Tag Archive: Momoko Hirata


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.

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.’

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