CULTURE : Who Needs London; after Ten Years as Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet David Bintley Can Point to Many Outstanding Achievements and a Formidable Dance Infrastructure Which Has Grown around the Company. So Why Does He Feel It Hasn't Had the Recognition It Deserves Terry Grimley Finds Out

The Birmingham Post (England), October 5, 2005 | Go to article overview

CULTURE : Who Needs London; after Ten Years as Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet David Bintley Can Point to Many Outstanding Achievements and a Formidable Dance Infrastructure Which Has Grown around the Company. So Why Does He Feel It Hasn't Had the Recognition It Deserves Terry Grimley Finds Out


Byline: Terry Grimley

They say time flies when you're having fun, so perhaps it shouldn't seem quite as astonishing as it does that David Bintley is already celebrating ten years as director of Birmingham Royal Ballet.

But in fact celebration was slightly tinged with irritation when we met last week, thanks to Bintley's somewhat prickly relationship with the London press.

ABBC film crew had been in town recording an item forThe Culture Show, and the word was that London dance critics were not exactly queuing up to say anything nice about the company. One even privately suggested that Bintley was wasting his time in Birmingham since "provincial audiences" lacked the sophistication to support his work.

Whether this opinion has been repeated on camera remains to be seen, but confronted with this London-centric proposition Bintley did not mince words.

"It's complete bollocks. I find it incredible in this day and age that these people think we're walking round here in cloth caps and clogs. This notion that everyone who doesn't live or work in London is stupid or second-rate, it takes my breath away.

"The reason I'm here is that I can do exactly what I want to do and that's what I'm doing. In London I couldn't. I worked at the Royal Opera House which had virtually become a closed shop even to its own choreographers."

So can we take it that he won't be leaving Birmingham any time soon for the Royal Ballet?

"One never says never, but I left there once and I left for very clear reasons. It's not really creative. New work doesn't get on the main stage because it's a shrine to the past. There isn't another large scale company in the country that offers me the opportunities that this one does, and quite frankly there isn't an audience. Our core supporters will go anywhere we take them, and I'mdoing the best work I've ever done." It comes as no particular surprise that there is at best a lukewarm relationship between Bintley and the London critics, one of whom once memorably described his Carmina Burana as "so-called dance", but it does seem ironic given Bintley's virtual isolation as the only real heir to the tradition of British classical choreography. When the directorship of the Royal Ballet fell vacant his was inevitably the first name in the frame.

Of course, BRB was always a touring company in its previous incarnation as Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet, so it wasn't the move to Birmingham that put it at the mercy of provincial unsophistication.

"It was a company that lived in the shadow of the Royal Ballet," says Bintley. "It was a company that was younger and more lively. I'm very proud of the history of that company because I was part of it, but you can't compare it to this company in terms of the quality of dancers we have, the fact that we don't live in the shadow of anyone else, that we are our own masters"Anybody who is seriously going to look at the quality of what it has achieved and what its potential is would not say these things. But they don't see the work we don't put on the stage, all the work we do in the community, like Freefall, the company with people with learning difficulties. We do 500 educational events a year. In London when I was a member of the company we did five or six and people resented having to do them.

"The thing that annoys me is that I've lived in London. If you want to talk about wasting time I'll tell you about the time I wasted getting to and from work - an hour and 50 minutes every day. Now I walk to work."

Another criticism from the south has been that Bintley cannot attract the best dancers to Birmingham. …

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CULTURE : Who Needs London; after Ten Years as Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet David Bintley Can Point to Many Outstanding Achievements and a Formidable Dance Infrastructure Which Has Grown around the Company. So Why Does He Feel It Hasn't Had the Recognition It Deserves Terry Grimley Finds Out
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