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Read about the evolution of this ballet
Find out more about the Producer of the ballet
Read how Paquita allows the girls to shine after the male-dominated Edward II
Nine Sinatra Songs
How Sinatra inspired the dance
What built the choreographer's reputation?
Read what the critics have said about previous BRB performances of the ballet
Daphnis and Chloë
Find out about the original creative team behind the ballet
Find out about the characters in the ballet
Charmed Life: John Craxton RA
Find out about the artist responsible for the ballet's designs
In the run up to the new season, a number of the ballet staff were asked about which productions they were particularly looking forward to. Paquita was high amongst people's choices, with remarkably similar reasons given.
'There's only one male part in it so it's mainly a female ballet', explains BRB's Ballet Master Alain Dubreuil, 'and I think that the men have been more seen than the women in the past year, so it will be nice for them to be featured.'
Birmingham Royal Ballet's Director David Bintley, responsible for recent new work Cyrano and the return of autumn 2007's dramatic Edward II, has admitted to focusing in his own works on large groups of men rather than women. But he proposes that this is a common trend. 'All through the 19th century the ballets were about women', he considers. 'But from the 20th century, it saw the decline of the narrative ballet and the full-length ballet; when people weren't performing or creating as many. Personally, when I create a work, the men are to the fore, because outside of flocks of swans, and the ubiquitous 'friends' of Coppélia or Lise or Swanilda, it's very difficult to think of why groups of women should be together in modern new pieces. I find it easier to make for corps de ballet of men because I'm usually making them armies or gangs and men do that, don't they? They are much more likely to be in collectives than women unless the women are fairies or swans in fairy-tale based narrative works.'
The programming of this autumn's Paquita, however, addresses this perceived recent imbalance, not only offering a large number of female roles, but also requiring a high quality of dancing from those that perform them.
'I was so thrilled when I heard this was coming back', exclaims BRB's Ballet Mistress Marion Tait. Familiar with the piece from previous performances, and due to rehearse the girls in the Company, Marion knows exactly how taxing the choreography is. 'There's some really hard solos in it', she smiles, obviously looking forward to pushing the women, 'four really hard stonkers!' As an audience member, she is equally appreciative of the work.
'It's very grand, very opulent, and with beautiful work for the corps', she says. 'It brings back very fond memories for me as well, and hopefully Galina Samsova's going to rehearse it with us, which will be nice because it was her production.'
The production work by Galina Samsova - former dancer and teacher with the Company as Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet and creator of a number of classical roles - made an impact with all who saw it. Alain refers to Paquita as 'Galina's ballet', while Henry Menary, BRB's wig master, speaks highly of the first time he saw the piece.
'When Galina Samsova first staged Paquita for the Company, it had a different style from anything I'd seen before' he says. 'It made an impact then and it still sticks in my mind, because – and this is nothing to do with my job, this is purely from watching it – it's just different. To look at photos of the ballet you might just think 'oh it's just pretty tutus', but it's not, it has a completely different style of dance that, at that time it was made, the Company had never done before. I've seen it since and it still stands out.'
Aware of the challenges that the ballet presents, and the expectation of those already enamoured with the piece, Alain is confident that the Company will rise to the occasion. 'Our female dancers are really very, very strong I feel at the moment', he says simply, before expanding, 'If you start plugging gaps with dancers who are not ready, it's not the right policy. You have to nurture them until they are ready to do things properly, and then they can grow. If you put them into roles before then, it is detrimental to their careers, because sometimes they don't do as well, and then they feel low about it, and get anxiety about it. But there's always a right time for dancers, and we pride ourselves here on getting them in at the right time, and into the right roles. We've got such exciting dancers that are coming up at the moment, and there's an awful lot of talent, so it's a good time for the Company.
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