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David Bintley has spoken a number of times about the work that continues on a ballet once it has been danced in front of an audience.

Despite its age, Far from the Madding Crowd, which Birmingham Royal Ballet dance at Birmingham Hippodrome this week, is no exception.

“I hope this revival will be a good one because Far from the Madding Crowd has had a little bit of a chequered history”, explains David. “There were things that were wrong with it in the initial presentation. We then made some changes to it during those early years, and while we fixed a lot, there were still some small elements that I was unhappy with. It’s now been ten years since we last did it, and all the time it’s been sat there I’ve still wanted to return to it again.

“It’s a piece that I’m extremely fond of. Not just because it’s the last piece that I did with Paul, but because I just really like it. I like the characters and the music is great, and I’d love to see it all really come together.

“I hope that there’s enough anticipation from audiences, especially those who saw it last time, and that there’s a good feel about the piece. I hope that in the future there will be enough public interest to earn it a wider airing. But more so, I want to get it right, and I’m hoping, this time, that I can say that the piece is finally finished!”

Birmingham Royal Ballet performs Far from the Madding Crowd at Birmingham Hippodrome, 20-23 June 2012.

Click here for booking details.

Here you can see a video of Elisha Willis and Iain Mackay in rehearsals for Far from the Madding Crowd.

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David Bintley discusses casting for the forthcoming performances of Far from the Madding Crowd:

If I didn’t think we had the people to dance these roles, I might not have done Far from the Madding Crowd this season. But we do, although it’s been no small task as I’ve more or less had to recast it from the ground up. There are very few people here now who danced Principal roles last time round. I think Iain Mackay is one of the few, but he was very young.

Of course all of our Ballet Masters were in it. Wolfie created the role of Troy and Michael created Gabriel Oak, and Dominic has performed parts along the way as well. So there’s at least a first-hand knowledge of the piece amongst the ballet staff

I make pieces to be performed not just by the first cast, but by generations. And I feel that’s the measure of a successful work. And it’s not just that other people can dance it later, but that the piece has enough room to allow different interpretations in a single run.

I’ve obviously got a couple of casts. Were it going on tour I might have had a couple more, and we’ve got a strong enough company to have allowed for that.

David Bintley.

Birmingham Royal Ballet performs Far from the Madding Crowd at Birmingham Hippodrome, 20-23 June 2012.

Click here for casting.

Click here for booking details.

Above: The creation of Far from the Madding Crowd, 1996; photo: Bill Cooper

Far from the Madding Crowd in rehearsal

Far from the Madding Crowd in rehearsal in 1996; Leticia Müller and Kevin O’Hare; photo: Bill Cooper

Birmingham Royal Ballet dances David Bintley’s Far from the Madding Crowd this month – the first time that the ballet has been seen in almost exactly a decade. The choreographer, fresh from watching archive recordings of the opening night in 1996 and its last performance in 2002, admits to being, ‘pleasantly surprised.’

‘It is quite odd turning my mind towards Crowd‘, he says. ‘I hadn’t seen it for nine years and I had to steel myself! It’s always un-nerving watching something after so long. There are parts you had forgotten; it’s almost like seeing someone else’s work.’ David made his big adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel about love, deceit, madness and murder in his first year as Artistic Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Far from the Madding Crowd in rehearsal in 1996

Far from the Madding Crowd in rehearsal in 1996; Leticia Müller and Kevin O’Hare; photo: Bill Cooper

‘Crowd had a few teething problems and I’m really looking forward to working with a couple of new casts that will move the ballet on. I have wanted to get it back on for five or six years; it has been out of the repertory for no reason other than we have been very busy with other things.

‘I made changes between the original in 1996 and the last time we did it in 2002, but choreographically there are still some moments I’m not quite happy with. There are also some parts of the music the composer Paul Reade and I wanted to work on but sadly he died very shortly after Crowd went on and we weren’t able to do that. So, I will be revisiting. It’s too early to say which composer will be assisting with that but there won’t be any drastic changes.’

Reading the book is not a prerequisite, laughs David. ‘When I make a ballet from a literary source it can have quite a different emphasis and reading the book may not add much. I usually just put the scenario up on the board so the dancers know the general outline. Besides, Far from the Madding Crowd is quite difficult to get into, unlike Hardy’s other novels, the Mayor of Casterbridge or Jude. It’s a tough read… it took me two goes, many years ago!’

Here you can see archive footage of David being interviewed about the piece prior to its premiere in 1996:

Birmingham Royal Ballet dance Far from the Madding Crowd 20-23 June 2012 at Birmingham Hippodrome. Click here for booking details.

This interview originally appeared as a longer article by Susan Turner in Entrechat, the magazine of BRB Friends. Click here to find out more.