Hurst Street Revisited

BRB regulars will remember Dominic Antonucci as one of the stars of Birmingham Royal Ballet, a dynamic, exciting principal from 2003 and ballet master from 2009.

Yet, in another life, Dominic could have trod the boards with rock, folk or blues rather than ballet with making music another of his loves, a love which he is now indulging not as a performer, but as an impresario with his first gig next month at BRB’s local, The Green Room café and bar in Hurst Street, opposite the Hippodrome.

First up is Truro's Brett Damarell, Brett Damarellwho is also known as Ramblin' Minor, making his first appearance in Birmingham. Damarell, who lived and played in Ireland for a while, adding a Celtic side t his music.

He has developed into is a sort of modern day West Country Woody Guthrie, gigging and busking his way around his native Cornwall.

His music is described as “a gritty blend of acoustic folk and blues with a touch of Celtic flair” and includes a large catalogue of his own music as well as covers in his own style of artists from Dylan to Johnny Cash.

Bett Damarell - the folk voice of Cornwall

Damarell, a professional musician for 25 years, has nine CDs to his name and has been dubbed the Folk Voice of Cornwall.

He was spotted by Antonucci busking in Truro, location of the Hall for Cornwall, during a BRB tour, a chance meeting which sowed the seeds of what BRB’s Ballet Master hopes will be regular music events at The Green Room, starting with Damarell on August 10.

Antonucci said: “Brett is the real deal and his performances are a treat for anyone who appreciates authentic traditional music and great guitar playing. His stunning original material comes across every bit as powerful as his cover work.

“Brett is no imitator. There is a vitality and passion in his singing that makes every song he performs seem like his own.”

Already lined up as a second booking are Naked Blues from Coventry, whose members include former BRB sports massage therapist Rick Medlock, who, incidentally, is now in his fourth career as a photographer, but had a former career as a professional musician touring Europe as a drummer with rock band Khyyam and being on drums in a succession of Coventry based groups in the 1970s and 1980s.

Brett appears at The Green Room on Sunday, August 10 at 7pm with Naked Blues appearing Sunday, September 14, .

 Info, tracks and video Brett Damarell

 Info, tracks and video Naked Blues


Dominic AntonucciDancing to the music

Music is part of a parallel life of Dominic Antonucci.

He was born in Athens, Ohio, home of the state university and, incidentally, birthplace of Art Trip, percussionist with Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention, but while he was a baby Antonucci’s family moved to New England.

 Then it was back to Ohio and Akron, once the Rubber Capital of the World when all major American tyre manufacturers were based there. The city was also home to numerous bands as well as being the birthplace of Chrissie Hynde.

Antonucci started his dancing at the age of six. He said: “My two sisters and my older brother were getting into trouble, and my mother wanted to give them something constructive to do. She enrolled them in dance lessons, and though I was fairly well behaved and active already, I followed them there. They did one lesson and I stayed. I was six years old, and I've been at it ever since.' Stress Fracture

At 14 he went to the School of American Ballet in New York, the equivalent of the Royal Ballet School, where he and his father stayed in an apartment in Greenwich Village where Antonucci said: “I used to hang out on street corners with my guitar pretending to be part of it all.”

The Village, not best known for dance, although Isadora Duncan lived there for a while, was at one time one of the bohemian centres of the Western World, the melting pot of American culture with anyone who was anyone, or would become anyone in the worlds of jazz, blues, folk, theatre, poetry or literature living there or passing through, or in the case of Dylan Thomas, dying there.

Stress Fracture, Antonucci (standing right) with his rock band of ballet stars in the 1990s


Twilight had already settled on the heyday of The Village when Antonucci lived there and, with property prices now sky high, these days it is the home of celebrities but the bohemian days have all but gone, but for the young dancer a quarter century ago the magic of Village life was still there.

This was the old haunt of one of Antonucci’s particular heroes, Bob Dylan, among scores of others from Barbra Streisand to The Velvet Underground, and the likes of Jack Kerouac to James Baldwin -the heartbeats of American culture.

The Village had made its mark on the young dancer who joined Birmingham Royal Ballet in 1994, the final year of Sir Peter Wright’s stewardship.

Alongside his dancing career was a burgeoning musical career and in the 1990s he formed a rock and roll band, Stress Fracture, with two other principal dancers at BRB, playing in pubs and clubs in Birmingham and London, with their biggest claim to fame, opening for Ocean Colour Scene at Digbeth.

A life of Rock God though,antonnuci dancing even as a minor deity, did not lie easily with being a professional dancer, so Stress Fracture became part of history, and Antonucci, and his band, concentrated on dancing, although the name, at least, did resurface in another guise six years ago.

Anyone who thinks ballet dancers just prance about the stage in tights think again. It is a physically demanding profession putting incredible stress on the body. Antonucci had had two operation on each knee and with six stress fracture on the shin of his right leg and eight on his left, time, dancing and the endless repetitions preparing for classical roles had taken their toll.

The day job: Antonucci in his days as a BRB principal, seel here in Serenade with Gaylene Cummerfield, Natasha Oughtred and Ambra Vallo. Photo Roy Smiljanic


So leaving classical roles behind he reduced his performing and concentrated more on teaching young dancers becoming ballet Master in 2009 and on being part of BRB’s educational arm.

But his love of music was still there and finally he is now returning to his other passion, not so much as a performer these days, but as promoter of acoustic music.

He said: “While my work at BRB remains fulfilling and challenging, I'm looking to broaden my horizons with my new musical endeavours. By bringing great performers and performances to Birmingham I can feed my musical passion while also helping to encourage culture and business in the City Centre area.”

Roger Clarke 

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