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When dancer Brandon Lawrence was nearing the end of his schooling at the prestigious Royal Ballet School at White Lodge he set his sights on joining one company – Birmingham Royal Ballet. Offered a place in the corps, he joined the Company in 2011 and was promoted through the ranks, becoming a Principal in 2019.

Now after more than a decade in Birmingham and becoming hugely popular with city audiences, Brandon is leaving to join Ballett Zürich this summer, with the Penguin Café triple bill in June seeing his last performances in Birmingham:

DateBrandon's Roles
Thursday 8 June, 7.30pmApollo
Friday 9 June, 7.30pmSouthern Cape Zebra
Saturday 10 June, 2.30pmInterlinked
Saturday 10 June, 7.30pmInterlinked, Apollo, Southern Cape Zebra

Watch Brandon's final Birmingham performances

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It won’t be easy to say goodbye to the city Brandon says; he has loved his time with BRB, which proves he made the right choice back in 2011.

'We were asked to put together a list of companies we would like to join and I had BRB at the top of my list,' Brandon recalls. 'I had seen them at Sadler’s Wells and the Coliseum, and with our former artistic director David Bintley being a choreographer I thought there would be really good hands-on opportunities. And with it being a touring company, there was the opportunity not just to dance but to dance on different stages which is good experience.

'Being with BRB has been an absolute pleasure from the beginning right till this past tour of Swan Lake, under both David and our current director Carlos Acosta.'

Brandon began dancing at the age of eight and joined Royal Ballet School at 14. And that learning process continued with BRB.

'In the years with David, I feel like he nurtured me really well. I was always dancing and being involved, especially with new work, which I’ve always loved, and also with some of the classic heritage works that David brought back like Daphnis and Chloe and Les Rendezvous.

'I remember when I was promoted to Principal I was asked if it felt any different, but because David had nurtured my career all along it wasn’t a big shock.'

Over the years Brandon has danced key roles in ballets as diverse as David Bintley’s Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast, Carlos Acosta’s Don Quixote, John Cranko’s The Taming of the Shrew, Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet, Ninette de Valois’ Checkmate, Peter Wright’s Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, Valery Panov’s Liebestod and Frederick Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée – to name just a handful.

'My favourite thing about dance is dancing with someone. You see each other struggle and then the satisfaction of overcoming it and being on stage. And what’s great is that it happens every season,' Brandon says. 'My number one BRB highlight is the partnerships and sharing these dances with people like Delia Mathews, Céline Gittens, Yijing Zhang, Yvette Knight, Samara Downs and Tzu-Chao Chou.'

'And it’s not just the dancers, it’s the crew, the admin team, the bigger picture. Then there’s the stuff surrounding being a dancer, I worked on various projects with the Learning, Engagement, Access and Participation team, then there’s dance development so pre-performance talks. I’ve been to Buckingham Palace, dining with the king and dancing for him. And I was recently filmed for the CBeebies series What’s in Your Bag? where children have to guess your profession from one thing in your bag – mine was a foot roller! So many amazing experiences.

'I’ve been with this company since school and I will really miss the people. I think BRB is one of the most diverse classical ballet companies out there and that’s not just been since the era of Carlos, David very much made it that way. We’re not just talking about people from an Afro-Caribbean or a Cuban background, we’ve got dancers from Japan, China, Taiwan, Europe, America, so many different backgrounds.'

This June Brandon will be performing in two of his favourite pieces – Juliano Nunes’s Interlinked and David Bintley’s ‘Still Life’ at the Penguin Café as well as learning a new role, the lead in George Balanchine’s Apollo.

'When this triple bill was announced, I thought "gosh, it’s like the stars have aligned" - I couldn’t have chosen a better mixed bill to potentially go out on from this Company,' says Brandon. 'I prefer triple bills over a full work. I like the variety and you tend to work harder in a triple bill than a full length so it’s quite a feast not just for the dancers but also for the audience.'

'I’ve never danced Apollo so it’s amazing to make a debut on that and I love Balanchine works. It’s going to be incredible having Carlos around who has danced it before and Patricia Neary, who learned it from Balanchine – it will be amazing to learn from them.'

Nunes’s Interlinked focuses on gender fluidity, with dancers neither male nor female and a central pas de deux between two male dancers.

'I also love Interlinked, it feels very poignant dancing that with Tzu-Chao Chou. We premiered it last summer and that pas de deux has been performed in different places since. I think the audiences would like to see that again as it only had a short run and it will be lovely to do it again.

'And ‘Still Life’, my original director’s work, will feel like putting on an outfit that I used to wear all the time. I dance the Southern Cape Zebra which is one of the funkiest roles I’ve ever done, it’s so much fun. The message from the ballet about climate change is great and then there’s also Simon Jeffes’s music, David’s genius choreography and this iconic zebra costume - it’s one of my favourite costumes ever.

'Triple bills are great for audiences because you don’t know what you’re seeing – that’s actually the best thing. I would urge everyone to go and try a triple bill. And what’s wonderful is that if you don’t like the first piece there are another two which are completely different!'

Watch Brandon's final Birmingham performances

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Audiences also have the opportunity to see Brandon and Tzu-Chao perform the pas de deux from Interlinked at this year’s Birmingham Pride on 27 May.

'To have a spot on the main stage is absolutely fantastic,' says Brandon. 'It’s about the message of the Company having a presence there. If there is any work genre area which is more LGBTQ+ friendly it’s the entertainment industry.'

Brandon, who is a governor at Elmhurst Ballet School, hopes to continue working in the dance world for decades to come.

'In the future I would love to be a leader in dance, a director or something like that. I think moving to a new company will help because I will be exposed to a different environment and a different culture of how to do things. But BRB will always be special for me, whenever I think about my dancing career, I count myself blessed.'

Diane Parkes

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