Feature

Dual Controls

David Bintley discusses his dual roles of Birmingham Royal Ballet's Director and resident choreographer, and how each influences the other.

'When I'm looking at a narrative, I'm usually trying to find a big challenge for the leading dancers,' says David Bintley, at the time overseeing rehearsals for his own Cyrano, which opened this week in Birmingham. 'I'm looking for a character challenge and a physical challenge. To create a role that will stimulate every aspect of the dancer.'

'If you look at truly great roles like Odette/Odile in Swan Lake – what a challenge something like that is! And in a more modern way, I'm trying to create roles that provide that kind of push, that are interesting and demanding, and desirable to those performing them.'

The Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet is a regular choreographer of new works, with Bintley ballets being created for three of the four most recent seasons. Dancers often cite the opportunity of working with David as a reason for joining the Company.

When asked about his dual role, David explains, 'Having a choreographer as Director means that the approach of the Company is different. We look at everything as being creative, even if it's the existing classics. I feel that as a dancer, if you're to acquire a true understanding of those old works, then you have to approach them in the way that they were first approached.'

'Swan Lake was once a new work – the performers had to think "what is this role about? How do I portray this character?"'

'For me, if you're creating a role on the stage then you have to explore every aspect of that character, you have to be inside that character. I'm not just talking about acting, I'm talking about considering how that character would perform each individual step. If you regularly create or perform new characters in new pieces, then you get into a very explorative mindset that can only enhance your approach to traditional roles.'

As well as the dancers' artistry benefitting from regularly working on new piece, David feels his combined responsibility gives his choreography additional purpose.

'As a choreographer you benefit from the relationship with the Company because it acts as your anchor. There is a reason for you to create, rather than just to make a living. For instance, I'll make pieces that will compliment the work of other choreographers in a programme. It provides the variety that the Company needs.'

'But more importantly I make pieces for the people that are with us at the time – I use my pieces to bring people along, to support the dancers' development.'

'Sometimes I will tailor my choreography to the strengths of an individual. They might not be the most obvious choice for the role but you're providing an opportunity for someone to perform at a level that they're maybe just on the brink of. You're bringing out potential. I don't think that that is a duty of other work in the rep.

'That's why I've never been able to be, for any length of time, just a freelance choreographer making work here, there and everywhere. That method of working has its attractions, but I like to think that my pieces have a purpose, that they have a home here at Birmingham Royal Ballet.'

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