As Birmingham Royal Ballet launches its summer season in its home city, Roz Laws meets a local dancer preparing for a special date.
THERE’S a special performance on the horizon for dancer Kit Holder for which he is unusually nervous.
It’s not a solo with Birmingham Royal Ballet.
What is making Kit anxious is the thought of his first dance with his beautiful new bride, fellow BRB dancer Celine Gittens.
“Because we’re both dancers, the pressure to perform an amazing first dance at our wedding is huge,” grins handsome Kit.
“Everyone will expect it to be great, so I think we might just do without it altogether.
“Anyway, Celine is too tall for me! That’s why I don’t tend to dance with her on stage.
“It’s interesting how many ballet dancers aren’t that great at freestyle dancing in a club, when they’re not choreographed.”
Kit and Celine, who live in Edgbaston, have been a couple for five years and engaged for two but have yet to set a wedding date, as they are both so busy performing.
Kit, 30, is a first artist with the BRB, which he joined in 2000. As a boy from Solihull, it was his dream to join his home company, and he’s been determined to battle through injuries to carry on dancing.
In the forthcoming season at the Birmingham Hippodrome, he’ll be playing the innkeeper in the enchanting Coppelia as well as dancing the Mazurka, Czardas and Combat sections. In Giselle, he’s cast as Hilarion and will also play a Peasant Boy and Huntsman during the run.
Soloist Celine, 25, will be dancing Myrtha the Queen of the Wilis in Giselle, as well as Dawn in Coppelia. She was born in Trinidad and grew up in Vancouver, Canada.
BRB is Kit’s local company, as he’s from Solihull and a proud Brummie. He takes classes in an Aston Villa vest and stripey green football socks.
“I’m a season ticket holder and go to matches with my dad,” he explains.
The former Greswold Primary School pupil started dancing at the age of four, following in the footsteps of his two elder brothers.
“A really good teacher in Sutton Coldfield called Audrey Roper taught us all.
“My brother Peter danced in Berlin and with Scottish Ballet and now works in insurance, while Ben danced in Holland and is now in advertising.
“My parents went to a lot of shows at the Hippodrome and this company – Sadler’s Wells, as it was then – made me interested in ballet.
“I remember seeing Hobson’s Choice and Still Life at the Penguin Cafe, then going home and dancing round the living room.
“In 1990, when it moved up here and became BRB, I joined the weekly junior associates scheme at the age of eight. I was one of the children in the very first performance of The Nutcracker.
“I was a child two years running and then Fritz, Clara’s brother, in the third year. When I was 10 I did a UK tour of David Bintley’s Snow Queen and I was sold, I thought ‘this is what I want to do’.
“I went away to train at the Royal Ballet School for seven years but my aim was always to come back to this company and Birmingham.
“At 17 I worked again with BRB while still at school, and I made sure they knew it was where I wanted to be.
“I hassled them but it was disappointing when they said no, you’re not what we’re looking for.
“But it worked out in the end, because one of their dancers left the company at short notice and I managed to leave school a year early.
“They called me in my summer holiday and said ‘Do you want a job?’, and I never went back to school. Two weeks later I was dancing in New York in David Bintley’s Edward II. It was a great introduction to touring and the professional life.”
Kit has overcome serious injury. He has ruptured both ankles and had surgery to remove a bone from one ankle.
Three years ago he had surgery on his left knee which put him out of action for a year.
“I’m very fortunate in that we have a great healthcare team at work that looked after me.”
When age and injury might eventually force Kit off the stage, he’s already started a second career as a choreographer.
He devised Small Worlds, his first ballet, for BRB in 2007. In 2010, his duet Printer Jam was performed at the company’s 20th anniversary gala.
And last year for the International Dance Festival he devised the ballet 9 to 5, taking a comic look at life in the office, set to drum and bass music.
“Choreography is probably a bigger passion for me than dancing. I get satisfaction from dancing but I want to affect an audience and choreography is more creative.
“Keep your eyes open for something I’m working on for next season.”
But first, Kit is playing a 60-year-old as the innkeeper in Coppelia and says: “I need a lot of make-up and a wig to age up. But it’s all to do with the body language – he doesn’t move about quickly.
“What I love about dance is that it’s the perfect combination of all the art forms – you have art and design in the beautiful sets, acting, live music and dance. For me, it’s the most complete art form.”
* Birmingham Royal Ballet perform Coppelia at the Hippodrome from June 4-8 and Giselle from June 19-22. For tickets ring 0844 338 5000 or go to www.birminghamhippodrome.com.