Tag Archive: Gaylene Cummerfield

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.’

Sisters revealed

Birmingham Royal Ballet Principals Gaylene Cummerfield and Carol-Anne Millar are creating the roles of Cinderella’s sisters.

‘Both are great with comedy,’ said David of his choices. ‘I’ve worked with both before – both did E=mc² and Carol-Anne did The Shakespeare Suite – and they were very good to work with. They’ve also both danced in a lot of my other works, so I’m very comfortable working with them for this production. Importantly, I believe they’re also comfortable in demanding character roles like this.’

As David says, the roles of the sisters are demanding, with the Director citing them as ‘easily the biggest, apart from the title role.’ And the scenes that they share with Cinderella [Elisha Willis], and with the stepmother [Marion Tait] – are ones that David is enjoying working on.

‘With those four women together in the studio there’s a great atmosphere, and a professionalism. There’s a real sense that we can make something unique.

‘They’re very intense those scenes, just those four characters together. The stepmother isn’t a massive role in terms of her dancing, but she has an undeniable influence over the whole story. A lot of the story is just these four women together, and outside of the classical material their scenes really are the heart of the piece.’

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