderella’s cruel siblings for some performances!

Momoko Hirata

For the 2010 premiere, Momoko created the role of Spring, one of four nymph-like characters conjured up by Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother. Having left the Company to dance in Europe in early 2011, we’re delighted that she has rejoined us in time for Cinderella’s return. While she will be reprising the role of Spring, in other performances she will be dancing the role of Cinderella. Having just made an acclaimed debut as Odette/Odile in this autumn’s performance of Swan Lake, Momoko has proven herself a strong leading actress. In the clip below you can see her dancing the role of the Princess in David Bintley’s Aladdin, which received its UK premiere in 2013.

Maureya Lebowitz

Maureya only joined Birmingham Royal Ballet in 2011, but has already appeared in a number of high-profile roles, including the doomed Fanny in David Bintley’s Far From the Madding Crowd. During this year’s International Dance Festival Birmingham, she was part of a group of dancers who worked with US-based Choreographer Jessica Lang on a new ballet, Lyric Pieces. The Company subsequently toured the piece to London, where Maureya was praised by the national press. This video, shot during the first week of Cinderella rehearsals, shows Maureya and fellow lead Delia Mathews (see below) sharing a studio to run through a solo from Act I of the production. In the scene, Cinderella dances barefoot in the kitchen she calls home.

Delia Mathews

Another of the original cast for Cinderella, Delia worked with David Bintley to create the Character of Winter, summoned by the Fairy Godmother to usher the heroine to the ball. While Delia will be returning to the role, she will also be dancing the role of Cinderella. As if that were not enough, some audiences will also see her playing a guest at the Prince’s Ball, a waltzing Star AND the Fairy Godmother. Having also just made her debut as Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, we’re not envying Delia her rehearsal schedule at the moment! Here you can see Delia in studio rehearsals for last summer’s performances of Elite Syncopations.

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

New Cinderella trailer!

Birmingham Royal Ballet performs Cinderella at Birmingham Hippodrome, 21 November – 9 December. You can see the gorgeous new trailer for the show below, and Click here to book your tickets now!

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.

Backstage with John Macfarlane

When Cinderella was broadcast on the BBC, the intervals featured exclusive backstage footage, along with interviews with many of the creative team. Here you can see a short excerpt in which John Macfarlane discusses his designs, and oversees the dancers trying on the full frog and lizard costumes!

With thanks to Glass Slipper Productions.

Cinderella technical preparations

The video diaries that David recorded in the weeks leading up to the premiere of Cinderella often featured portions of time-lapse footage showing the technical teams from Birmingham Royal Ballet and Birmingham Hippodrome in stage preparations. With the production starting it’s UK tour in Salford tonight, we’re happy to present a longer edit, showing more of the techical work that took place!

Cinderella opened last week at Birmingham Hippodrome, to a sell-our crowd who warmly displayed their enthusiasm for the glittering new production. The following morning, David Bintley recorded this video diary:

David's video diary: Three days left!

Here’s a new video diary, recorded this morning by Cinderella Choreographer and Company Director David Bintley. In it, he explains the progress made over the weekend, and how he’s feeling as we approach Wednesday’s premiere!

David's video diary: One week to go!

Here’s a new video diary recorded by David Bintley earlier in the week!

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