Birmingham Royal Ballet announces BRB2

As widely rumoured to be on its way, Birmingham Royal Ballet has announced the launch of its new company BRB2, which will have its inaugural UK tour from April-June 2023.

Ballet companies in the UK have been slow to follow the many abroad who have formed second companies, usually with the aim of providing employment and a stepping stone for the best young ballet graduates. Indeed, Birmingham Royal Ballet make no secret of the fact that its move was inspired by Dutch National Ballet Junior Company and ABT Studio Company. It can only be a positive step.

BRB2 will provide an important opportunity for the best of the next generation of dancers aged 18-22. It is hoped it will act as a magnet for the best UK and international talent, providing extensive training and professional experience, sending developed, professional dancers back into the dance sector and providing role models for the next generation.

BRB2 dancers will not only train and perform with the whole Birmingham Royal Ballet company in major productions, but they will also develop their own touring programme, supported by senior members of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s staff.

BRB2 dancers Mailene Katoch and Jack Easton
Photo Drew Tommons

The new company will put the young artists in the spotlight in what we are promised will be “an exciting, crowd-pleasing and challenging way.” In the first year, six of the company are current BRB dancers and six the founding group of BRB2. In 2024, the founders will graduate and, in their second year, be joined by six new dancers.

BRB2 will make its debut at the Royal & Derngate in Northampton, with live music from the Royal Ballet Sinfonia with Paul Murphy conducting. For the rest of the tour there will be specially recorded music, although that for End of Time and The Dying Swans will be performed live by Jeanette Wong (Head of Piano) and Antonio Novais (Principal Cellist).

Carlos Acosta says, “Since arriving at BRB, I have wanted to develop a young company. A company with its own artistic identity in which some of our finest young dancers would not only have the opportunity to take on lead roles of their own, but which would also provide a structure for brilliant young dancers graduating from ballet schools around the world to gain real-life experience with a touring ballet company. With the support of David and Mary Laing, The Kirby Laing Foundation and The Linbury Trust I am thrilled that we can bring this dream to life in 2023!”

In its first year, Birmingham Royal Ballet First Soloist, Kit Holder, will lead BRB2 as Artistic Coordinator. The role has been created to support Holder’s professional development and the continued development of his leadership skills.

Holder says, “BRB2 will not only ensure that young professional dancers joining Birmingham Royal Ballet will be ready to deliver world-class performances in a wide range of roles, but they, along with those going on to other companies and organisations, will be ready to make a positive contribution to the wider dance world.”

The founding members of BRB2 are Oscar Kempsey-Fagg (UK), Mason King (UK/New Zealand), Frieda Kaden (Germany), Mailene Katoch (France) and Jack Easton (USA).

Joining them for the first UK tour will be Enrique Bejarano Vidal (Mexico), Olivia Chang Clarke (UK), Regan Hutsell (USA), Sofia Linares (Spain), Eric Pinto Cata (UK), Lucy Waine (UK) and soloist Riku Ito (Japan).

The programme for the 2023 UK tour includes: Pas de Deux from: Frederick Ashton’s Rhapsody; an excerpt from August Bournonville’s most famous ballet La Sylphide; the love duet from Swan Lake; Carlos Acosta’s The Dying Swans, his take on Fokine’s classic that features two dancers instead of one, hence the title; Marius Petipa’s Diana and Actaeon pas de deux; and Ben Stevenson’s End of Time set to the third movement of Rachmaninoff’s gloriously melancholic Sonata in G Minor.

In the second half Gustavo Mollajoli’s A Buenos Aires celebrates the spirit of tango to music by Astor Piazzolla; the iconic Edith Piaf’s ‘Je ne regrette rien’ choreographed by Ben Van Cauwenbergh, whose Jacques Brel-inspired humorous gala piece Les Bourgeois will also feature; Acosta’s Carmen pas de deux; Will Tuckett’s solo Nisi Dominus; and Jorges Garcia’s Majisimo.

BRB2 will tour to Royal and Derngate Northampton (April 25); Theatre Royal Nottingham (April 28-29); New Theatre Peterborough (May 3-4); Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House, London (June 13-14, as part of the Next Generation Festival); and Wolverhampton Grand Theatre (June 24-25).