DCMS blog

Establishing a programme for young dancers

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Christopher Barron

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s (BRB) Chief Executive

One month ago, £56 million was given to arts and heritage organisations to support their endowment funds in the first round of of the Catalyst: endowments programme. Birmingham Royal Ballet’s (BRB) Chief Executive Christopher Barron looks at how his company aims to use their grant to make a difference to the lives of young dancers in the years ahead.

As BRB comes to the end of its current 2011/12 season and the dancers and staff head off on their summer holidays, I reflect on the past year, and particularly the extent of performances that have thrilled audiences in Birmingham, throughout the UK and overseas. It is down to the dedication and expertise of the company’s technical team, the musicians of the Royal Ballet Sinfonia and the supporting staff at home base that these performances come to fruition. Here I draw particular attention to our incredible on-stage performing workforce, the dancers.
BRB dancers in CinderellaNine performance weeks per season at our home theatre Birmingham Hippodrome, up to four London seasons in one year (Sadler’s Wells, two visits to the London Coliseum and the O2 Arena in the period March 2011 – March 2012), our core large-scale circuit to Plymouth, Sunderland and Salford, biennial visits to Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast (funded by the Arts Councils’ Cross Border Touring Scheme), mid-scale and international touring (Hong Kong, Dublin, Japan, Munich, Granada in the period July 2011 – July 2012), creates a lot of studio and stage miles for our dancers to cover!
Led by the expertise of the Clinical Director Nick Allen and his staff of the company’s Jerwood Centre for Prevention and Treatment of Dance Injuries, we pride ourselves at BRB on the ground-breaking initiatives that are put in place to ensure dancers achieve the longest and healthiest careers possible. I am delighted the Arts Council England’s Catalyst: endowments award will assist BRB to realise this provision further as we establish a programme to teach, train and mentor 40 young dancers (per year) as they enter the profession.
The best teaching, training and mentoring will continue to provide the best dancers so they can continue to dance with one of the best companies in the world, delivering world-class performances at home and overseas. The Catalyst: endowments award will help BRB build a fund that will provide an annual income to invest in this invaluable new programme.
BRB dancers perform Swan LakeWe are further delighted that its target of raising an additional £1,000,000 as match funding, has been achieved by the generous support of the historic Cadbury Family, long time supporters of Birmingham Royal Ballet since the company’s well-publicised relocation to Birmingham in 1990. This support reinforces the family’s reputation for philanthropy, and for supporting the cultural and community life of the West Midlands.
In 2005, the Cadbury Family were recipients of the Carnegie Medal for Philanthropy. The endowment fund to be established, in memory of the late Robin Cadbury and Lady Susan Cadbury, will create the Cadbury Dance Fellowship. The programme will reflect the interests of the Cadbury family in supporting young dance talent at the early stages of their career and was a particular interest of Robin and Lady Susan Cadbury during their lifetimes.
In addition to the direct support of young dancers, I believe the Cadbury Dance Fellowship will further enhance Birmingham Royal Ballet’s leadership credentials as experts in developing dancers, in community outreach work and in enabling individuals to maximize their creative potential. Stimulating philanthropy is a big challenge facing the arts in the UK and is the means by which the great cultural institutions of the UK will sustain themselves and achieve their ambitions.
Support from Arts Council England and the Cadbury family in this way will help BRB promote philanthropy, encourage a re-energised culture of giving in the West Midlands and protect the world-class standards of one of the UK’s leading dance companies – one of the ‘crown jewels’ of the West Midlands cultural scene.
The BRB performs CinderellaClassical ballet is about the pursuit of excellence. And it is this determination that leads to sheer creative genius – those moments in the theatre that we remember all our lives that send a shiver down our spine. To continue to grow and develop, we need to inspire creativity and learning throughout our extended communities across the UK. We must engage a new generation – both to ensure an audience for ballet, and to discover and enable the dancers, musicians and designers that will create those moments of magic for them.
We are already addressing these issues by broadening our funding base. In fact, our efforts to build philanthropic support funded recent successes like David Bintley’s Cinderella. Such popular new works in turn will increase box office income that can be reinvested into other charitable activities for years to come. Looking ahead our goal is clear: to create a thriving ballet company by selling more tickets, finding more paid-for overseas tours, exploiting new media and performing in arenas to larger audiences.
These streams of self-help must continue to grow if we are to create a sustainable and creatively vibrant future for classical ballet.

Next week on the blog, find out what a Catalyst: endowment grant is enabling a heritage organisation to do for its visitors.
Top image: artists of BRB as stars in Cinderella, photo by Bill Cooper
Middle image: artists of BRB in Swan Lake, photo by Bill Cooper
Bottom image: Elisha Willis as Cinderella and Iain Mackay as the Prince with Artists of BRB, photo by Bill Cooper
All images courtesy Birmingham Royal Ballet

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