Birmingham Royal Ballet is following in the footsteps of the Olympics and taking its shows to China.
The company flew out this week for a tour taking in the cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Birmingham’s sister city Guangzhou.
The company, which toured Japan last January and visited Hong Kong the previous year, is taking two full-length works on the tour – Romeo and Juliet and Beauty and the Beast.
Created by BRB director David Bintley, Beauty and the Beast was premiered at Birmingham Hippodrome in December 2003 and has toured the UK and Japan. Based on the classic fairy tale, it tells the story of Belle and her captivity at the hands of the Beast.
Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet was first performed by Birmingham Royal Ballet in 1992 and has remained a popular work in the company’s repertoire.
It gained national recognition three years ago when it was the basis of the Channel 4 television series Ballet Hoo, in which youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds took part in a performance at Birmingham Hippodrome.
The tour will also see the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, the ballet company’s resident orchestra, playing concerts in Beijing and Shanghai.
The dates also provide an opportunity to promote Birmingham and its business opportunities in the rapidly changing economy of China. Sponsorship has come from Amway Artistry, Birmingham City Council, IMI, Birmingham University, Bournville College, The Heart of England (Advantage West Midlands) and the British Council. A BRB spokesman said: “Birmingham Royal Ballet is proud to be based in the city of Birmingham and the international tour to China helps to promote the wealth of arts and businesses in Birmingham to an audience in China, as well as build on the relationships that already exist in Asia.”
Professor Michael Sterling, vice-chancellor of Birmingham University, said: “The University of Birmingham welcomed the opportunity to join forces with another cultural beacon of the city which enjoys a high international profile by sponsoring the BRB tour to China.
“The university’s international strategy recognises the importance of building our presence in China to support the development of key partnerships for education and research.
“We also have many loyal university alumni resident in the three cities of the BRB tour, who act as our ambassadors, having returned to China following their study in Birmingham.”
Bournville College international development manager Anjum Mirza said the college had been developing close partnerships with a range of organisations in China for a number of years.
“We are taking a growing number of students from the Guangzhou area and have just opened an office there,” she said.
“The tour will enable us to highlight the work we are doing in Guangzhou and the opportunities we can offer prospective students and we will cement the already-strong relationships we have with our various partners there.”
The tour kicks off tomorrow at the Baiyun International Convention Centre in Guangzhou before the company travels to Beijing and Shanghai, completing the tour on January 24.