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Last Thursday (18 November) evening around 70 BRB Friends came in to watch a special presentation and rehearsal event involving some BB&andMe participants, youth leaders and staff in our Studio 1. The Friends are very used to watching rehearsals from the Company – this being one of the benefits they enjoy from their membership – they support us in many ways, and we give them access to learn more about what we do. This event was something very different, and so worth doing. I was really encouraged by the number of people interested in getting an insight into this project, by way of this opportunity – the ones attending and many other members had enquired about the performance on 7 Dec too , and the take-up has been fantastic!

Pearl set the scene as to the background , followed by Gina, Dinos, Danni, Lee and Phil all explaining their involvement, expectations, experiences over the last year and a half. This gave the Friends a good picture as to how everything had been created and it highlighted how ‘hands on’ the students had been in putting the production together.

The participants worked really hard during the 50 minute rehearsal, responding to coaching by Jenny, Lee and Dinos. They took their advice like true professionals and the Friends were very impressed with the end results.

Finally, at the Q&A – everybody was extremely relaxed, open and funny! It was so good to see the different age groups coming together and members were buzzing when they left the studio, let alone the participants! Anyone not already booked for the show – following their experience on this evening, were definitely going to the Box Office the next day. This is all down to you all!

I can’t thank you enough for letting the Friends see you at work – you’ve now got some pretty strong support out there to add to that from your family and friends. Sounds a bit stiff to say this but on the Friends behalf, I’ll say well done and good luck – we’re with you all the way!

Sheila (Hitchman)
Friends Co-ordinator

Helen Fownes-Davies, designer for BB&Me,

My job is to design and then oversee the realisation of all the costumes and props going into the show.

Everything is really getting busy in the wardrobe department; most of the cast have had a first fitting now and after a few more sessions everyone will have seen their costume in some form or another.

We still have a lot of work in terms of pulling all the elements together, whilst all the makers are finishing the costumes, shoes are being ordered and fitted, hair and make-up discussed in detail with University College Birmingham and all the props and elements of the design are being carefully talked through how they will be used and what they will look like.

There are still a few props to source, particularly when the show is being rehearsed some new bits and pieces always appear! We have to work together in making sure the design works as a whole, the costumes compliment each other, they will work on stage on top of John Macfarlane’s beautiful design and will all be ready on time for the critical dress rehearsals!.

Whilst most young people across the West Midlands spent the October half term relaxing and recuperating, the studios at Elmhurst School for Dance became a hive of activity for our busy BBandMe participants. They worked intensively to piece together their individual scenes to make one big show. This can be a slow, tedious and relentless process with any show, and it was no different for BBandMe, but the company kept their focus on the end goal and we now have a two act show telling their story of Cinderella.

Throughout the week there were also costume fittings which gave the majority of the cast the opportunity to see their costume for the first time.

One young person wrote

When I tried on my costume it made me very happy to be that character, trying on the costume made me realise how close the show is.

The company have now stepped up rehearsal from one day a week too two days a week. The next stage of rehearsal is to run the show from the start to the end, rehearsing how each scene leads into the next. Over these rehearsals the fine detail will be added to each scene, this is the part of the rehearsal process which makes a good show amazing.

Also radio WM visited rehearsals during the week. You can listen to the interview in the post below

Well done to everyone for their hard work in bringing the show together, keep up it.

It has been a very busy week for all invovled in BBandMe as we work on the show in the final intensive week.

Radio WM came in to rehearsal and interviewed some of the young people. Click on the links below and have a listen, it’s a really great interview.

It’s seven weeks until curtain up for Ballet, Birmingham and Me and their production of Cinderella and rehearsals are moving along at a rapid pace. The final pieces of dance are in the process of been choreographed and along side rehearsals the young people are attending ballet classes to perfect their technique. The pressure is stepping up but the young people continue to develop their characters and roles with eagerness and focus which is truly impressive. It promises to be a spectacular show.

It is not just rehearsals which are stepping up a gear, there is a hive of activity behind the scenes with costumes and props being made and the stage management team coming on board within the next few weeks. In preparation for the final weeks leading up to the show there is an intensive week of rehearsals, costume fittings and ballet classes. During this period the company will start to put together all the different dances to make the show; like one massive Jigsaw.

Sam Phillips, a past participant of Safahr, a project Birmingham Royal Ballet ran in 2004, is working as Assistant Director alongside the creative team and writes,

“The intensive week is hard work as you need to remember everything you have done, but it is also a very exciting time. You see the work you have done in rehearsals come together to create one show. Getting costumes fitted and seeing all the props makes you realise how much effort has been put in behind the scenes to make the show (and you) look amazing on stage.

It has been impressive watching the rehearsals tonight and noticing how much effort the young people are giving, the work they have been putting in really does show through in the high standard of dance I have seen tonight.

I cannot wait to see the whole show.”

Following a really positive summer period all the young people are now cast in their roles and work has begun bringing the wonderful new narrative to life – through dance!

With about 3 months to go the pressure on all is really stepping up as we work towards the performance on the 7th December 2010.

Essentially we have 5 teams (each comprising of 2 artists) choreographing the various scenes. The musical score has been divided up and every Tuesday evening we work with the young dancers to flesh out our plans.

