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Production Index

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Beauty and the Beast

The Firebird
Raymonda Act III

The Nutcracker


Enigma Variations
'Still Life' at the Penguin Café

The Two Pigeons

The Dance House
The Dream

David Bintley on the 2008-09 season

Part two: winter

part one | part two | part three | part four | part five | part six

While Beauty and the Beast was hailed by many for its dark, gothic tone, David insists that this is not so unusual for a fairy-tale ballet. Writing off the likes of The Nutcracker as simply twinkly entertainment is doing these pieces a mighty disservice.

'As soon as people watch those Tchaikovsky ballets for the first time they see the depth there as well, because those pieces are that deep, they are that rich. They have a side to them which transcends the fluffy child-like nature of the narrative. That's why The Nutcracker is so successful, because it appeals to children and to the child within us - the child responding to Christmas - but at the same time it goes beyond that, much further beyond that. The whole theme of the sexual awakening of the young girl moving her attention from toys to a real flesh and blood prince is a very adult thing.'

'In Swan Lake, from this fantastical idea, the ballet brings out a metaphor for much deeper and more profound things, things which are left unspoken for the audience to interpret. There are elements which different directors can respond to, and I think that that's why Swan Lake has had such a strong life because it can take on all these different meanings.'

'It's a bit like Shakespeare, because with Shakespeare you can endlessly shift his material through time, or choose which particular facet you look at or what the particular area of focus will be for this year's production. There's so much to look at and I think that that's what people who come to these things are aware of, and that's the appeal of these ballets.'

With so much that a dancer can bring to an individual role, we ask David at what point in the year he starts thinking about prospective new casts.

'The casting is something that I leave until quite a bit later in the year,' David says. 'Because we do Nutcracker so often it becomes one of the easier pieces to cast because you know where people's strengths lie.

'The role changes within the ballet don't actually occur that often,' he ponders, 'so there's the fear that people will get bored of it. That makes it sound easy to fix, like you can just say 'all change' and move everybody about, but it doesn't quite work that way.'

It is unlikely that audiences will ever tire of the Christmas favourite, however, which still remains the highest-selling ballet in Birmingham Royal Ballet's repertory. But it is not just its popularity with audiences that earns it such a regular slot in the Company's programming. 'Our dancers want to do these big roles,' explains David. 'And these classics, they're important, and they're part of what we do.'

Click here to read the third part of this interview
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