AHEAD of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s national tour of Beauty and the Beast, dancer Brandon Lawrence discusses five commonly held misconceptions about the world of ballet.
1. ‘Ballet revolves around old fashioned stories of princes and fairies’
Ballet and simply dance in general are becoming more and more mainstream, including productions where many personal stories are being told.
Classical ballets like Swan Lake or The Nutcracker are the foundations of any classical ballet company, but people have realised that, to appeal to a greater audience, it’s important to explore numerous themes.
For example, at Birmingham Royal Ballet we perform adaptations of famous literature like Romeo and Juliet or Far From the Madding Crowd, alongside ballets based on a wide range of themes, like conservation in ‘Still Life’ at the Penguin Café, or science in E=mc2. There really is something for everyone.
2. ‘Ballet is formal and elitist’
It’s about breaking down the barriers. You don’t need to dress up to go to the ballet. At Birmingham Royal Ballet we hold a variety of events which are inclusive not only to the young, elderly and people from a diverse range of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, but also to those with a disability.
Also, we are so proud of our associate company Freefall – a professional dance company for talented adults with severe learning disabilities.
3. ‘Ballet is really expensive’
Whilst I can’t deny that theatre tickets can be expensive, a ticket to the ballet is similar in price or even cheaper than a musical or a football match.
When you consider the hundreds of people involved – dancers, orchestra, technical crew, wardrobe staff etc – it’s good value for money.
We’re also striving to break down barriers to entry with discounts for children and groups, sponsorship, deals for first time attendees etc. Therefore, it’s not as expensive as people may think.
4. ‘Ballet is not for men’
When I was in training at the Royal Ballet School there were more men than ladies in my year.
I think it’s actually becoming more of a cool thing to dance.
All ballet dancers are very strong and have incredible stamina. Many footballers and athletes use ballet as part of their training.
Male dancers in particular have impressive upper body strength because we have to lift our partners above our heads.
The idea that ballet is not for men is a definite myth.
5. ‘You need to have an in-depth knowledge of ballet in order to enjoy it’
Everyone can enjoy watching ballet – the physicality, the story or the live music – without knowing anything about the technique or the history.
The important thing is how you may connect to the story or the joy you may feel in the energy of the performance.
Mixing all this with a live orchestra is something Birmingham Royal Ballet would like all to experience.
Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Beauty and the Beast is at the Birmingham Hippodrome from February 19 to March 2, 2019 and tickets, priced from £23 are available from the box office on 0844 338 5000 or online at birminghamhippodrome.com.