It’s great to see the young people developing their characters and inputting their ideas into the process. Thus we are never short of ideas, if anything it’s often a case of what to leave out! At the end of every rehearsal session we close with a sharing of what’s been created that night. The young people’s support for one another and quality of work has been wonderful. There is a sense that the young dancers are exceeding not just the expectations of others but also of themselves. Obviously with a team of 10 choreographers consistency throughout the piece is a potential challenge. However, stylistically what’s emerging so far seems quite coherent with lots of references to BRB’s repertoire over the last fifteen years. Not surprising perhaps when one considers that the choreographic team combined has almost 100 years of Birmingham Royal Ballet performing experience!

The next stage in the process will be during the October half term intensive when we’ll get the chance to see what’s been created in its entirety, focus on the finer detail and link the various component parts together.

Watch this space…

Two months after receiving media training from the enigmatic Richard Lutz (former ITV Editor and Reporter), our team of media representatives were presented with their first opportunity to try out their newly learnt skills.

Midlands Today and Radio WM reporters arrived curious and eager to discover more about the project. Here’s what our young people had to say!

BBC WM Breakfast speaks to BB&Me participants Danielle and Glenn as well as artistic director Dinos Aristidou:

BBC WM Breakfast – 18 August 2010

Jenny Jones from BBC WM Drive speaks to BB&Me participants Charlotte and Steven, as well as artistic director Dinos Aristidou:

BBC WM Drive – 18 August 2010

Lyndsay Doyle from BBC Midlands Today speaks to BB&Me participants Charlotte and Steven as well as artistic director Dinos Aristidou:

BBC Midlands Today – 18 August 2010

A big week at BB&Me headquarters! The young people have just completed the first week of rehearsal intensives that will determine the casting for the final production.

This week they had the opportunity to put some of their drama skills to use when they were asked to develop mime sequences using some of the characters. Strong performances were given and some funny moments were experienced as the group felt their way through the material and used their creative brains to develop their ideas.

Next week they will be joined by Birmingham Royal Ballet dancers who have been appointed as choreograpahers for the project and together they will trial and explore sections of the newly created ballet.

So what are the Artistic Director and Director of Choreography looking for in a perfect BB&Me participant?? Someone who:

Gives it a go

Listens

Works well with others

Gives ideas

 

Well done to all for a week of hard work and focus!

It’s been a busy year so far for the BB&Me participants. After undergoing  drama and ballet training back in the autumn-winter of last year (documentary to be posted here soon!), the 80-strong troupe marched into the new year with renewed vigour, proud of their achievements and excited about the journey ahead.

As the new year dawned and Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) began to rehearse elements of the brand-new version of Cinderella, BB&Me appointed an Artistic Director to lead participants toward their own adaptation of the well-loved fairytale. Dinos Aristidou joined the team and established a group of  17 young people who became the Youth Artistic Board (YAB). This core group of young people underwent leadership and decision-making training and now meet on a regular basis to represent their youth centres, advise and at times make decisions of an artistic nature. Some also received media training and have already taken on an ambassadorial role.

With this group in place and a whole company of young people eagerly awaiting the next stage, Dinos’s challenge was to find the young people’s storyline for the production. Following a successful team-building day held by Birmingham Youth Services, a number of artists from different art forms were engaged and tasked with using their specialism to explore the story of Cinderella in a non-performative way with each of the groups. After a ten-week exploration stage held at each of the youth centres the artists fed back the young people’s interests, which then started a process of sifting story ideas involving the YAB and then the much larger group before a final draft was created.

During this time Lee Fisher, BRB’s Head of Creative Learning, took the post of Director of Choreography for the project and developed a team of Choreographers made up of BRB dancers who would work closely with the young people to create sections of the ballet. Dancers include Tom Rogers, Kit Holder, Dusty Button, Chris Rogers-Wilson, Nat Skelton, Jenny Murphy, Johnny Caguoia and Rachel Hester.

Throughout, young people came to BRB for their weekly ballet classes with the support of their youth workers who have continually provided help, guidance, and assurance for the young people and played a central role in keeping them engaged and inspired to achieve.

Now that the storyline is in place, and characters have been developed, the young people await the August intensives where they will come into BRB and a casting process will begin. Exhausted but excited the young people realise that the project is about to step up a gear as we now move into the production phase.

Ballet and drama are on the menu for all our BB&Me participants this season. They will all be working very hard at improving their performance skills through drama sessions held at their youth centres and will begin ballet training  at Birmingham Royal Ballet to prepare them for the hard work ahead in 2010. By the time fairy lights are switched on and carols singers are in the streets, our active BB&Me crew will have truly deserved their festive break!

Each of the five groups will be working in their youth centre with a drama worker exploring story of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Cyrano. Having watched how the professionals do it, they will be learning how to portray a character and story using dramatic expression which focuses on the body.

The five groups will also be coming together for weekly ballet classes in the same studios used by Birmingham Royal Ballet dancers. These aim to give them the basic skills they need to perform and will build confidence, promote healthy lifestyles, improve posture and technique, and provide lots of fun with plenty of opportunities to meet new people.

So all in all there’s lots of work ahead but as we know from the Still Life, A Celebration performance these guys are up to it and are capable of much MUCH more.

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