students at rep

On track for Birmingham Rep with students from Dance Track, Elmhurst Ballt School and the Royal Ballet School.

Dance Track 25

Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Rep

The silver jubilee of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s pioneering Dance Track was celebrated in style at Birmingham Rep with tots to teens to seasoned professionals providing a festival of dance.

So far 36,000 children have taken part in BRB’s talent spotting programme which has grown to encompass 40 Birmingham schools with ambitious plans to eventually involve all city primary schools.

Children showing potential are invited to join the course with free ballet lessons from professional teachers, which not only teach dance, but experience has shown the skills and discipline learned  also improves confidence, concentration and even academic standards.

Those with emerging talent move on to Dance Track Plus and from there the best can end up with scholarships at BRB’s associate Elmhurst Ballet School or The Royal Ballet School.

The first dance, Becoming, saw five year olds and upwards in a dance created by their teachers Rebecca Brookes. Rachel Hester and Rosie Price.

Older children then danced in Dreams of a Sailor, adapted from the version which is the first piece a young Carlos Acosta was involved in in Cuba in the 1980s which it seems was a sort of rum based version of Whiskey Galore.

A portrayal of legless pre-teens is somewhat frowned upon these days so the dancers had to make do with just a shipwreck and dreams all set to sea themed music from drunken sailors to the Onedin Line theme from Spartacus.compiled and played by Dance Track and Elmhurst pianist Ian Richards.

Choreographed by Rachel Hester, with thanks to BRB legend Marion Tait, this brought in Dance Track Plus students and, as a touch of inspiration, the next dance brought in Dance Track alumnus and Elmhurst graduate Jakob Myers, who hails from Balsall Heath, and is now a dancer with Ballet Cymru. He danced a difficult solo from Delibes Sylvia quite beautifully.

And Elmhurst provided the dancers for the next piece, Bolero 25, based on Ravel’s Bolero, danced by eight students and choreographed by former BRB dancer and now much acclaimed and in demand choreographer, Ruth Brill.

gittins and lawrance

Brandon Lawrence and Céline Gittens dancing in The Nutcracker.

 Picture: Bill Cooper.

The dancers were Omarian Beckford, Elliot Bowcott, Oscar Court, Pharess Hadrami-Henry, Arlie Kempsey-Fagg, Marlo Kempsey-Fagg, Wesley Mpakati and Eli Warmington.

The co-operation between the two leading ballet companies came to the fore in the next piece, Vanitas, choreographed by Leamington Spa’s Kit Holder, who trained at The Royal Ballet School and is now a first soloist with BRB, and danced by Shani Moran-Simmonds, Taesha Patterson and Lucy O’Reilly, who came through Dance Track to become students at The Royal Ballet School.

You may have noticed the name Kempsey-Fagg in Bolero, a name which represents what is now a ballet family, thanks to Dance Track. Arlie and Marlo are the younger brothers of Oscar, now at The Royal Ballet Upper School, who joined BRB’s cast for the recent performance of Don Quixote.

He danced Run The Track, again choreographed by Kit Holder.

None of the cast had even been born when Dance Track held its first auditions and classes in 1997, since then 36,000 have passed through and some have found it the door to a career in ballet, dance, theatre, the arts. . . or for others it is  an experience that helped mould their lives.

For those who want a future in ballet, the final dance showed just what to aspire to with the pas de deux from Sir Peter Wright’s version of Delibes Coppélia danced quite beautifully by BRB principals delightful Céline Gittens and elegant Brandon Lawrence.

Among the people telling the audience of the remarkable achievements of Dance Track were BRB former favourite and now Elmhurst artistic director, Robert Parker, the Royal Ballet School artistic director Christopher Powney, and, full of enthusiasm for the programme, having benefitted from a similar free programme in his native Havana, Carlos Acosta.

BRB’s director was the 11th child of a poor Cuban family and free dance classes turned him from a street kid living on his wits to a global superstar, and for those who wondered about his appointment . . . his enthusiasm, passion and plans for BRB seem to grow every time he speaks.

Roger Clarke


BRB’s residency at the Rep continues with Studio to Stage,10 May, An Evening of Music and Dance, 13-14 May and Family Music and Dance 13-14 May (afternoons). 


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