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Slaughter on Tenth Avenue rehearsal
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Brouillards studio rehearsals
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Birmingham Royal Ballet's annual tour to smaller venues in the South West of England offers new audiences a chance to see Britain's premiere touring ballet company dancing some of its keynote ballets. This year's tour features performances of Brouillards, The Dance House and Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.
Alexander Campbell interview
Alexander Campbell, First Soloist, is discussing the preparation that has gone into the current tour of the South West. The Company has recently returned from dancing Swan Lake in the USA, and before that were touring The Sleeping Beauty around the UK. Since the end of February the Company have only had four weeks without a performance. So rehearsals had to begin long ago.
'We realised that it was going to be a bit tough at this time,' says Alexander. 'It's a full programme with a lot of dancers, and I think most people are involved in at least two of the three works. David [Bintley, Director] made sure we got a lot of opportunities to try these pieces and get an idea of them so we were well prepared for these shows. Brouillards, we actually learned before Christmas.'
Brouillards is just one of three one-act ballets that the Company is performing on the tour. 'It's a funny little piece, made up of lots of little moments like a series of short stories. Some are only two or three minutes long, and in many cases you just establish a mood and then move on to the next one. So it's a challenge as a dancer, and interesting to see because it must be about 40 years old now. It's nice to do something that you could call heritage work.'
The second piece, The Dance House, was created by David Bintley himself. Luckily Alex has danced the piece before, and so was not having to learn it from scratch this time. 'I'm dancing one of my favourite roles in it,' he says 'and I was always confident that I'd be able to get back into it quickly. We had a few rehearsals during a two-week break in the Sleeping Beauty tour, and it came back easily enough.'
The piece was inspired by the death of a friend of the Director, and seeks to honour his anarchic spirit, at the same time exploring the metaphor of the 'dance of death'. 'It's full of great moments', says Alex. 'The first and third movements are lively, but with some dark moments in each - macabre is a good word. Then the second movement is just full of emotion.'
The third and final piece is proving tough, however. 'I've actually just come from a rehearsal for Slaughter on Tenth Avenue,' he explains, 'and I hadn't realised just how tiring it is!' Until last week rehearsals had comprised primarily of individual moments from the piece. Now the dancers come to perform them all together, it's proving exhausting stuff. 'We did the Second pas de deux straight into the tap solo, then straight into the finale, and it's hard work!'
Probably the hardest part of Slaughter is dealing with the play that the characters perform within the piece. 'It's difficult really. There's some really ridiculous things going on and you need to get across that know it's ridiculous and that your character's not genuinely behaving in that way. It's the story within the story. That'll be interesting to have to do. But it's great fun to dance.'
The tour itself will be taxing. 'Compared to our other tours we have a shorter length of time in each theatre. We usually only do three shows over two days, which is actually harder. We usually just have a general run through in the afternoon on the day of the opening night, then two shows on the next and travel the day after. It's a test to adapt to a new theatre in a very short space of time, to quickly establish landmarks in the auditorium from which to judge your spaces. So you've got to be pretty adaptable and quick on your feet.
'The theatres are also comparatively smaller, which is another challenge. These are all pieces that were created for larger stages. The Dance House we did on the main stage in Birmingham last year for example, so it can certainly fill a big stage, but we have to make sure we can perform it in a slightly smaller spaces without sacrificing any of the quality.'
While this tour has involved a great deal of work so far, once they hit the road there will be opportunities to relax. 'I've not been to Cheltenham before, but I've been to Poole and Truro on previous tours', he says. 'We had a day off in Poole last time, and a big group of us went to Bournemeouth and went down to the beach and just had a really fun day. We took this big boat out and had a massive game of putput on the forecourt, and just had loads of fun.
'We perform at both ends of the country on these tours, and usually the rep for one end requires slightly fewer dancers. Because there's less of you, you tend to hang out together a a group. But when there's more of you it's harder to organise everybody. This time around the larger group is coming to the South West, so we'll have to see who it goes. But my usual flatmate and touring buddy, [Company artist] Oliver Till is also coming along, so that's cool.'
As well as having someone to chat to on the long coach trips between venues, Oliver's presence in the South also provides Alexander with a practical advantage: 'We all share rooms and flats on tours, and with Oliver I don't have to worry about sharing someone who snores! There's nothing worse on tour than that moment of 'aw, you're a really good mate but you snore!'
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25-26 May 2010
The Lighthouse, Poole
28-29 May 2010
Hall for Cornwall
4-5 June 2010