17th December 2015
At the Mailbox, we’re all about celebrating the beautiful things in life and there’s nothing more beautiful than the art of dance. Since opening in October, our lower mall has played host to Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Dressed for Work photography exhibition, taken by talented Birmingham-based photographer, Marta Kochanek.
Capturing the essence of our daily transformations, from work to real life and back again, the exhibition features portraits of Birmingham Royal Ballet dancers as both their on-stage characters and their off-stage selves.
We’ve been lucky enough to grab five minutes with one of the featured dancers – Céline Gittens, First Soloist at Birmingham Royal Ballet – to find out more about her life as a dancer, what she thinks of the exhibition and how she’s spending Christmas this year…
Hi Céline! So, tell us a bit about yourself…
I started my ballet training at the age of three under the guidance of my mother in the Royal Academy of Dance Syllabus. At the age of fourteen I trained with the Vancouver Goh Ballet Academy for four years, whilst continuing to train with my mother. I was awarded the Royal Academy of Dance Solo Seal Award (2004), Gold medal and Audience Award at the Genée International Ballet Competition (2005), Finalist at the Prix de Lausanne (2006), and was offered a contract with Birmingham Royal Ballet (2006).
You must be pleased with the exhibition on the lower mall – how did you find it taking part in the photo shoot?
It was a wonderful opportunity to work with a photographer who had a unique vision for the overall atmosphere of the images to be captured.
What is your favourite show to perform in?
Our production of Swan Lake, choreographed by Wright, Ivanov, and Petipa, is my favourite production of the classics. David Bintley, director of Birmingham Royal Ballet, created the exhilarating Carmina Burana for the company in 1995. I’ve performed the role of ‘Fortuna’ in this powerful ballet and it ranks the same as Swan Lake on my ‘favourite’ list.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start a career in dancing?
The advice I have to offer is the importance of a very good ballet teacher for the early years of ballet training in order to build a strong and sound technique.
Who is your icon/idol?
I don’t really idolise people but for ballet I think it is important to do a wide range of research into classical and non-classical dancers, in order to grow in areas of technique and performance.
What’s your favourite thing about being a dancer?
My favourite part of being a ballet dancer is the performance aspect of it, which enables me to touch the hearts and minds of those in the audience through the different ballets that I perform.
How do you like to unwind when you get the chance?
With Birmingham Royal Ballet we perform approximately 21 different ballets a year and rehearse six days a week 10:30 – 6:30, so the first step for me to unwind is to put my feet up! I love going to the country side and the sea side for breathtaking views and connecting with nature.
And finally, do you have any plans for Christmas this year?
My plan is to have a break from sewing pointe shoes as it is such a time consuming part of a ballet dancer’s career and always needs to be done.