Birmingham Royal Ballet celebrate an outstanding 20 years in the City. The company’s New Media Officer, Rob Lindsay, takes us behind the scenes at the latest preparations and reveals an exclusive.

Bar one-off events like the Evening of Music and Dance at Symphony Hall last month, Birmingham Royal Ballet haven’t performed in full since the winter 2009 season of The Nutcracker. This is quite unusual for us. This time last year we’d already completed a three week tour of China and in 2008 we’d recently been to Belfast to perform Swan Lake.

But while we’ve not been performing, it’s been far from quiet. Once our Sleeping Beauty season begins on 3 March, we’ve only got six non-performance weeks until July, and we’re performing a LOT of different pieces, which has meant that the dancers have needed this time to rehearse all those works!

Sleeping Beauty aside, a lot of work is currently underway on our 20 Years Celebrations – three performances at Birmingham Hippodrome to mark (and tell the story of) the Company’s 20 years in the city of Birmingham. As well as dance excerpts, we’ll be presenting archive news footage, covering key moments from the Company’s history. We’re also recording new interviews to tell additional stories that might not have hit the news at the time. Hopefully the show will act as an introduction to those new to the Company, heighten the understanding of those already familiar, and provide a belting show to everyone regardless!

I spoke to David Bintley, Artistic Director, this morning, who told me ‘I’m really happy with how this show is coming together. Whenever you try to do anything this ambitious, you’re never sure how it’s going to turn out, but through the efforts of everybody here I’m confident that we’re going to be able to present a totally unique, and entertaining show.’

While I can’t reveal a lot of the repertory (we want it to be a surprise when you see it on the night!) it’s already been noted that the excerpt from Aladdin which delighted so many at the Evening of Music and Dance will be seen again. You can see a video clip of rehearsals for the piece here:

David also revealed in an interview earlier this year: ‘Ballet Hoo! would have to be included in some form, because the project went far beyond Romeo and Juliet, beyond our Education department, beyond Birmingham Royal Ballet as a whole – it went national if not global, and it’s the template for how to do that kind of project and why.’

In addition to this, I can also exclusively reveal that we’ll be dancing part of Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, a piece which we performed at the Royal Variety Performance when it was recorded at Birmingham Hippodrome in 1999. This was also part of the Evening of Music and Dance, and went down so well we had to include it again here!

I hope you’re able to join us for one of these special performances, and for those on Twitter, keep in touch by following either myself at @robintheoffice or the Company account at @BRB

365 Days of Panto! by Chilina Madon, Marketing Manager

So the end of 2009 heralded another successful year for Birmingham Hippodrome with record breaking sales for We Will Rock You, sell out performances of Rocky Horror and West Side Story to name but a few. Yet the ‘bread and butter’ of our theatre diary comes from the annual Christmas pantomime. Come rain (snow in our case) or shine, panto lies at the heart of Birmingham Hippodrome’s schedule with next year’s production going on sale the Christmas before. It really is a case of 365 days of panto as far as we are concerned. 365 days of planning, marketing, promoting, casting, scripting, rehearsing and selling – and we love every minute of it!

The appeal of it never ceases to amaze, with adults, children, couples, groups and families all booking well in advance to ensure that they secure their seats for what is to many their annual Christmas treat.  A lot of our most loyal patrons are very passionate about panto, sending us reviews, comments and compliments. Of course, we do receive the occasional complaint, but all our staff are trained to respond quickly and efficiently so we can put things right and learn for the future.  As I write this, over 18,000 people have already booked or reserved their seats for next year’s production, Dick Whittington which runs from 18 Dec 2010 to 30 Jan 2011.

In a year where most economic news has been full of doom and gloom, pantomime provides audiences with a guilt-free, fun experience.  It is okay to heckle, scream, shout or throw your head back and have a good belly laugh. I think that it is this, coupled with our really amazing special effects, costumes and casting that keeps audiences coming back year after year, and continuing the family tradition.

Unbelievably, it has been said that some people “look down their nose” at pantomime, but for many children this is their first entry into the world of theatre – an old-fashioned and welcome alternative to all the ‘virtual excitement’ they get in front of screens.  Yes, in places, panto has always been a bit commercial, but it never takes itself too seriously, there are no rules or dress codes to follow. It is pure fun and it has continued to survive, thrive and even outlive many other trends and gimmicks over the decades.

Over 100’000 people will have seen Joe Pasquale and Ray Quinn in Sleeping Beauty this year. Long may we continue to provide the people of the West Midlands with some light hearted, jolly good fun.