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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.

Cinderella returning to the stage in Winter 2012

Birmingham Royal Ballet will be dancing Cinderella at Birmingham Hippodrome again this winter, 21 November-9 December.

Choreographer and Director David Bintley said:

“I’m very much looking forward to Cinderella returning. It was a such a runaway success at is premiere, before being televised almost immediately, that I hardly had time to stand back and take stock. The difficulty with making any new piece is that you spend so much time working so closely on it that it can be hard to view it dispassionately. So I’m really looking forward to this revival, and getting the chance to look at it again with some distance. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that the public will embrace it in the same way they did for its first run!”

You can watch a video introduction to the 2012-13 season here:

Tickets are on sale now so book now to avoid missing out!

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.

Cinderella on DVD!

The recording that was broadcast on the BBC over Christmas 2010 has been released on a DVD, and we received our first copies in the office a few weeks ago.

If you’d like to buy the DVD, you can do so (region 1) either through the Company shop by clicking here, or via Amazon by clicking here.

You can also buy Cinderella on Blu-ray through the Company shop by clicking here.

The invitation to the Prince’s ball

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.

Prokofiev’s score

During the summer of 2010 – while much of the choreography for Cinderella was yet to be completed – David Bintley discussed Prokofiev’s score for the ballet.

‘I did a radio show a few years ago,’ he noted, ‘for which my seat and microphone were positioned within the orchestra. It was a concert of music for dance, and one of the things that the musicians played during was a suite from Cinderella. Even if I hadn’t been such a fan of the music – which of course I was – the impact of such a performance would have converted me instantly. It was a thrilling occasion.’

‘It’s a remarkable score,’ he explained, ‘because while it’s built around the framework of the 19th-century ballets, with the requisite waltzes and variations, there’s an additional complexity to even the simplest looking solos.’

‘In addition, it’s a score of huge extremes. While most of the Tchaikovsky scores encompass a single idea – Grandeur for Sleeping Beauty, doom and foreboding for Swan LakeCinderella has this extraordinary range of emotion. It has everything from heart-stopping pathos to really quite crude, almost Soviet humour. And at the root of everything there’s always a little kick that knocks it off-kilter; nothing’s ever four square like a Tchaikovsky variation. And I find that fascinating. As a choreographer, and as a performer, you’ve got to be alert all the time.’

Interactive timeline

You can now get an idea of the length of time that Cinderella took to put together with our interactive timeline!

Click on the image below to open up the timeline, which is divided into seasons, each showing our Birmingham headquarters at a different time of year. It works using the Google Maps interface, so you’ll be able to zoom in and out and scroll left and right as you would do with an online map.

Select each of the red teardrop markers to open balloons containing images, videos and diary entries showing what was happening in the building during each of the seasons leading up to the premiere. We’ve also included Spring 2011, so we can post updates relating to this year’s final touring performances of Cinderella at the London Coliseum, 29 March-2 April (NEXT WEEK!)

Click on the image below to get started:

Cinderella designs on display in Cardiff

Some of John Macfarlane’s designs for Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production of Cinderella have been included in a major new exhibition by The Society of British Theatre Designers at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff!

Entitled Transformation and Revelation, the exhibition aims to provide an insight into how an idea becomes a design, and how it then reaches the stage in a realistic form. Around 200 exhibitors are contributing work.

John Macfarlane’s materials – selected by the designer himself – include the original modelbox for Cinderella, and drawings of many of the characters.

Transformation and Revelation is open weekdays from 9.30am to 8pm and weekends between 10am and 5pm between March 18 and April 16 2011. Entrance to this exhibition is free to the general public.

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.

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