Under the leadership of Principal Jessica Wheeler and Artistic Director Robert Parker, Elmhurst Ballet School, the associate school of Birmingham Royal Ballet, announces details of Summer Variations, its summer show programme for 2017. The shows take place at Elmhurst’s studio theatre in the school’s Birmingham home from Friday 7 to Friday 14 July 2017.
A major coup for Elmhurst, David Bintley CBE, Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet, choreographs his first work for the school. Entitled Comic Cuts, the 15 minute work in five sections has been choreographed on Upper School students. The witty bursts of entertainment will showcase the personalities of each dancer.
Bintley is one of the major players in British ballet: first as a marvellously musical and entertaining character dancer with what was then Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet; for 20 years now, as Director of the company it became, Birmingham Royal Ballet; and, throughout, as one of the most distinguished neo-classical choreographers of the modern age. Bintley is also an Artistic Advisor of Elmhurst Ballet School.
Comic Cuts is set to the music of Raymond Scott, whose scores were adapted for many 1930s cartoon classics such as Warner Brothers’ Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig and Daffy Duck from the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series. Scott's melodies can also be heard in contemporary shows such as The Simpsons and Batfink.
David Bintley said: “I have very much enjoyed returning to Elmhurst to choreograph my new piece for the summer show. Many of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s current dancers trained at the school, and former dancers have gone on to teach there, so it is an incredibly important part of the Company. The Upper School students have impressed me with their professionalism, energy and enthusiasm. Many of them will be graduating from the school this summer, and I wish them all the best for the future.”
A highlight of the school’s year, the summer show is an opportunity for students from across the Lower and Upper Schools to showcase their dance talent. It also marks the final school performances for the graduate students as they bid farewell to Elmhurst and join professional dance companies across the world.
Summer Variations’ mix of repertoire is choreographed and restaged by Elmhurst’s vocational staff and guest choreographers and highlights the range of work embraced by the students over the course of a year, such as ballet, character, contemporary, jazz and flamenco dance. The shows emphasise the diversity of styles that equip an Elmhurst student, making them ready for today’s profession and beyond.
Divided into three programmes: Lower School (Year 7-11), to include Elmhurst Young Dancers on Sunday 9 July; Upper School (Year 12-14); and concluding with two shows performed by the entire school; the Summer Variations’ repertoire in 2017 is the result of some exciting collaborations.
Restaged for the first time in over thirty years, with thanks to the Frederick Ashton Foundation, the Upper School’s Year 13 students will perform Sir Frederick Ashton’s Explosions Polka. The rarely seen divertissement, revived for Elmhurst by Ann Whitley, accompanied Ashton’s Voices of Spring pas de deux in the Royal Opera’s 1977 production of Die Fledermaus. The ensemble piece was last performed during the 1984 Christmas season at the Royal Opera House.
Throughout their training at Elmhurst, students are introduced to choreographers from across the world and closer to home. French-born Stéphen Delattre, Choreographer and Director of Delattre Dance Company, has been commissioned to create a contemporary dance work on Graduate students and Birmingham based contemporary dance choreographer Adam Rutherford will create a new piece for Lower School Year 11 students.
Elmhurst vocational staff creating and restaging work for the shows are Sarah Blackwell, Ana Garcia, Laura Green, Gloria Grigolato, Michael Ho, Nicky Linzie, Hannah Lockyer, Jenny MacNamara, Graeme Pickering, Errol Pickford, Lee Robinson, Andrea Tredinnick, Denise Whiteman (Assistant Artistic Director), David Yow and Lei Zhao.
Also included in Summer Variations are two short pieces by Year 9 student Olivia Chang-Clarke and Year 13 student Chloe Jones. Both are recipients of Elmhurst’s annual David Bintley Choreographic Awards and both choreographed on their respective year groups.
Robert Parker, Artistic Director of Elmhurst Ballet School, said: “There’s always a buzz throughout the school as students and staff prepare for the summer shows. The link to Birmingham Royal Ballet is extremely important to Elmhurst and so it’s a real honour to have David Bintley creating a work for the students, his first for the school. It’s wonderful experience for the students to dance choreography by Sir Frederick Ashton too. All this combined with bringing in choreographers from today’s contemporary dance scene, helps our students to develop as versatile artists and people.”
Parker continued: “Summer Variations would not be possible without the invaluable support and tireless input of Elmhurst staff, and of course, our incredible students. On behalf of the entire school, I look forward to welcoming parents, friends and supporters to Summer Variations in 2017.
Photography by: Ty Singleton