The world premiere of Birmingham Royal Ballet's production of Prokofiev's Cinderella, created by its director and choreographer David Bintley and designer John Macfarlane.
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Hello and welcome to Birmingham Royal Ballet.
This year the company celebrates its 20th anniversary,
and to mark that event
we've created a brand-new production of the magical tale of Cinderella.
SINGING AND LAUGHING
I'm David Bintley, the director of the company.
And as choreographer, I've been working with our dancers
for over a year to bring this ballet to the stage.
Behind all of these doors, there's a lot of activity -
dancers putting on make-up, costumes...
Hello, how are you?
-Everything all right? CHILDREN:
-Yes, thank you.
And remember the steps, remember to go the right way tonight.
THEY GIGGLE Yes? Good. Good luck.
And in this room is The Wicked Stepmother.
I would say more sinister than wicked.
I think that's the most chilling thing about it.
She's a bit of a...Stone Flower.
My character, The Fairy Godmother,
is the spirit of Cinderella's mother.
She comes back to make her wish come true of going to the ball.
I come into the ballet, kind of, in disguise as a little old woman
who then transforms into her fairy godmother.
Going to try and set up my make-up for my quick change,
cos I come running back here, like...a mad woman,
trying to get everything done in two seconds flat.
It's a lot of chopping and changing - start in this, then into stars, out of stars,
into ballroom, and then back into stars.
It's good because once the curtain's up it's non-stop for us, backstage and onstage.
Back in the 1980s,
I danced the role of an ugly sister in Sir Frederick Ashton's celebrated version of Cinderella.
The ugly sisters are often played by men,
but in my production,
I wanted Cinderella's situation to be that much more realistic,
so the roles of the ugly sisters are danced by women.
Still ugly, still mean,
and still funny, I hope.
Our version of Cinderella starts with a prologue
where you see a very young Cinderella who's just lost her mother.
This means she ends up living with her stepmother and two very ugly sisters.
Fairy Godmother in disguise!
-'Beginners, please stand by on stage.'
Oh, my goodness, my feet.
Well, that's act one finished
and Cinderella safely on her way to the ball.
I have a few notes to give to the dancers,
so I'm going backstage.
Most of the cast play several roles,
so they're dashing back to their dressing rooms
to change for the big ballroom scene
where Cinderella and The Prince have their most romantic moment.
'I want to talk to The Prince about improving one of the lifts he has to perform with Cinderella.'
-Are you looking for me?
-I am looking for you.
-In your room, strangely enough.
-Sorry, I was...
-I need to do my hair still...
-I was going to dare to change a lift slightly for tonight.
Tiny, tiny change.
-You know when you do the...? After she's done the long pirouette and puts her arm behind?
-And you do that lift off the ground?
-Do you think I could ask her to lift that bottom leg up.
-Would that be too much of a risk...?
-No, it'll be all right.
'That's the fun part, working with a choreographer who's there,
you can always change it, you can change it at the last minute.
It was a little bit... This time, I thought.
It's great for the dancers, it keeps it exciting.
He sees every show, and if he sees something he doesn't like, he can say,
"No, try this, try that."
Which is good, keeps us on our toes.
-Are you dressed?
Much, much better, it's coming along now.
I think that's the best solo you've done.
Tonight it was quick. I had a few wig issues and about a nine-minute change.
-Yeah, it wouldn't...
-I've got a make-up change and a dress change...
-Why so long?
Um, I just made it tonight. I think... The wig came unstuck twice,
I came running back, put some more glue on it.
-And then Diana was standing there with the door open, telling me to run. But I made it.
Better get the rest of it now.
-Thank you, see you later.
-See you later.
When I was asked to choreograph this new Cinderella,
I needed a young ballerina with the emotional depth and technique
to transform from pitiful child to captivating princess.
I chose Elisha Willis,
who I've often worked with and who is an inspiring collaborator in the rehearsal studio.
I really do love working with him.
I think we have a good understanding of each other,
and he's incredibly musical which is something I think is really important.
So quite often we're on the same page
with what we're trying to get out of a solo or the pas de deux.
-You all right?
-Yes, thank you.
-Not too bad. OK?
-Yes, thank you.
I'm ready. I think.
I get a bit anxious when I'm due go on.
The waiting's the worst.
It's the hardest.
As long as I remember the new lift David's added in act two, I'll be OK.
-'Ladies and gentlemen, this is your act two beginner's call.'
Cinderella's grand entrance at the ball in act two is a difficult one.
She has to walk down the staircase en pointe.
There's a staircase and they put dry ice over it.
Even if you look down, the tutu's sticking out,
so it's really difficult to see the edge of the stairs.
She has to stay beautiful and serene and literally can't afford to put a foot wrong.
