Birmingham Royal Ballet's Director David Bintley has commented on the increased levels of fitness in today's dancers, praising facilities like the Company's own Jerwood centre.
The comments were made as part of a discussion on the Company's forthcoming programme, Stravinsky: the real deal, which features three works: Petrushka, Le Baiser de la fée and Card Game.
David first explained the personal significance of Petrushka, calling the title role 'one of, if not my finest hour as a dancer. It's a marvellous ballet, and there's no denying though that at the heart of it is this one performance, If you haven’t got a good Petrushka, then the ballet can sink very quickly. But I think that we have a number of guys that will really do it well.'
'Likewise, Card Game centres around the figure of Joker. It's a great role, and again, it's a role which I actually learnt, training very hard for because it's such a hard role, but due to circumstances beyond our control the whole tour was cancelled, so I never actually danced it! Alain [Dubreuil, Ballet Master] used to do it and he was very funny in it and Michael [O'Hare, Assistant Ballet Master] of course did it last time.'
'I would love to have done it, but I couldn't even imagine doing it now, because while it's a great role at the centre of a great, fun piece, it's so demanding that even training for it nearly killed me. I had my head in the sink being sick on a couple of occasions, because it's such a killer. It's sort of like doing stomach crunches for 40 minutes and trying not to pass out'
David then praised the standard of fitness in dancers today: 'Of course, everything is different now. Dancers are better technically, they’re fitter, there’s a greater awareness of diet, and of fitness levels in general. This isn't necessarily to do with just dancing, but with having all of the facilities that they have here. We didn’t have any of that. We didn’t have those facilities and we didn’t have that understanding, and while of course artistically standards were just as high, the physical standards were just lower.'
Birmingham Royal Ballet dancers receive treatment at the Jerwood Centre for the prevention and treatment of dance injuries, housed in the Birmingham Hippodrome complex alongwith Birmingham Royal Ballet's offices and studios. The Jerwood Centre is run by Birmingham Royal Ballet's medical team, including physiotherapists, masseurs and a body conditioning instructor. The Centre contains state-of-the-art diagnostic and fitness equipment, including a hydrotherapy pool where dancers can work safely on their injuries while being supported by the water.
The dancers receive regular check-ups at the centre, to monitor any potential physical weaknesses, and to strengthen their muscles. 'That’s the difference,' says David, 'Dancers now are much stronger and in terms of stamina, are now able to take on more.'
Below is a picture of the Jerwood Centre.