Tag Archive: David Bintley


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.

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.’

In mid-2009, David Bintley discussed his dual responsibilities as both a Choreographer and Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet. ‘I use my pieces to bring people along’, he said, ‘to support the dancers’ development.’

With Cinderella going on tour this month to Salford and Plymouth, we asked how he hopes his latest work has stimulated the Company.

‘It’s a ballet with a lot of roles for women, rather than the men,’ David says, ‘Cinderella herself is a nice role for the girls because it’s quite varied – not only technically, because they’re working barefoot and en pointe, and with big set pieces in the second act – but also because of the long passages where they’re just alone by themselves. They have to create and maintain a character that really endears itself to the audience, who have got to empathise with Cinderella, otherwise the show doesn’t work. It’s really carried on her shoulders.

‘Then there are a lot of subsidiary characters like the sisters, which are comedy roles, and there aren’t a lot of those for women in ballet. I feel that these characters work: there’s a freedom in them that allows the dancers to add their own personality, but there’s a good solid framework and the audience gets the jokes.

‘Then there are the Seasons, which are challenging solos full of difficult steps. They’re deliberately difficult, I didn’t want to make them easy. And I’ve tried to get a number of the girls into those roles from Principals to Artists. We’ve already had Nao [Sakuma] as Autumn, and Natasha [Oughtred] as Spring, and Elisha [Willis] as Winter. All three of these are also dancing Cinderella in other shows. But I’ve also cast Artists like Yvette [Knight] and Kristen [McGarrity] and Delia [Mathews], all of whom I wanted to challenge. And they’ve responded brilliantly.’

Mixing up partnerships

Five different pairs of dancers have taken on the roles of Cinderella and the Prince during the Birmingham season. But a number of well-established partnerships will not be appearing together, having been matched up with alternative opposites.

‘There are so many factors that you’ve got to take into consideration’, says Director David Bintley of casting Cinderella and the Prince.

‘Not all the Principals are dancing the role of Cinderella, and so their usual partners needed alternatives. Matt [Lawrence] dances with Gaylene [Cummerfield] a lot, but she was creating the part of one of Cinderella’s sisters, and so he needed putting with someone else.

‘As it was a new piece, I also felt it was an opportunity to experiment. While Cinderella and the Prince have a couple of very important pas de deux, for large portions of the story Cinderella is by herself. Because of this I felt we could take a risk and change some of the partnerships to avoid getting into a predictable area.

‘A lot of partnerships are based upon the fact that they have historically danced particular pieces together, and whenever those pieces come back into the repertory you’re hesitant to break up a successful pairing. Each time we do classical pieces like Romeo and Juliet, for instance, Chi [Cao] and Nao [Sakuma] dance together, because they have a similar temperament and a similar refinement of technique. In a narrative work however, there are other priorities, and so you need partnerships that will bring something new out of one another, to find a balance of technique and performance.’

"Now the work begins"

The morning after Cinderella opened at Birmingham Hippodrome, Choreographer David Bintley remarked: ‘Now the work begins’. As the ballet now enters its third and final week in the Midlands, he explains:

‘There’s such a lot of pressure and stress involved in getting a new ballet in front of an audience’, David admits. ‘It doesn’t matter what critics write in the papers, or online; it doesn’t matter what I think; it doesn’t matter what my mum thinks, or what the Company thinks. All that matters is what the audience thinks – that is absolutely the acid test. If they don’t like it, then you’ve failed.

‘And until you’ve witnessed their responses you just never know. I still don’t feel we know yet – even the first night isn’t an absolute indicator. That only comes when the piece has had its ups and downs, and it’s been performed with the odds against you, in front of a damp, cold, snowed-on audience, who lost half their enthusiasm for a night out in the traffic jam on the way to the theatre. It’s like a friendship or a relationship really. You can’t really test its validity and its strength until it’s been pushed about and seen in its best light but also in its worst light. So this whole first run will still be a period of uncertainty for me, with all the different casts and all the different audiences. It’s only at the very end of the season that I’ll be able to go: “phew!”’

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!

Joy vs turmoil

In Cinderella, the hardships that the heroine endures are what give the ending its power, as she escapes the isolation of the squalid kitchen and the cruelty of the ‘wicked’ stepmother. Where some of David’s previous narrative ballets (such as Cyrano and Edward II) have seen a character rise and fall, Cinderella sees charts the protagonist’s steady rise as she rediscovers hope.

But in the world of ballet, happy endings (The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker) can seem outnumbered by tragedies (Romeo and Juliet, Giselle, Swan Lake). Choreographically, is joy as interesting as grief or turmoil? David Bintley believes so.

‘I don’t think that joy is a permanent state,’ he says when we put the question to him. ‘It is something which is very, very brief. It’s in fleeting moments between everything else in life; our daily episodes of work, distraction, interest, fun, whatever. Contentment is more common, calmness or acceptance, yes; but joy to me is something that is above and beyond, it’s a crest of a moment, a climax. And it’s something that is probably more aspired to than achieved.’

‘But it’s certainly something that Cinderella attains, and is possibly all the more powerful because she daren’t have hoped to. And choreographically, I would say that beauty and serenity are joy in movement, and so of course are interesting.

‘The suggestion on stage at the end of the piece is not of a tangible place, but more of the Prince and Cinderella together, preserved in a state of bliss. It’s the end of the darkness, the moment of the sun rising after the night. Nothing matters but those two people in this one particular moment of joy, where she’s escaped all of the hardships of the world that she’s known before.’

David A. Finn

Lighting Designer David A. Finn has joined the creative team working on Cinderella. He has worked with Designer John Macfarlane before, including on Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker.

‘He has strong ideas about how he wants to accomplish the necessary effects, and he’s designing the lighting rig, working closely with our own lighting team’, says Director David Bintley.

Some of the choreographer’s most recent works have incorporated light as a key feature of the production design, such as the dramatic backdrop of bulbs and laser-effect outlines in E=mc², or The Orpheus Suite‘s movable wall of LEDs.

‘We’re working in a different kind of way this time around’ he says. ‘This time the design and the light have been conceived as one thing. John uses a lot of these plastic backcloths that allow light to pass through, so they have already begun to dictate the lighting specifications. And very early in our own discussions, he came up with this ‘Close Encounters’ effect. There’s a moment when a light comes down the chimney, for example, so the set has been designed with these sort of lighting effects in mind.’

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