-When you do the soutenu before you go to the girls,
don't move so quickly. On Tuesday, you did the soutenu,
-you went like that... And the other boys aren't moving.
Quick as you can, please, girls.
Running out of time.
Use as much space as you can, there is more down front.
I know you can't see it, I know it's dark, but...
There is a little bit more, even more so?
Yeah. Much as you get.
In the second act of our fairytale, Cinderella arrives at the ball
and meets the prince of her dreams.
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
'Act three will begin in five minutes. Thank you.'
It's a rather big scene change, this.
We start with a pile of shoes, here.
Rejected candidates for the role of princess.
Then, very quickly from that we go back into the kitchen.
So, you can see they're wheeling on these big kitchen trucks here.
It really is a lightning quick scene change, that one.
Took us a week of rehearsals to get that one right.
The design for Cinderella has to be sumptuous and exciting.
And when I was wondering who would provide the look for me,
I couldn't think of anybody better than the designer John MacFarlane.
It has to be totally magical.
Because, like all these great ballets,
you have to honour the expectation of an audience.
You have to give them the, kind of, fantasy world that they're sort of expecting.
We have 16 of these girls come on and it's actually remarkably short.
It's about 1 minute 59 they're on for.
we make up for it in bling.
It's a big bling moment.
-When they're sitting up like this...
-It's the heavier ones, yeah.
The heavier ones,
something about the lining is maybe pulling them off.
It's quite exciting working on this production
because it's completely brand-new. All the costumes are brand-new from scratch,
and working for John from the very beginning with his designs,
and then when you actually see it all fully made up,
and the dancers are all so excited about it, so...
The costumes are going to be fantastic.
The costumes are loosely 18th-century
which is certainly a favourite period of mine.
And it's also, of course, a fantastic period for dance costumes.
You know, you have very tight bodices on women
and skirts that really do move.
But you can have very opulent costumes for men,
in the tail coats and the padding and all these things.
Spent my whole life trying to be thin and...look at that.
Do you see where my fingers are now?
I think all of that, we could punch open.
And we could even open these.
-Yeah, well, you're looking... Can you see my hand?
-I can't see your hand, no.
-Right, well, you need to,
because down about here, isn't she?
I can see here.
Well, that's fine.
So, that's where I need to open it up, in about there.
The wig is a grey 18th-century,
-but it's got sort of a cast of green in it.
And the make-up should be the same.
But otherwise, human make-up, just slightly green.
-We should know there's something slightly different about you from the rest...
-And the tail.
-And the tail! Minor detail.
Sticking out the back of your trousers.
The costumes are important to the story of Cinderella,
but for the dancers,
their shoes are even more critical for the performance.
Each week, we get through over 130 pairs.
This is where they come to get their pointe shoes, particularly the girls
Each pigeon hole is each individual girl.
They have their shoes made for them especially.
Where we're doing bourrees, when we're pitter-pattering en pointe,
that can often lead to the shoes getting soft,
they can die a lot quicker.
At the heart of the story are Cinderella's crystal slippers
which have been a challenge for us to produce for the demands of the ballet.
Cinderella has two crystal shoes
and in the rehearsal studio, the crystal stones came off the shoe,
and we're hot-stoning and putting crystals on a pair of pointe shoes.
It's about six hours per pair to cover them in the crystals.
It's lots of sparkle.
And we have to make sure that they're fixed properly
because if they fall off and they're on the stage,
that could be hazardous.
The boys wear lots of character shoes which have big tongues
and leather shoes with Louis heels which are shaped.
-The shoes are fine.
-We would have been able to put an insole in, but...
'Even though they're made for them, they've got'
to quickly get used to them dancing on stage. They've been rehearsing
in ballet flats which is just canvas shoes.
-Hi, Iain. You all right?
-Was it all right?
-How you wanted?
I thought the lift worked really well, you really pulled it out tonight.
You really had to put some turns in there.
No, it was good. And the solo was even better.
Got your Bolshoi lift in, your one-arm lift in.
It's quite neat that, because she's not holding on, so it's...
-No, it's good.
-It literally is...
-It's balance, I think.
Yeah, yeah. Really good.
The first time we tried that was terrifying.
I really did think I was going to fall
from that great height.
But...with Iain, you know he's never ever going to drop you.
Good luck for this one.
-'Ladies and gentlemen...'
-There it is.
'Please stand by on stage.
-'Ladies and gentlemen of the orchestra...'
In the third act of our ballet,
The Prince is desperately trying to find the mysterious princess
who left her shoe behind when she fled the night before.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
CHEERING AND WHISTLING
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
The world premiere of Birmingham Royal Ballet's production of Prokofiev's Cinderella, created by the company's director and choreographer David Bintley and designer John Macfarlane. With stunning costumes and dazzling sets, Cinderella is a sumptuous and sparkling family entertainment for Christmas.