Launched this past spring, Birmingham Royal Ballet 2 (BRB2) is the new initiative where BRB pro-actively seeks out some of the best young ballet graduates from all over the world to join a two-year performance programme. This opportunity allows the next generation of dancers to gain valuable working experience that can help them move on to jobs at BRB or other leading ballet companies.
The BRB2 dancers will not only train and perform with the whole BRB company in major productions, but they also partake in their own touring programme, supported by senior members of BRB’s ballet staff.
Seven dancers will join the original BRB2 cohort for its second year – Nasrullah Abdur-Rahman (USA/Boston Ballet School), Ariana Allen (UK/Royal Ballet School), Alisa Garkavenko (Ukraine/Princess Grace Academy), Thomas Hazelby (UK/Royal Ballet School), Rosa Lidia-Nuesi (Dominican Republic/Acosta Danza), Alexandra Manuel (USA/Royal Ballet School) and Alfie Shacklock (UK/Australia/Royal Ballet School).
BRB2 will embark on a UK tour from 10 May – 1 June 2024, performing works by Frederick Ashton, Peter Wright, Will Tuckett, Carlos Acosta and many more.
BRB First Soloist Kit Holder will lead BRB2 as Artistic Coordinator. “Last year’s inaugural BRB2 tour was a huge success and set the bar very high, both technically and artistically,” he said. “It’s been wonderful to support the development of these young dancers who are already becoming seasoned professionals, and I’m really excited by the seven new dancers who will join us this season to begin their professional careers. I look forward to showcasing the talents of all of these young artists with audiences across the country in the spring.”
Here, Dance Informa speaks with three of the new BRB2 dancers to hear about what piqued their interest in the company, what rep they’re most looking forward to and more!
Where did you train, and what piqued your interest in Birmingham Royal Ballet?
Alisa Garkavenko (Kyiv, Ukraine)
“I have started my ballet education at Kyiv State Ballet College, and then I went to Vaganova Ballet Academy, but when the Russia invaded Ukraine, I moved to complete my education to Academie Princesse Grace.
There are a lot of moments which piqued my interest in Birmingham Royal Ballet, but the most important things were of course the rich history of the company, the repertoire, a delicate balance of contemporary and classical pieces, and the most important – the inspiring, talented people who are working in it.”
Sasha Manuel (Chicago, Illinois, USA)
“I began training at the Indiana Ballet Conservatory before joining The Royal Ballet School from year 10 until the graduate year. For me, Birmingham Royal Ballet has always been on my radar, as it is closely affiliated with The Royal Ballet School. However, I was particularly interested in the range of repertoire. At BRB, we perform classical ballets as well as more neoclassical and contemporary work, which is vital to becoming a versatile dancer.”
Alfie Shacklock (Noosa, Australia)
“I trained at The Dance Centre Peregian Springs, in Australia, from the age of four until the age of 15. Then I trained at The Royal Ballet Upper School in London for three years before joining BRB2 this season. I was fortunate during my time as a student at The Royal Ballet School to have had the opportunity to perform in The Nutcracker in 2022 at BRB, which I loved, and I always knew that BRB was a great company so thought it would be a great opportunity to dance with this company if I was given the opportunity, which fortunately I was.”
How does it feel to be a part of the 2023 cohort of BRB2?
“I’m very grateful to have joined BRB2 this year. BRB2 is a great way to develop working on solos and pas de deux, alongside corps de ballet work with the main company.”
“It feels absolutely fantastic and surreal. I feel myself as a part of a unique, incredible project, and it makes me feel proud and happy.”
“I feel very privileged to be part of such a talented group of dancers and have the opportunity to learn from the company. It’s amazing to be part of such a talented group, as it encourages and motivates me. After watching the first BRB2 cohort perform last year, I feel very excited to be part of the cohort this year and can’t wait for what this year brings.”
What are you looking forward to during this year with BRB2?
“I am excited about the upcoming year with BRB2, eagerly anticipating the chance to showcase my dedication and talent in performances with the main company. I’m especially looking forward to the BRB2 tour and the opportunity to shine in solos and pas de deux.”
“What I am most looking forward to is the opportunity to perform roles and pieces which we perhaps wouldn’t have the chance to usually perform so early on in our careers.”
“I’m looking forward to BRB2’s tour in the spring, as it will be my first tour with the second company.”
What do you like best about dancing with BRB2/BRB – the people, the repertoire, the artistic staff?
“There are many great things about being in BRB2/BRB. All the ballet staff have been super supportive and really want to help us be the best possible dancer. The repertoire is also amazing. For example, this season, we have the opportunity to work in the main company productions of The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, as well as our own BRB2 tour.”
“So far, I have really enjoyed BRB2 classes that we have twice a week. It’s been a great way to focus on all aspects of my technique, especially when we are in the middle of performing, as it can be repetitive.”
“I love everything! I like the repertoire, especially classical. I enjoy very professional stuff which inspires me a lot and teaches me great lessons. I appreciate a friendly and supporting atmosphere and a strong team spirit.”
What work are you most looking forward to performing in the coming season?
“Aside from the BRB2 tour, I’m looking forward to performing The Sleeping Beauty, which is the ballet that we are performing after The Nutcracker. There are so many roles and characters within the ballet, and I’m excited to be able to portray them.”
“I’m really looking forward to The Sleeping Beauty with the main company, and of course I can’t wait for our BRB2 tour.”
“I think what I am most looking forward to is working with the main company on The Sleeping Beauty and the BRB2 tour.”
For more information on Birmingham Royal Ballet and BRB2, viist www.brb.org.uk.
By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.